While we’re encouraged to slap on large amounts of sunscreen (multiple times per day) in order to protect ourselves, what is rarely talked about is how harmful the lotions and creams we rub into our skin are for reefs and the wildlife that inhabit them.
Several common ingredients used in sunscreen are known to be very damaging to coral reefs. And, it is estimated that up to 14,000 TONS of sunscreen wash off into our coral reefs every year.
If you’re conscious of protecting these fragile ecosystems (and you should be), then it is important to take whatever steps possible to do so.
The best reef safe sunscreens do not contain the harmful ingredients that are found in regular sun cream, they have minimal ingredients, AND they protect you from the suns harmful rays.
In this guide we will break just how important using reef safe sunscreen is, and offer you a few options as to what we consider the best reef safe sunscreen.
How Does Sunscreen Damage Coral Reefs?
You can read my in-depth article on Coral Bleaching on Sunscreen here. But to summarise..
There are four common ingredients found in sunscreen which are shown to be very harmful. These ingredients have been found to bleach and kill coral reefs even at low concentrations:
- 4 methylbenzylidene
They disrupt the corals reproduction and ultimately lead to it’s bleaching. The destruction of these corals can have a massive effect on the organisms that rely on it for shelter and food.
What is 'Reef Safe' Sunscreen?
Reef Safe sunscreen doesn’t have the above aforementioned harmful ingredients in it.
Instead of using Oxybenzone and other harmful chemicals Reef Safe sunscreen contains the much more eco-friendly non-nano zinc oxide
They are typically paragon free, have far less chemicals in them than regular sunscreen, and tend to be unscented.
A good reef safe sunscreen is one that has the bare minimum of chemicals on your skin but that will still protect you from harmful UV rays.
Things to Consider When Purchasing Reef Safe Sunscreen
Here are the key points that you need to consider when purchasing reef friendly alternatives:
- Lotion Vs Spray – Always go for lotions/creams as opposed to the spray on sunscreen. Spray on sunscreen tends to get everywhere (a lot of the time not even on your skin). Quite a lot of it will therefore end up in the sand and then inevitably, in the sea.
- Simpler = Better– The less ingredients in your sunscreen the better so try and go for a formula with as few ingredients as possible.
The Best Reef Safe Sunscreens in more Detail
This sunscreen not only fits all of our specifications – But it is also cheaper than the majority of its competitors.
The primary ingredient of ThinkSport is non-nano zinc. This ingredient has not been shown to harm sea life, thus making it a safe choice for swimming.
Thinksport is also paraben free and water resistant – Meaning it stays on the skin rather than coming off in the sea.
Just five ingredients make up this reef safe sunscreen.
It goes on well (although be prepared to work hard to rub it in!) and its slightly less greasy feeling than the Thinksport.
the best reef safe sunscreen for kids
This fairly thick cream is fairly easy to rub in and is very water resistant – Thinksport is our favourite option for not only protecting the reef but also providing a gentle/protecting formula for kids. Not to mention it also smells great!