Is your sunscream destroying coral reefs?

Is your sunscream destroying coral reefs?

Research shows that some 90 percent of suncreams are taking a serious toll on the environment. Contributing to the bleaching and inevitable death of coral.

“The reef is like the supermarket of the entire ecosystem,” says Dr. Andrew Rossiter, executive director of the Waikiki Aquarium. It’s the basis for sustaining life, both below the ocean’s surface and above. And it’s remarkably easy for you to make a difference—a huge difference, in fact.

Brian Guadagno, a longtime ocean lifeguard who in 2012 founded Raw Elements, a reef-safe suncream brand, explains that common suncream ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate have proven to be toxic to living coral. While there are several known disruptors of coral and marine life, many of which are banned from eco-marine reserves, UV-protective oxybenzone, which also goes by benzophenone-3 and BP-3, has been under increased scrutiny since the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology published a paper in 2015 that reveals it as a genotoxicant for coral, meaning that it causes destructive mutations at a genetic level. Higher concentrations of the chemical also directly correlate with increased instances of coral bleaching, which is what happens when the symbiotic algae that live in coral and colour it so beautifully are killed off, leaving a white skeleton in the coral’s place. “Oxybenzone and octinoxate are often used in 3 to 6 percent of the sunscreen formula, so it’s a significant amount,” Guadagno says.

As it stands, about 90 percent of suncreams on the market contain one or more ingredients banned from reserves. Even some brands who pride themselves as 'natural might not be a safe bet.

Which suncreams should I buy?

The best thing you can do when going to buy suncream, instead of jumping at the cheapest one, is turning over the package! Look at the ingredients list and their certificates. All the information you need is on the back! Just like when you're looking for bullshit in your food ingredients, you should be doing the same with anything you are putting on your skin!

Simply put:

  • Stay away from anything that contains Oxybenzone or octinoxate. These are classed as 'chemical suncreams', and will be doing not only damage to reefs, but also your skin, leaking into your bloodstream. 
  • Avoid suncreams containing petrolatum, commonly known as mineral oil, which takes years to biodegrade, and are known to be harmful or fatal to aquatic life and waterfowl.
  • Avoid suncreams with high content of Titanium Dioxide. This mineral does not biodegrade and is found to react in warm seawater to form hydrogen peroxide which is harmful to all sea life.

What suncream ingredient is reef-friendly?

Non-nano zinc oxide.

Get suncreams with this active ingredient in them! 

Whilst you're at it, also look at inactive ingredients as well. Make sure when your reading the back it all makes sense to you. Companies who pride themselves off what they put in their suncreams will make this all really easy to follow and understand.

Look for certificates

Around the ingredients list, if the suncream has any, there will be some certificates and standards that it meets.

We suggest looking out for these third-party certifications-

What brands should I look for

Here is a list of brands we recommend- still check the packaging though for harmful ingredients (thankfully, all of these can be found on amazon)

  • Raw Elements
  • Think sport
  • Kokua Sun Care
  • Suntegrity
  • Stream2Sea
  • Manda Organic
  • Bobo Botanicals
  • Manda
  • Hello Bello

This is only to name a few. This topic is really important and something we should all educate ourselves on!

It’s a lesson we can all take with us to the waves, the trails, and the farmers’ market: Efficacy doesn’t have to come down to a choice between protecting coral or your keister—it merely comes down to your choice of sunscreen.



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