Perhaps you have already heard of reef safe sunscreen – or maybe not. For years I have sought out brands that do not contain harmful toxins or chemicals, to keep myself (and my family) from unnecessary harm. Honestly, though, I had not thought much about looking for products that are safe for our reefs. I knew that there are harmful ingredients in chemical sunscreens, but it had not dawned on me how harmful sunscreens can be to the ocean environment until learning more about it.
Let me give you the low down, because once you read this, you may just want to switch out that chemical sunscreen for an alternative that is safer for both you and the environment.
Researchers have found that some of the synthetic ingredients commonly found in chemical sunscreens are causing irreparable damage to coral reefs around the world. Chemicals from these sunscreens are getting swept out to sea and destroying algae and other marine life. Why does this matter? Algae is what provides the reefs with provide reefs with its essential nutrients. Algae is also what gives coral it’s bright colors, so when the algae is destroyed, the coral becomes bleached white and dies.
It has been said that four to six thousand tons of sunscreen wash off swimmers, surfers, and snorkelers each year. Just think for a moment about how damaging it would be if each of us were using those synthetic chemicals? Fortunately, by sharing this information, it is possible that we can stop the damage before it goes any further. That is, if we make the switch to reef safe sunscreens. And as it turns out, reef safe sunscreens are safer for you, too.
In 2008, National Geographic News shared research from the Polytechnic University of Marche in Italy, which found that several popular chemical sunscreens were contributing to coral bleaching. The offenders all had four synthetic ingredients in common. Oxybenzone, Butylparaben, and Octinoxate have all been linked to endocrine and other hormone disruption. The last chemical, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, is actually not approved as an active ingredient for sunscreen in the U.S., but is still listed as an inactive ingredient in some products. This chemical has also shown to create hormone disruption, as well as potential thyroid toxicity.
I don’t know about you, but that just makes me cringe.
Why would anyone want to purchase a sunscreen that messes with their hormones? Especially when there are better alternatives out there, ones made with natural ingredients and protect you from the sun’s rays?
Here comes the tricky part. Reef safe claims on sunscreens are currently unregulated by the government, so you must take note of the ingredients in your sunscreen and note from the manufacturer whether or not it is safe. Be aware of hidden ingredients too, such as when a sunscreen lists “fragrance” generically on its label. (Parabens are often hidden in there.) I have heard that there is test that can be performed on sunscreens, but it is generally done on fish, not on coral. If a brand does not believe in animal testing, it will likely not allow that test to be performed.
What can you do to make sure that neither you nor the reefs are being harmed by your sunscreen? First, look for sunscreens such as the ones from Goddess Garden, which do not contain any of the ingredients shown to harm coral. Second, use a water resistant sunscreen. This helps it to stay on your body and out of the water. And lastly, look for a biodegradable sunscreen. Goddess Garden is both water resistant and biodegradable, so once it washes off, it can safely return into the earth where it came from in the first place.
The naturally occurring minerals zinc and titanium provide safe for you and the reefs, reliable protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Goddess Garden uses only plant-based ingredients and naturally occurring minerals in their sunscreens.
Go reef safe, because it is better for the environment, and for you, too.
Disclosure: As an ambassador for Goddess Garden, I have been compensated for writing this post. This is a brand that I adore and all thoughts and opinions expressed here are 100% my own.