If Sunscreen Does this to Plastic, What Does it Do to Your Body?

Most people who lather up in sunscreen before going out in the sun do so because they think they are protecting themselves from danger. But in the process of protecting your skin from UV rays, are you really just trading one evil for another? Is your current sunscreen doing your body more harm than it is good?

We started to wonder if some sunscreen agents are safer than others, particularly when we noticed that some sunscreens had an adverse effect on our unbreakable wine glasses made of 100% Tritan material, a plastic that is one of the least reactive plastics available.

So we asked the expert chemists at Eastman Chemical to help us understand why this was happening. The following is based on what we learned from that conversation.

Common Ingredients found in Chemicals in Sunscreens

There are 17 US FDA-approved sunscreen agents, but FDA approval doesn’t mean they are all created equally. In order to protect your skin from UV rays, sunscreens use either chemicals or minerals. Most non-organic sunscreens opt for chemical ingredients.

The  following are some of the active chemical ingredients commonly added to sunscreens to absorb UV rays:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Octocrylene
  • Avobenzone
  • Homosalate
  • Menthyl anthranilate
  • Octyl salicyclate

Again, these are just a few of the many chemical ingredients that may be used in sunscreen.

Common mineral sunscreen agents are titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.

What happens when sunscreen interacts with Tritan material?

Many times, when sunscreen gets on Tritan material, a cloudy layer forms on the surface. Sometimes, the sunscreen actually etches the material.

Brett Jones from Eastman Chemical explains:

“Sunscreens are typically ester based and can adversely affect ester based polymers, such as polycarbonates and polyesters (Tritan is a polyester) – like dissolves like.  Sunscreens are also made up of small molecules to be absorbed into the skin which may lead to easier diffuse into polymers.   The damage is permanent for the most part due to the possibility of polymer crystallization, hazing, environmental stress cracking, etc.”

Does sunscreen have a negative effect on other materials?

In addition to harming our wine glasses and other products made out of Tritan, sunscreen has been known to damage sunglasses, fabrics, automotive finish, metals, and other plastics.

spray suncreen

Spray sunscreen appears to be harsher plastics.

Do all sunscreens have the same effect?

In particular, spray sunscreens seem to be harsher and have a more negative effect on materials.

Additionally, sunscreens with certain UV filters may be aggressive.

Those include:

  • para-aminobenzoic acid
  • cinnamates
  • benzophenones
  • anthranilates
  • ecamsules
  • bis-n-butyl phthalate
  • avobenzone
Avobenzone active ingredient in sunscreen

Avobenzone is an active ingredient found in some sunscreens.

Are there any sunscreens that don’t have such a harsh effect?

Mineral and organic sunscreens are an alternative to chemical sunscreens. Mineral sunscreens that use only zinc oxide and titanium oxide are much safer for surfaces (and possibly your skin and human body). Organic sunscreens with one of these two active ingredients are the best option.

TaZa Thoughts

We aren’t scientists or dermatologists, but if a skin product (like chemical sunscreens) has ingredients harsh enough to etch a material as sturdy and durable as Tritan, then we can only imagine what it’s doing to your skin.

Think about it.

Talk to us on social media @ThinkTaZa and share your thoughts.

*This post is in no way intended to act as medical advice. Before choosing a sunscreen you should speak with a qualified medical professional.*

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