Is your sunscreen reef-friendly?
As kids, we were told repeatedly by our parents to wear sunscreen. Anytime we went outside, we heard the mantra, “don’t forget to put on sunscreen!” And with good reason. Sunscreen not only shields us from painful and unsightly sunburns, it also protects us from dangerous sun-related conditions, such as skin cancer. However, while sunscreen does a good job at protecting humans, scientists have found that it’s detrimental to much of the ocean’s ecosystem–specifically coral reefs.
Reefs at Risk
According to National Geographic, “coral reefs all over the world are threatened by pollution,” and the most popular ocean spots, like the Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Israel, are particularly at risk. This is partly in part because of harsh chemicals found in many brands of sunscreen.
Chemical are Bad for Coral
Many sunscreens contain chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, which can be absorbed by corals. These types of chemicals wreak havoc on the reproduction and growth cycles of coral and lead to bleaching.
While this is disconcerting, the good news is that there is something we can do about it! Many locations around the world affected by this issue are starting to ban the sale and use of sunscreens that contain these harmful chemicals. Certain Hawaiian airlines are passing out free chemical free sunscreen to their passengers as well. While governments and certain private sector organizations are moving to make important changes, there are a few things that you, as an individual, can do as well.
According to National Geographic, “Haereticus Environmental Lab publishes a list each year of what sunscreens are safe for the environment.” Buying and using mineral-based sunblocks are safer for the environment, as are sunscreens that have ‘non-nano’ sized particles, as they can’t be ingested by corals.
Down the Drain
It’s also important to note that only wearing sunscreen when you are on land does not solve this issue. Applied sunscreen and sunblock gets washed down drains after showering, resulting in about 14,000 tons of sunscreen washing into our oceans.
One of the safest and most effective solutions to this issue is not to wear sunscreen at all. I know this may sound counterintuitive to what people have been told, but many dermatologists say that covering up is just as effective and applying sunscreen. When you’re out in the sun, it’s best to be as sun-safety conscious as possible. Wearing long-sleeved T-shirts, and covering your head with a good sunhat are just a few things you can do to minimize your use of sunscreen.
Here is a list of some reef-friendly sunscreens:
Deter Mineral Reef Safe Sunscreen, SPF 30
Raw Love Sunscreen, SPF 35
Maui Surfer Honey Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30
Badger Sunscreen Cream, Unscented, SPF 30
Badger Broad Spectrum Sport Facestick, SPF 35
All Terrain KidSport SPF30
Joshua Tree Reef Safe Sunscreen SPF 30
Elemental Herbs Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30+
Green Screen D Organic Sunscreen, Original, SPF 35
BurnOut Ocean Tested Physical Sunscreen, SPF 30
Star Naturals Sunscreen Stick SPF 25
When you purchase one of these products you’ll be protecting yourself and the environment. It’s a win-win!