Mineral-based sunscreens containing titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide are generally considered reef safe as they do not contain the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have been shown to harm coral reefs.
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One of the most discussed topics in the beauty industry lately is the impact of sunscreen on coral reefs. According to CNN, it is believed that “14,000 tons of sunscreen end up in oceans annually,” damaging coral reefs and marine life. However, not all sunscreens are harmful to the environment. Mineral-based sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide are considered reef safe as they do not contain the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have been shown to harm coral reefs.
But what exactly are mineral-based sunscreens? They are sunscreens that use a physical barrier, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, to protect the skin from UV rays. Unlike chemical sunscreens, which work by absorbing UV rays, mineral-based sunscreens act as a barrier to reflect the harmful rays. Dr. Michele Green, a dermatologist in New York City, explains that “mineral sunscreens are better for sensitive skin,” making them a great option for those with skin allergies or conditions like rosacea.
Here’s a chart comparing mineral-based and chemical-based sunscreens:
|Mineral-Based Sunscreens||Chemical-Based Sunscreens|
|Active Ingredients||Zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide||Oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate|
|How it works||Physical barrier to reflect UV rays||Absorbs UV rays|
|Beneficial for sensitive skin||Yes||Not typically|
It’s important to note that not all chemical sunscreens are harmful to coral reefs. A chemical called octocrylene, which is commonly found in sunscreens, has not been shown to harm coral reefs. Checking the ingredients and doing research before purchasing sunscreen can help ensure that the product is safe for both your skin and the environment.
As the effects of sunscreen on coral reefs continue to be researched and discussed, it’s important to make educated decisions on what products to use. As Dr. Green says, “it’s important to invest in sunscreens that are going to protect us without harming our bodies or the environment.”
Video answer to “What types of sunscreen are reef safe?”
The video addresses the effects of sunscreen on coral reefs, debunking the notion that it is the major cause of coral reef damage. While oxybenzone and octinoxate have been found to be harmful, the amounts of sunscreen in the ocean are extremely low, and the potential harm is tiny when compared to the widespread damage caused by climate change and agricultural management. To protect coral reefs, people should use sunscreens that contain ingredients like titanium dioxide, limit the amount of sunscreen that comes off the body into the water, and reduce their carbon footprint by making sustainable lifestyle choices. It’s important to carefully read the ingredients of sunscreens and opt for those that have minimal or no harm to coral.
Some further responses to your query
“Both nano particle—a smaller particle size—and traditional zinc oxide sunscreens are both safe and effective, and both will be considered safe for reefs.
Here is a list of sunscreens considered to be reef safe. Made in Hawaii sunscreens are marked with an *asterisks. *Kokua Sun Care Hawaiian SPF 50 Natural Zinc Sunscreen. *Mama Kuleana Waterproof SPF 30 Reef-safe Sunscreen. *Little Hands Hawaii SPF 35+ All-natural and Organic Sunscreen.
Best Reef-Safe Sunscreens for 2023
- Thinksport SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Best for intense activity
- Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen Best for your face
- Black Girl Sunscreen Best for darker skin
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But there has been a rise of other sunscreen products that have much better ingredients and are less damaging to the marine environment. These types of sunscreen are called reef-safe sunscreens. They are the only sunscreen allowed in Hawaii.