Plenty of divers already know that sunscreen can damage coral, but some that claim to be reef-safe. Statistics state that “between 6,000 and 14,000 tons of sunscreen washes off into our coral reefs every year, accelerating the process of coral bleaching.”
Blame the common ingredient, oxybenzone, which kills coral and causes DNA damage. This prevents coral in its larval stage from reaching adulthood. Oxybenzone traps it in its own skeleton, making it unable to float within currents for distribution. Oxybenzone is also linked to coral bleaching, wherein corals expel the colorful algae living inside them. This leaves the bleached-looking exoskeleton behind and ultimately leads to coral-reef death.
This marine damage, caused by seemingly harmless sunscreen, inspired the creation of a number of less-damaging products. And although it’s hard to known exactly what “reef-safe” means, any small effort to reduce the amount of oxybenzone pollution in our waters could mean that a coral reef survives a hotter-than-usual summer, or that a degraded area begins to recover. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the top four reef-safe sunscreens currently on the market.
This eco-conscious company manufactures biodegradable and aquatic toxicity tested body-care products, which not only protect you and your family from the sun’s damaging rays, but also the planet’s waters. All products are rigorously tested, and the company guarantees that they’re all made with the safest possible ingredients. Check out the conscious diver kit, which is available with reef-safe sunscreens and body lotions. This makes a perfect gift for your favorite diver.
Green People, a UK-based small company, focuses on natural and organic skin-care products. They never test on animals and never use any harsh chemicals. They also work alongside the Marine Conservation Society to highlight sunscreen’s impact on the marine environment.
Badger Healthy Body Care
New-Hampshire based Badger Healthy Body Care produces certified organic and natural skin-care products. The company offers a range of reef-safe sunscreens, from products for babies and kids to ones that last up to 80 minutes underwater.
Raw Elements, with the tagline “your skin, our ocean, one sunscreen,” specializes in sun and lip-care for water-based activities. Their Eco Formula 30 is water-resistant past 80 minutes, non-GMO, and is never tested on animals.
With so many ecofriendly products available, you needn’t sacrifice your skin or the health of the world’s coral. If your favorite sunscreen isn’t on this list, check its ingredients. Avoid known reef-damaging substances like the aforementioned oxybenzone, as well as butylparaben, octinoxate and 4-methylbenzylidine camphor.