Bondi Sands hit with class action against ‘reef friendly’ sunscreen

By Becky Bargh 24-May-2022

Australian beauty group has been accused of ‘greenwashing’ and putting profits before people and the environment

Australian beauty brand Bondi Sands has been hit with a lawsuit over claims it falsely advertised its sunscreens as “reef friendly”.

Filed at the Northern District of California Court, US, the group – founded in Melbourne a decade ago – has been accused of “greenwashing” consumers and reaping “millions of dollars through this fraudulent scheme”.

The group was also accused of being “calculated” and putting profits over people and the environment.

The complainant alleges that Bondi Sands’ sunscreens contain harmful chemicals that can endanger coral reefs, despite marketing them as safe.

Ingredients include avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate and octocrylene, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Describing its sun care range online, Bondi Sands said: “Providing UVA & UVB protection, our fragrance free formulas are gentle, fast absorbing and dry to an invisible, non-greasy finish with no white cast. Formulated to deliver up to 72 hours of hydration, with added aloe vera and vitamin E to leave your skin feeling deeply moisturised.”

The products are also described as “reef friendly”, “dermatologist tested” and “fragrance free”.

Bondi Sands said in a statement: “Our sunscreen products are made in Australia and are compliant with TGA [Therapeutic Goods Administration] regulations, which are the strongest SPF guidelines in the world, and are compliant with strict EU and FDA laws.”

Cosmetics Business has reached out to Bondi Sands for comment.

Changing tides

Sunscreens have been noted as one of the greatest contributors to the demise of coral reefs across the planet.

An estimated 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen are washed into seas every year, and some 80% of coral reefs in the Caribbean have been destroyed over the last five decades due to pollution and rising sea temperatures, according to National Geographic.

“The chemical UV filter oxybenzone [also known as benzophenone-3, or BP-3] has been studied most intensively and found to disrupt coral reproduction, damage coral DNA and can cause coral bleaching,” Sam Craven, Programmes Manager at The Reef-World Foundation, told Cosmetics Business.

“Octinoxate [ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate] has also been shown to cause bleaching.

“Coral bleaching occurs when microscopic algae called zooxanthellae, which normally live inside coral cells and provide the coral with its main food source, leave their coral host. This is normally because these sensitive organisms can only survive at very specific temperatures and when the ocean gets too warm they leave the coral in search of a more favourable home.”

And omitting harmful chemicals from products has become a breeding ground for greenwashing.

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“It's important to note that the widely-used term ‘reef safe’ has no standard definition and more and more conservation messaging is encouraging customers to check for ingredients rather than a ‘reef safe’ label, so make your product messaging clear and easy to understand,” adds Craven.

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