The world’s beautiful, vibrant coral reefs are a sight to behold. They teem with life, color, and energy that mesmerize scuba divers, snorkelers, and beachgoers from across the globe. However, these breathtaking ecosystems are facing a myriad of threats, one of which is surprisingly linked to our sunscreen use.
Sunscreen, a must-have in our beach bags for protecting our skin from the harmful effects of the sun, contains chemicals that can harm our marine environment. Scientists have found that the chemicals found in many sunscreens can bleach and kill corals, harming not just the reefs but the many species of marine life that depend on them. It’s estimated that around 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion end up in coral reefs worldwide each year.
The two primary culprits are oxybenzone and octinoxate. These chemicals are found in many common sunscreens, and when they wash off our bodies and into the ocean, they can cause coral bleaching and damage the DNA of young corals, leading to deformities and death.
So, how can we enjoy our beach vacations, protect our skin from harmful UV rays, and also safeguard our reefs?
The answer lies in choosing the right sunscreen. Here are a few tips to help you select the best environmentally friendly sunscreen.
1. Look for “Reef-Safe” Labels
One of the first steps you can take is to look for sunscreens that are labeled as “reef-safe” or “reef-friendly”. However, it’s important to note that these terms are not regulated, so it’s still essential to check the ingredients list.
2. Check the Ingredients
Avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate. Instead, opt for those that use non-nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which have not been found to harm corals.
3. Choose Mineral Sunscreens
Mineral sunscreens, also called physical sunscreens, use ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to physically block the sun’s rays. These are different from chemical sunscreens, which absorb the sun’s rays. Mineral sunscreens are often a safer choice for both your skin and the environment.
4. Opt for Lotions
Spray sunscreens can be tempting due to their convenience, but they also increase the chance of inhaling harmful chemicals. Lotions are a better choice, and there’s also less chance of them ending up in the sand and subsequently, our oceans.
Here are a few reef-safe sunscreen brands to consider:
1. Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen
This brand offers broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection and is free from oxybenzone and octinoxate. The mineral-based formula uses zinc oxide and is water-resistant, making it an excellent choice for beach outings.
2. Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen
Thinksport’s sunscreen is top-rated by the Environmental Working Group and is free from harmful chemicals. The brand is also a member of the Safe Sunscreen Council.
3. Badger Clear Zinc Sunscreen
Badger’s sunscreens use clear zinc oxide, which provides excellent sun protection without leaving a white residue. The formula is reef-safe and biodegradable.
Protecting our skin and our reefs is not an either-or situation. With careful product selection, we can enjoy the sun responsibly and protect our marine ecosystems for generations to come. Be a conscious consumer, and let’s play our part in preserving our beautiful oceans.
Disclaimer: Always consult with a healthcare professional or dermatologist for personal skincare advice. The brands mentioned are suggestions based on their commitment to reef-safe practices but always double-check ingredients to ensure they meet personal needs and standards
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