It’s no secret that sunscreen is important to staying safe under the sun! Unfortunately, the sunscreen that protects us often means “danger” for our friends in the sea.
The National Park Service says 4,000 to 6,000 tons of sunscreen is found annually in reef areas. High-traffic areas that host activities like snorkeling and diving are home to higher concentrations of sunscreen than less visited areas. You might be wondering, “Why does this matter?”
Many popular sunscreen ingredients like oxybenzone are known to bleach and kill coral reefs. In addition to harming reefs, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that sunscreen chemicals cause reproduction, growth and immune system complications for sea wildlife.
Bans on sunscreen with harmful ingredients are already in place in a few areas. However, these ingredients are still present in many popular brands. Unfortunately, grabbing “reef safe” labeled sunscreen doesn’t solve the problem either, as the use of the term “reef safe” isn’t regulated. Instead, you’ll need to know the difference between safe and harmful ingredients yourself.
Below, we dive into well-known toxic sunscreen ingredients and give tips for picking reef-friendly sunscreen.