What is reef safe sunscreen?
Why is it important? And what makes it different from the sunscreen you're currently using?
Reef Safe Sunscreen vs Chemical (Conventional) Sunscreen
Reef Safe Sunscreen is mineral based sunscreen whose active ingredients are zinc oxide or titanium oxide. Both of these ingredients are recognized as safe and effective by the FDA. Mineral sunscreen sits atop your skin and acts like a shield that deflects the sun's rays.
Whereas conventional sunscreen acts more similarly to a sponge and absorbs the UV light. There have been some studies that indicate the chemicals in conventional sunscreen can be absorbed through the skin into the body, which is why people are turning to more natural, mineral based sunscreens. According to NPR, oxybenzone (a common chemical found in conventional sunscreen), has been found in breast milk, urine, and blood plasma.
While chemicals found in conventional sunscreen may be worrisome for our health, marine life is also affected by sunscreen pollution.
Hawaii's 2018 Sunscreen Ban
In 2018, Hawaii was one of the first states to pass a bill that banned sunscreens that contain chemicals harmful to coral reefs. Sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate (chemicals that help filter UV rays) are prohibited in the state as of January 2021.
Studies have found that oxybenzone and octinoxate cause coral bleaching and deformities. Additionally, Craig Downs, executive director of Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, has noted that some chemicals in sunscreen "lower the coral’s resilience to the impacts of climate change."
Our favorite Reef Safe Sunscreen
We've tested lost of reef safe sunscreens and our favorite is Raw Elements. We love this mineral based sunscreen for a few reasons: It's Leaping Bunny Certified, comes in a recyclable metal tin or compostable tube, and the founder founded World Reef Day!
More research needs to be done to definitively say whether chemical sunscreens provide any lasting harm to the body and/or the environment. For those who would rather not risk it, opt for a mineral-based sunscreen.
In the end, however, dermatologists still think people should prioritize skin protection and if chemical sunscreen is all you have, then you should definitely use it.
Some things you should always look for in a sunscreen: make sure it's labeled as Broad Spectrum (this means it has UVA and UVB protection), it's at least SPF 30 (anything higher doesn't actually much THAT much of a difference), and it's water-resistant.