As summer heats up, sunscreen becomes an everyday essential. Kids are the toughest critics when it comes to protecting themselves from sunburns. Zinka sunscreen, a zinc-oxide-based sunscreen that comes in numerous colors, aims to help kids find the fun in protecting themselves from the sun. Zinka wants to turn sunscreen into a fashion statement to make preventing skin cancer cool again. It has since become a favorite of lifeguards, surfers, and beach kids across the United States, but is it sustainable? While Zinka tells consumers that its sunscreen is “better” because it does not contribute to microparticle pollution, the product’s ingredient list tells another story. When looking for sun protection, buyers should skip the Zinka and opt for a natural, reef-safe sunscreen instead.
Zinka’s classic white nosecoat has a short, but very chemical-heavy ingredient list. The product consists of: zinc oxide, petrolatum, beeswax, paraffin, mineral oil, titanium dioxide, fragrance, and BHA. Zinc oxide, the main active ingredient in Zinka, comes from chemically treated zinc compounds that are often mined via unethical labor conditions. The chemical treatment process required to purify the zinc oxide found in these natural compounds can create hazardous waste with the potential to pollute the surrounding environment if disposed of improperly. Petrolatum and paraffin, the binding ingredients in Zinka, are derived from, you guessed it: petroleum, a byproduct of oil refining. Clearly, an oil-based product is unsustainable because it requires oil fracking and refining to take place. These activities have caused countless natural disasters and pollution incidents worldwide. Titanium dioxide and mineral oil are also produced through mining and chemical refinery processes, which require heavy machinery, dangerous working conditions, and the unnecessary use of harmful chemicals to produce the sunscreen’s buttery consistency and bright white color. Fragrance and BHA, an abbreviation for any beta hydroxy acid, leave room for speculation. There is no indication as to which fragrances are used in the product or which specific BHA is used. It is impossible to determine if these additives are sustainable or not because Zinka avoids the specific details necessary to fully investigate these ingredients. When researching chemical formulas, transparency is key to finding out the most important details on a compound. Speaking of transparency, it should be noted that beeswax is the only unrefined natural ingredient found in this product. Of course, Zinka would never tell consumers that their “more natural” formula still is mostly laboratory-based.
Unfortunately, Zinka’s transparency both begins and ends at their ingredient listing. There are no details on product manufacturing besides their factory location: California. While this is a great choice because it reduces shipping distance to United States retailers, this does not necessarily make Zinka more sustainable. Zinc and titanium are often mined outside of the United States in hazardous labor conditions. While it is difficult to say whether these labor environments are a part of ZInka’s supply chain, it is even harder to verify that they are not linked to the company’s materials. Without any transparency surrounding their manufacturing process, it is nearly impossible to verify any sustainable habits that Zinka may have. Transparency should be an integral part of any company’s mission. Zinka, give us the details, please.
Zinka is a California-based sunscreen company that focuses solely on products with zinc-based formulas. Besides these details, consumers cannot find much information about Zinka both on their website and on the internet. Zinka considers themselves an “environmentally friendly” company, despite their clear lack of transparency. This is extremely ironic considering the fact that their product is made with multiple petroleum-based materials and relies on mining to collect ingredients. Oil fracking and drilling into the Earth’s crust to create a product does not sound very sustainable, even if the competition is deemed to be worse. Without a clear list of sustainability improvement goals or any manufacturing information, Zinka really should avoid calling themselves an environmentally conscious business.