A Guide to Reef-Safe Sunscreen

Time to rethink sunscreen! 

So... along with rising ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, and destructive fishing practices coral reefs are also being impacted by harmful chemicals found in sunscreen! 

Why does this matter and what makes coral reefs important?

Most scientists cite the ocean as the source of over half the worlds oxygen and a third of its carbon absorption—and while there's some debate as to the role reefs play in this positive gaseous exchange, everyone agrees that in terms of nominal value, coral reefs are the most important ecosystem the ocean provides. 

The main culprits

Four common sunscreen ingredients were shown to kill or bleach coral at extremely low concentrations (as low as one drop in 6.5 Olympic sized swimming pools). 

  • Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3, BP-3) - Sunscreen ingredient that disrupts coral reproduction, causes coral bleaching, and damages coral DNA. Oxybenzone is found in over 3500 sunscreen products worldwide.
  • Butylparaben - Preservative ingredient shown to cause coral bleaching.
  • Octinoxate (Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate) - Sunscreen ingredient shown to cause coral bleaching.
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4MBC) - Sunscreen ingredient shown to cause coral bleaching. Allowed in Europe and Canada, not in USA or Japan.

So what can you do?

  1. You’ve already taken the first step—becoming informed!
  2. Choose mineral sunscreens, especially lotions containing non-nano zinc dioxide as the primary active ingredient.
  3. Look for reef safe sunscreen which are becoming increasingly available
  4. Avoid aerosol sunscreen. Much of what you spray leaves a residue on the sand which is then washed back into the ocean. Your lungs will be healthier too, as aerosol sunscreens are easily inhaled.
  5. If you can, apply less personal care products before you go swimming; the fewer chemicals you bring into the ocean, the better. Some ways to protect your skin from harmful UV radiation without lots of sunscreen could be to avoid going to the beach during the intense midday sun, or spending lots of time in the shade and in sun protective clothing and a hat.

Reef Safe Suncreen

  • *Mama Kuleana Waterproof SPF 30 Reef-safe Sunscreen
  • *Kokua Sun Care Hawaiian SPF 50 Natural Zinc Sunscreen
  • *Little Hands Hawaii SPF 35+ All-natural and Organic Sunscreen
  • Manda Organic SPF 50 Sun Paste
  • *Raw Love SPF 35 All-natural Mineral Sunscreen
  • Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen
  • All Good SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion
  • Babo Botanicals SPF 30 Clear Zinc Lotion
  • Suntegrity Natural Mineral Sunscreen
  • Badger SPF 30 Unscented Sunscreen Cream
  • Raw Elements SPF 30 Certified Natural Sunscreen
  • Loving Naturals Clear Body SPF 30+ All-natural Sunscreen
  • Reef Safe Oxybenzone Free Biodegradable SPF 50 Sunscreen
  • Banana Boat Simply Protect SPF 50+ Sunscreen (spray, not lotion)

Our personal favourite being Stream2Sea SPF 30 Mineral Sunblock

Hope this helps next time your shopping sunscreens! 

Have a wicked awesome, sunny, happy-go-lucky, reef friendly day! :)