Sun Bum Hair Lightener

overall Rating:



Katie Schooter
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Every summer I look forward to hanging out at the beach and getting sun-kissed highlights throughout my hair. In the past, I would use lighteners from nature like lemon juice to bring out my natural highlights, but I found that using store bought lighteners work a lot quicker and more effectively. I always wondered why that is. What kind of chemicals are being used in this product’s formula that have the ability to make my hair lighten so quick in the sun? The most sustainable way to lighten your highlights this summer would be to use organic lemon juice, and then toss the waste into a compost bin. Plain and simple! Not everyone will want to wait for the results of using natural lighteners though, so I chose to make my review on a well-known product, Sun Bum-Hair Lightener. This brand does not market as being sustainable, but they do market as being against animal testing and being paraben/phthalate free. What I found was that they are not a sustainable brand, and they have a ways to go until they can be a part of the circular economy. For now, I think it would be great for them to find more eco-friendly alternatives to some of the chemicals being used within the hair lightening formula of this product. I give this product 0.5 / 3 because they use a recyclable bottle and because their product's formula is not purely harmful.

what it's made of:


Sun Bum Hair Lightener for blondes main ingredients are: Aqua (Water), Hydrogen Peroxide, Polysorbate 20, Fragrance/Parfum, Honey/Mel/Miel, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Ananas Sativus (Pineapple) Fruit Extract, Silicone Quaternium-8, Disodium Phosphate, Phosphoric Acid, Disodium EDTA, Coumarin, Ext. Violet 2 (CL 60730). Most of the ingredients used in this product have not been found to be harmful to the environment. However, the European Union Ecolabel program data shows that added fragrance has high acute toxicity to aquatic life. This could be problematic to marine life in waters that are more often exposed to human activity, especially during the summer when people flock to the beaches, lakes, pools, and rivers. EWG (Environmental Working Group) states, “When you see "fragrance" on a personal care product's label, read it as "hidden chemicals." Apparently a loophole in FDA's federal law allows manufacturers of personal care products to include almost any ingredient in their products under the name "fragrance" without actually listing the chemical. It is unfair that our aquatic life must deal with these artificial fragrance chemicals in their environment, yet the chemical industry continues to profit and support the fossil fuel industry. I wish that Sun Bun would use natural fragrances within their products instead of these fake chemical ones that can be harmful to marine ecosystems. Most of the chemicals used in Sun Bum’s hair lightener are inorganic / man-made and should not have a place in our world's ecosystems. I say “our world” because as water connects all things, the chemicals released from this product will end up concentrated in fish species worldwide. After researching many of these chemicals I found that a number of them have sustainable alternatives. Unfortunately the sustainable alternatives in many cases sacrifice the effectiveness of the product. There are always trade-offs in life and right now we are dealing with the trade-off between having an effective product that is not sustainable, or having a product that is less effective and sustainable. A number of people would likely choose effectiveness over sustainability and there is nothing inherently wrong with that because it simply comes down to personal values. In the future, policies should be in place that strictly prevent the manufacture of harmful chemicals, yet also greatly fund research towards sustainable alternatives.
As for the most natural ingredients used in this product; Sun Bum uses pineapples from Costa Rican and Meyer Lemons, but unfortunately does not list any information on who/where they are sourcing their pineapples and lemons from, or how they manufacture these two fruits into their product. I cannot find any information on the supply chain and manufacturing process of this hair lightener.

how it's made:


Sun Bum is greenwashing by claiming its products are vegan, cruelty free, and reef friendly, because their certifications are greenwashing. Simply checking the ingredients label will show you the truth. I checked leading international certifiers PETA and Leaping Bunny and they have no information concerning this company’s use of animal testing. It’s impossible to tell if animal ingredients were used in the manufacturing process which is why an audit of the entire supply chain is necessary. Many of the ingredients listed in this product are not even good for your hair in general. For example, Silicone Quaternium-8 is a synthetic silicon which not only is similar to plastic but it can lead to build up on your hair. On a positive note, the packaging of the product comes in a 4oz plastic recyclable spray bottle.

who makes it:


The brand Sun Bum is owned by S.C. Johnson. The company was bought by the corporation in 2019 for $400 million. The majority of their products are manufactured in Florida, U.S.A, some in Australia. The About Us page is going for a surfer laid back vibe, but there is little to no information backing up their claims to loving the planet. They use this section of their website to come off more personal to its customer base, and I agree it does make them seem more like normal people just working with a brand. I enjoy this about their website as it makes this brand seem more approachable to possibly changing some of the ingredients used in this products. If this brand is really as connected with its employees as it portrays itself to be, then maybe the employees can communicate to the corporate CEO’s at SC Johnson the necessary improvements that could be made in this product's design that will make it more sustainable, and support a circular economy.