How to protect your skin from the sun without damaging coral reefs

How to protect your skin from the sun without damaging coral reefs

Sustainable traveling becomes a hot topic and a concern that each responsible traveler should take into account. When talking about traveling with responsibility, people often think about saving water, using recycled products. However, there is a fact that you may forget: your sunscreen can cause bad effects for the coral reefs. This one can sound unfamiliar but recent research shows that each year, more than 1 million people dive into the ocean to explore the coral reefs, and the amount of 14,000 tons of sunscreen wash off into the water and over the corals. Hence, it is advisable to choose a sunscreen that can protect both your skin and the coral reef. This blog post will cover the information that you need.

The cause

You may wonder why your sunscreen could harm the coral reef. The problem comes from one of the ingredients called oxybenzone and octinoxate. Those chemicals can harm the coral by:

  • Cause coral to be more susceptible to bleaching
  • Damaging coral DNA
  • Affecting the coral’s hormonal processes for growth and reproduction

Apart from chemical sunscreen, mineral sunscreens with contain nano-particles can be absorbed by marine animals due to their small size. These minerals are not safe and toxic to be absorbed by ocean species, which can cause death.

Those harmful effect forces us to choose a more “reel friendly” sunscreen to protect the coral.

How to choose

The key is to choose a sunscreen containing SPF F that uses physical UVA and UVB filters. This means the ingredients should have zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Rather than release chemical ingredients to protect your skin, this type of sunscreen will use an actual physical block as a shield to prevent your skin from absorbing harmful rays.

An alternative way is to look for products  Protect Land + Sea Certification which implies that you can be sure this sunscreen will not cause any harmful effect for the ocean species. 

Besides choosing the right product, you should bear in mind which products we should avoid choosing. The advice here is to remember the products with toxic ingredients in the HEL list such as:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • Octocrylene
  • Homosalate
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
  • PABA
  • Parabens
  • Triclosan
  • Any nanoparticles or “nano-sized” zinc or titanium (if it doesn’t explicitly say “micro-sized” or “non-nano” and it can rub in, it’s probably nano-sized)
  • Any form of microplastic, such as “exfoliating beads”