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Reef Safe Sunscreen
What is the environmental impact of sunscreen?
A day on the water is exciting and can create lasting memories. When it comes to experiencing a coral reef, snorkeling and diving are the best ways to get up-close and personal. When we enter the water to explore these fascinating places, we may not consider the products that are rinsing off our bodies and how they may affect the tiny animals that make up our fragile coral reefs.
Coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world. They cover less than 1% of the ocean’s floor, but nearly one million species of fish, invertebrates, and algae are estimated to live in and around the world’s reefs.
Researchers have discovered that some chemicals in sunscreen can awaken coral viruses, causing the coral to bleach and die. As a visitor to the coral reef, you can reduce the risk of harming coral by taking a reef-friendly approach to sun protection.
How to choose a sunscreen that won't harm the coral reef:
- Don’t look for “reef safe” on the label
The phrase “reef safe” is a marketing term and its use is not regulated.
- Choose physical sunscreens
Physical, or mineral, sunscreens physically block UV rays and do not contain harsh chemicals which harm coral reefs.
- Avoid Oxybenzone
This ingredient is a known endocrine disrupter and is proven to damage coral reefs.
- Read the Label
Read the list of active ingredients to make sure your sunscreen contains the active ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.
- Do Away with Spray
Opt for lotions instead.
- Cover Up
The most eco-friendly option is to avoid sunscreen and cover up with long sleeves and a hat. In the water, a long sleeved rash guard will help prevent sunburn and eliminate the need for sunscreen.
Note: Unlike chemical-based sunscreens, mineral-based sunscreens do not absorb into the skin. Because mineral sunscreen sits on top of your skin rather than becoming fully absorbed, you'll notice physical evidence of it even after it has been properly applied.