Are “Chemical Free” Products Truly Chemical Free?

Every time summer rolls around, kids everywhere are guaranteed to hear their mom utter the words ‘don’t forget to put on some sunscreen’. They slather on the stuff (although reluctantly) because of the damage that UV rays can cause to skin; but does anyone ever stop to think about what they are really putting on their bodies? Most sunscreens, such as Burt’s Bees Sunscreen, claim to be ‘chemical free’ so that consumers are put at ease and are more likely to buy the product; though this ‘chemical free label’ can often be misleading to consumers. After looking into the real meaning of the word chemical, seeing what ingredients are in Burt’s Bees Sunscreen, and investigating why producers use the phrase ‘chemical free’ one will be able to understand what really is in the sunscreen thousands put on throughout the summer.

In order to understand why producers, use the words ‘chemical free’, one must first understand what the word chemical means. According to an online dictionary, The Free Dictionary, a chemical is: a substance with a distinct molecular composition that is produced by or used in a chemical process ( By this definition everything is a chemical. Water is a chemical, the glass water is in from is made of chemicals, and even human beings are made up of chemicals. So it could be confusing to a consumer when the label for Burt’s Bees Sunscreen reads:

Inactive Ingredients: Water, cannabis sativa (hemp) seed oil, glycerin, stearic acid, hydrated silica, fragrance, sucrose distearate, helianthus annulus (sunflower) seed oil, beta-carotene, calendula officinalis (calendula) flower extract, crataegus oxyacanthus stem extract, hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) extract, hydrastis canadensis (golden seal) extract, symphtum offcinale (comfrey) extract, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract, acacia senegal gum, sucrose stearate, aluminum hydroxide, alginic acid, xanthan gum, sodium borate, glucose, lecithin, sodium chloride, canola oil, glucose oxidase, lactoperoxidase.

Active Ingredient: Titanium dioxide 8.58% (

The very first ingredient on the list is a chemical, in fact every single ingredient on the list is a chemical. Even natural products such as seed oil are chemicals. The list of these ingredients proves that the label chemical free on this sunscreen is misleading since there are in fact multiple chemicals in Burt’s Bees Sunscreen (

So why do producers insist on using the label ‘chemical free’ on their products if the product is not truly chemical free? One of the main reasons the chemical free label is put onto so many products, especially ones that go on our body, is so that the consumer is put more at ease when purchasing a product. Between a product that reads chemical free and one without the chemical free label, a consumer will most likely choose the chemical free product because it seems like the better choice. Even though nothing can be chemical free, consumers are still put at ease by the false label because they are not aware of what it really means to be a chemical, and believe that they are buying a superior product because it reads chemical free.

By using the phrase chemical free, producers and manufactures create a fear of chemicals. A chemical created by a scientist can be beneficial while naturally occurring chemicals can be quite harmful, which is what consumers don’t understand and why producers continue to use the chemical free label. Instead of using this label, the Burt’s Bees Sunscreen company can instead up-play how the sunscreen will protect from UVA and UVB rays. In addition, the ingredients also list hemp seed oil as one of the ingredients in the sunscreen. Hemp seed oil can be very beneficial to one’s skin because it decreases the frequency of dry skin and can also help to avoid irritation if someone were to have sensitive skin ( This demonstrates that there are many other ways to appeal to a customer truthfully rather than putting a false label on a product. Producers and manufactures need to remove the false chemical free label from their products and instead hone in on the real benefits their product(s) have to consumers.

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