Time for the smell of sunscreen to fill the beaches and pools across the US. Which sunscreen you use is not only important to you and your family, it is also essential to keep our oceans healthy.
What makes sunscreen non-reef-safe sunscreen?
Non-reef-safe sunscreen has one or more of these ingredients listed on the back in their active ingredients list:
- 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
- Any nanoparticles or “nano-sized” zinc or titanium (if it doesn’t explicitly say “micro-sized” or “non-nano” and it can rub in, it’s probably nano-sized)
- Any form of microplastic, such as “exfoliating beads.”
These same key ingredients in mainstream sunscreens are also killing our coral reefs. Up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen wind up in coral reef areas of the ocean every year, and scientists have found contributing to the damage of the individual ecosystems. Oxybenzone, a UV filtering ingredient commonly found in sunscreens, is the main ingredient that harms the coral and completely changes the environment of our oceans.
What is reef-safe sunscreen?
Reef-safe sunscreen is made with minerals like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide rather than toxic chemicals. Below are some better choices and have no (or at least fewer) toxic effects on marine life, making them a reef-safe alternative.
To keep ocean life happy, the key is to find an SPF that uses physical UVA and UVB filters (instead of the chemical ones connected to coral reef deterioration). You’ll be able to find them by flipping the SPF tube over and looking for the active ingredients: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These ingredients form an actual physical block to shield skin from absorbing any rays (whereas chemical filters absorb UV and turn it into heat released from the skin).