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Reef Safe Sunscreen Guide

When preparing for a swim at the beach, beach picnic and any water sport such as snorkeling, sunscreens are sure to find their way in our backpacks. Surely, sunscreen protects us from harmful UV rays and prevents skin discoloration. But the thing that saves us from major skin-related issues is rapidly destroying the coral reef and marine life.

To preserve life underwater, marine biologists and researchers encourage people to use “reef safe sunscreen”. By picking the perfect biodegradable sunscreen from the shelf, you ensure the healthy survival of the oceanic life.

Sunscreen Is Harmful To Reefs, Why?

The effects of certain chemicals found within sunscreens are so harmful that many of them have led to a federal ban on particular products in the state of Hawaii. Not to forget, harmful chemicals and industrial waste are already polluting the ocean water. On top of it, 14000 tons of sunscreen is deposited on coral reefs every year, further worsens the situation.

Oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene are found in high quantities in sunscreens and are responsible for bleaching and killing coral reefs. These chemicals are non-biodegradable and can cause irreparable damage to marine life. Developmental problems, inhibiting plant growth, reproduction issues, and a compromised immune system are only a few side-effects caused by these chemicals.

Is Reef Safe Sunscreen Ocean Friendly?

“Reef Safe” and “Reef-friendly” terms are not regulated. So, picking up any product marked as reef safe sunscreen might not serve your purpose of protecting the sea life. You need to be a bit more thorough while buying sunscreen for your beach trip. Check the list of active ingredients behind the back of the product.

Besides the three main damaging ingredients (Oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene), there are many other harmful ingredients: Here are the sunscreen ingredients to avoid:

  • PABA

  • Parabens

  • 4-methyl benzylidene camphor (4MBC)

  • Triclosan

  • Homosalate

  • Different forms of microplastic.

  • High concentration of titanium dioxide. It is non-biodegradable and forms hydrogen peroxide after reacting with warm water.

  • Petrolatum (mineral oil) based products.

Tips To Get a Reef-Friendly Sunscreen

Having a satisfactory list of ingredients is not the only thing you need to consider while buying reef safe sunscreen. Here are a few tips that will help you get a non-toxic sunscreen that is safe for humans and sea life alike.


Pick a sunscreen labelled as non-nanosized zinc oxide or titanium dioxide sunscreen. Micro-particles are less harmful to coral reefs and also keep your skin healthy.


Look for a water-resistant sunscreen as it will not wash off into the ocean along with waves.

Get Mineral Sunscreen

Mineral or physical sunscreens are a better alternative to chemical ones. Chemical sunscreens are prepared from synthetic ingredients, whereas mineral-based products are much more suitable for marine life.

Stick to Lotions

Avoid getting sprays and misting sunscreens as they can easily evaporate in the surrounding atmosphere causing harm to the aquatic life. So, it’s best to buy coral reef safe sunscreen lotions that are easy to apply as well.

Get Reusable Container

The whole purpose of overthinking is to preserve marine life and do better for the environment. So, when making a purchase, look for products available in recyclable or reusable containers.

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