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  • What chemicals should I watch out for before buying a sunscreen?

We modern creatures are - thankfully - all too aware of the dangers of baking our skin under the sun. "Slip, slop, slap" is second nature to most of us.

But what if the sunscreen we're slapping on our skin -- sunscreen we apply to protect our skin from cancer -- could be just as harmful to our health?

You put WHAT in my sunscreen?

Unfortunately, numerous studies link commonly-used sunscreen chemicals to a buffet of medical conditions.

And that's just the start ...

Between 6,000 and 14,000 tons of sunscreen wash off swimmers each year into coral reef environments. And it’s horrifying to think that up to 10 per cent of the world's coral reefs are now threatened by chemicals found in many sunscreens. It's sad, and entirely unnecessary.

Fortunately, there are alternative solutions. LITTLE URCHIN was founded on the conviction that sunscreen should be not only dependable, but natural* and safe for everyday use.

What we're working with

Sunscreen is a unique product in that it is applied to a large proportion of the body. Too often, sunscreens contain potentially harmful ingredients that can be directly absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream. These ingredients can also be inhaled when using sunscreen sprays or swallowed by hand-to-mouth habits (hello toddlers!) or lip-licking.

Because sunscreen’s intended purpose is to protect the skin against dangerous UV rays, many sunscreens contain ingredients that act as “penetration enhancers”, thereby helping the product adhere to skin – but this increases the body’s absorption of and exposure to these toxins.

LITTLE URCHIN Natural* Sunscreen and Natural* Tinted Sunscreen do not contain any UV absorbers, titanium dioxide, parabens, synthetic preservatives or synthetic fragrances. The active ingredient in these Sunscreens is Zinc Oxide, typically derived synthetically from the mineral zinc, which works by reflecting UV rays off the skin and doesn’t absorb into the skin. Zinc Oxide is also safe for the all-important marine environment.

Chemicals to avoid in sunscreen (and why you should avoid them)

It's certainly alarming to consider that toxic chemicals are not only readily available off the shelf, but promoted as safe-to-use (ugh!)... ...

BUT we know knowledge is power, so we wanted to share a list of commonly used sunscreening chemicals and why you might want to kick your reliance on them:

  • Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3, BP-3): Found in some 3500 sunscreen products worldwide, oxybenzone is a chemical filter that has been shown to generate free radical damage and cause hormone disruption. It acts like oestrogen in the body, has been shown to alter sperm production in animals and to be associated with endometriosis in women. It also impacts coral reproduction, causes coral bleaching, and damages coral DNA.
  • Butylparaben: A synthetic preservative ingredient shown to cause coral bleaching. Parabens in cosmetic products have been linked to breast cancer, decreased sperm count and early puberty.
  • Octinoxate (Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate): A chemical filter that has been shown to cause thyroid and behavioural alterations in animal studies. Octinoxate has also been shown to cause coral bleaching.
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4MBC): Allowed in Europe and Canada, but not in the USA or Japan, this ingredient has been flagged as an endocrine disruptor and a reproductive toxin. It has also been shown to bioaccumulate down the food chain. Human trials found that 4-MBC was readily absorbed through the skin and was detectable in urine.

The solution

LITTLE URCHIN provides high protection from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays while being 3-hours water resistant and offering essential skin protection. It is free of toxic chemicals, meaning it is suitable to use on your own and your little one's skin. The active ingredient in our product is Zinc Oxide, which is safe to use on sensitive skin and doesn't disrupt marine environments.

Convinced to try a natural*, dependable alternative?

Shop now.


* Little Urchin uses the term ‘natural’ because the ingredients in our products are ones found in nature that are unharmful to the body and used in their natural form or are refined, purified or transformed in the laboratory from sources in nature.  The refinement, purification and transformation processes of certain ingredients are chemical processes required to make the underlying, natural ingredients suitable for use in a sunscreen or moisturiser product.  These processes do not involve the use of synthetic chemicals.