Why Using a Reef-Safe Sunscreen is Important
Anyone swimming or snorkeling in the tropical ocean near coral should consider a coral reef-safe sunscreen. It is not a mystery that sunscreen that washes off your body when swimming may affect aquatic life. Some commonly used chemical sunscreen ingredients cause coral bleaching and may affect coral reefs. In fact, 10% of the world’s coral reefs may be threatened by sunscreen-induced coral bleaching.
Each year between 4000-6000 metric tons (4400-6600 US tons) of sunscreen washes off swimmers and snorkelers into coral reef environments. Some of these common sunscreen ingredients were shown to cause complete coral bleaching at very low concentrations.
Avoid these reef-harmful sunscreen ingredients:
- Oxybenzone (benzophenone-3) – Sunscreen with several suspected human health effects.
- Butylparaben – Preservative with several suspected human health effects.
- Octinoxate (Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate) – Sunscreen with several suspected human health effects.
- 4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4MBC) – Sunscreen with several suspected human health effects. Allowed in Europe and Canada, not in USA or Japan.
There are many other chemical ingredients that are commonly used in wide variety of sunscreens that are bad for you and the coral reef. As a general rule of a thumb it is a good idea to avoid products with a long list of chemical ingredients you can’t read or understand. The two base ingredients that score best for safety of the coral today are: titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Please read Environmental Working Group reports for more detailed and current information about true meaning of “reef safe” sunscreen today.
Other factors to consider when trying to stay sun safe
Do not confuse the SPF number and the amount of time the sunscreen will protect you against the powerful UV rays! Many people believe that the SPF number equals the number of minutes you are protected (meaning: SPF 100 gives 100 minutes of protection, while SPF 30 only protects you for 30 minutes). That is not exactly how it works. In fact, SPF 30 filters out 97% of UVB, SPF 50 filters out 98%, and SPF 100 filters out 99%, according to the American Cancer Society.
In addition, consider other factors when using a sunscreen, such as your water exposure, sweat, and the power of the UV rays. Your weather channel app can tell you how strong the UV Index is in your area at all times. It is a great idea to avoid sun exposure between hours of 10 am and 4 pm, while UV Index is at its highest. Other ways to stay sun safe are to use hats, sunglasses, and clothing to cover up and seek shade whenever possible.
Our Reef-Safe Sunscreen Recommendations
Sea Monkey Private Charters offers a variety of reef-safe sunscreens onboard our vessel. We want not only our coral reefs and marine life to be safe, but you too! One of the highly recommended products by many dermatologists today is Elta MD UV Pure Broad-Spectrum SPF 47 Sunscreen. It is sold on Amazon as well as in many dermatology clinics throughout the Country. Purchase it in advance, tuck it into your suitcase, and you will be ready before you even get to your vacation! If you are planning on snorkeling or swimming in Hawaii – please consider using a locally made sunscreen product. Maui Surfer Honey All Natural Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 can be purchased online or in many local stores. It is a reef-friendly natural sunscreen, made in Hawaii with natural ingredients and Maui-grown essential oils with the crisp dry aroma of rosemary and lemongrass. It contains no Avobenzone, no Homosalate, no Octinoxate, no Octocrylene, no Oxybenzone, no PABA, no Parabens, no Retinyl Palmitate, and no Nanoparticles and is water-resistant for 80 minutes. Protect yourself, your loved ones, and our ocean – and smell great, too!