We all know that sunscreen is important, but the need to protect our skin and hair from the sun’s rays is damaging the oceans. Between 6,000 and 14,000 tons — yes, tons — of sunscreen washes into the ocean every year. Add to this body lotions, hair products, and, for divers, mask de-fogging products, and it all adds up pretty quickly. But never fear: reef-safe products are readily available.
Many of these products contain ingredients that can cause coral bleaching or that are toxic to some reef fish. Products containing benzophenone-3 (oxybenzone), butylparaben, octinoxate (ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate) and cyclopentasiloxane (cyclomethicone) damage the aquatic environment the most. When choosing a body, hair or mask-defogging product, make sure that it does not include any of these ingredients. You can also help by choosing water-resistant and biodegradable sunscreens that do not wash off in the water and that break down quicker. Here is a list of our favorite reef-safe products to use on your next dive trip.
Natural is always better, and coconut oil is definitely a winner here. It has a natural SPF of between 4 and 5 and the antioxidants it contains protect skin from the sun’s radiation. While the SPF is low, you can supplement with red raspberry seed oil and other essential oils, or one of the sunscreens recommended below. Coconut oil works wonderfully as a full body moisturizer — including your face. You can even use it as a leave-in conditioner to avoid messy post-dive hair.
While Stream2Sea is against animal testing in cases where there are other alternatives, unfortunately, in order to ensure that their products are completely harmless to both humans and the aquatic environment, they had to test their products on “purpose-bred live fish and eco-consciously and scientifically obtained coral larvae.” This testing process enabled the company to develop a wide range of reef-safe body and hair products. Offerings include everything from sunscreen to hair conditioner, biodegradable shampoo to lip-balm and after sun products.
Alba Botanica is part of the Leaping Bunny Program, which means that the company doesn’t carry any products tested on animals. All of Alba Botanica’s products are biodegradable and coral-reef safe. They include moisturizers, scrubs (minus microbeads), toners, hair products and sunscreen.
Reef Safe Sun
Reef Safe Sun products are not only approved by the FDA, but have also been tested and proven to be biodegradable and non-toxic to sea life. They use sustainable and renewable plant and vegetable raw materials with no animal testing or animal by-products. They offer a wide variety of products including sunscreen, baby products, and a reef-safe mask-cleaning and defogging spray.
Yes, you read right — spit is the most environmentally-friendly mask defogger (although it’s not technically a product). For best results avoid the watery spit that naturally accumulates in your mouth and go for the good thick stuff at the back of your throat.
As ambassadors to the underwater world, diver can make a huge difference when it comes to protecting our underwater playground. By choosing biodegradable, reef-safe products we can help lessen the impact that we have on our environment. Every little step counts!