HOW TO MAKE OCEAN-FRIENDLY PURCHASES: Clean Cosmetics

July 6, 2020

 

One way to help maintain healthy oceans is by simply reading the ingredient list on cosmetics and soaps.

Any time we wash our hands or take a shower, every product we’ve used throughout the day washes down the drain and into the ocean. It may be easy to dismiss an item like soap or deodorant as “safe”, but there are many chemicals that we use that don’t belong in the ocean. One way to help maintain healthy oceans is by simply reading the ingredient list on cosmetics and soaps. Deciphering a long list of chemicals is daunting, so start with avoiding the following three groups of ingredients and you’ll do the ocean’s inhabitants a huge favour.

 

Parabens

Parabens are a preservative used in many cosmetic products from sunscreen to shampoo to makeup. They prevent mould and bacteria growth in cosmetics and increase shelf-life. While these are added with good intentions, in large quantities parabens can act as endocrine disruptors, meaning they can affect the hormones and fertility of animals. This is especially true for animals near the top of the food chain, like killer whales. As you go up the food chain, toxins become more concentrated at every level higher, which means top predators carry the largest amount of toxins. The main parabens existing in common products are methylparaben, butylparaben, and propylparaben.

Credit: goodhousekeeping.com

In large quantities parabens can act as endocrine disruptors, meaning they can affect the hormones and fertility of animals.

 

DEA (Diethanolamine) Ingredients

There are several types of DEA ingredients that are found in moisturizers, sunscreens, soaps, cleansers, and shampoos. They are usually easy to spot on an ingredient list as “DEA” will be in the compound’s name (i.e. lauramide DEA). DEAs are used to balance the acidity of other ingredients, or to make products creamy or sudsy. Though these ingredients are restricted in Europe, they are still widely used across North America. Specifically, cocamide DEA is classified as hazardous to the environment by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency. Cocamide DEA is toxic to aquatic organisms and can accumulate throughout the food chain, impacting everything from plankton to whales.

Credit: Lili Wilson

As you go up the food chain, toxins become more concentrated at every level higher, which means top predators carry the largest amount of toxins.

 

Oxybenzone and Octinoxate

Oxybenzone, or benzophenone-3 (BP-3), is a key ingredient in chemical sunscreens. Research shows that oxybenzone enters the environment both through wastewater and from washing off swimmers’ skin. BP-3 is highly toxic to juvenile corals and other marine animals from algae to dolphins. Octinoxate and BP-2 are similarly impactful on corals. Click here to learn about other ingredients to avoid when buying ocean-safe sunscreen. To find sunscreen that is reef-safe, opt for non-nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide­-based products. These particles are mineral-based, and large enough to not be eaten by corals.

Unknown Author – licensed under CC BY-SA

To find sunscreen that is reef-safe, opt for non-nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide­-based products.

 

Sources:

https://www.coralisles.com/reef-friendly.aspx

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/sunscreen-corals.html

https://www.ewg.org/californiacosmetics/parabens

https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/the-dirty-dozen-dea-related-ingredients/

 

 

Written By: Lili Wilson