- UV absorbers are not readily biodegradable
- Contains cyclopentasiloxane and cyclohexasiloxane
- Comes in small size with non-recyclable packaging
Ultra Violette is an Australian sunscreen brand. Co-founder Ava Matthews says that the brand started from a desire to “design a wardrobe of facial sunscreen that looked good, felt nice to wear, and didn’t bore us to tears”.
Their Supreme Screen SPF50+ Hydrating Facial Sunscreen contains three UV absorbers – ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate (aka. octinoxate), bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine (aka. bemotrizinol) and methylene bis-benzotriazolyl tetramethyl butyl phenol (aka. bisoctrizole). Octinoxate is readily biodegradable, but bemotizinol and biscotrizole are not. As a result, these chemicals will persist in the environment once released.
All three UV absorbers have also displayed aquatic toxicity in laboratory tests. Octinoxate is very toxic to aquatic life, while bemotizinol and biscotrizole are toxic to aquatic life. The combination of environmental persistence and toxicity to aquatic life are flags for chemicals of high concern.
Octinoxate has been banned in some places due to reported impacts on coral. However, as far I can see, Daphnia magna is more sensitive to the effects of this chemical. The above toxicity categorisation of octinoxate is based on the toxicity of the chemical to this species.
The key non-active ingredients in the product are silicones. The time it takes for silicones to break down in the environment depends on a range of factors, so it is difficult to predict. In addition, two of the silicones – cyclopentasiloxane and cyclohexasiloxane – are bioaccumulative. The potential to not break down quickly and bioaccumulate means that these chemicals may also be chemicals of high concern. Cyclopentasiloxane and cyclohexansiloxane are listed as substances of very high concern in European Union for this reason, and companies wanting to use these chemicals in European Union may soon have to seek authorisation first.
Most other ingredients in the product are readily biodegradable and non-toxic to aquatic life, although there are exceptions (e.g. EDTA) and some data gaps. It is difficult to determine the potential impacts of some of the polymers in the formulation, and the fragrance ingredients are not disclosed. There is also no public information on the ecotoxicity of kakadu plum extract.
In addition, there are some data gaps on the source of ingredients. For example, many of the ingredients in this product may be derived from palm oil, but there is no information on the Ultra Violette website about the source of these ingredients. There is similarly no information on the source of the silica in the product. Silica is commonly obtained from sand, which is mined. Sand mines can cause erosion and habitat degradation, and are often unregulated.
The sunscreen comes in a 50 mL flexible plastic tube. Unfortunately, the plastic tube is unlikely to be re-used and is difficult to recycle. Terracycle accepts these types of tubes for recycling, but they are not always collected in kerbside recycling. This reduces the chance of the packaging being recycled, and increases the chance of it going to landfill. The small volume of the tube also means that more packaging needs to be used per unit of product. A larger volume would reduce the amount of packaging that needs to be used.
But does it work?
Considering how well a product works is a big factor in determining whether a product is a good one or not. A product that does not work is a waste.
This product is popular with many users – but so are many other products that have a much lower environmental impact. Search our reviews to find other products that could do the job without compromising the environment.
Image credit: Mamamia