REEF-SAFE SUNSCREENS
WHAT DIVERS NEED TO KNOW

Surely, you are well aware of the conversation around reef-safe sunscreen and as a scuba diver, we know you want to do your part to protect our underwater world. Navigating the best sunscreen to use can be difficult, so we have rounded up some quick facts to help you select the best sunscreen for you and our oceans.

An estimated 15-20% of the world’s coral reefs have been impacted by toxic sunscreen chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, resulting in potentially irreversible bleaching.

HOW SUNSCREENS WORK

CHEMICAL
Absorbed into the skin - the suns rays penetrate the skin. Absorbed sunscreen alters the UV wavelength and is diffused from the body in the form of heat.

Chemical-based sunscreen

MINERAL
Remains on the skin’s surface - Mineral sunblocks physically reflect the sun’s rays away from the body, minimizing absorption into the skin.

Mineral based sunscreen

Beyond the safety and effectiveness of sunscreen for humans, there are huge concerns about sunscreen ingredients negatively affecting our oceans, marine life, and coral reefs. Chemical ingredients, including oxybenzone and avobenzone, decrease corals’ ability to defend themselves against bleaching, causes deformities, and DNA damage. A 2015 study showed that the equivalent of just one drop of oxybenzone in six Olympic-sized swimming pools is enough to cause serious damage to corals. Concentrations more than 10x that amount have been measured at some of Hawaii’s most popular beaches. Talk about the potential for detrimental damage to our precious reef systems!

 

Some other damaging chemicals commonly found in sunscreens include octocrylene, octinoxate, and octisalate. To protect their precious marine & coral ecosystems, many travel destinations have passed bans on the sale and use of sunscreen containing certain chemicals.

LOOK FOR
Chemical-free

Reef-friendly / Reef-safe

Oxybenzone-free

Octinoxate-free

Avobenzone-free

Octocrylene-free

Paraben-free

Cruelty-free

Broad Spectrum

Zinc Oxide

AVOID
Petrolatum (mineral oil): Takes years to biodegrade, and known to be harmful or fatal to aquatic life and waterfowl

 

Titanium Dioxide: Does not biodegrade, may contain toxic nanoparticles and can form hydrogen peroxide in warm waters which is harmful to all sea life

 

Oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octisalate: Cause coral bleaching

Here are some great reef-friendly sunscreens we recommend to keep you and our oceans safe:


Here is a list of current sunscreen bans for you to reference before your next dive trip:

  • Palau Sunscreen Ban - effective January 1, 2020 
  • The first country to pass a sunscreen ban in efforts to protect coral reefs. The ban lists 10 prohibited sunscreen ingredients, which can be confiscated from tourists upon entry as well as a $1000 fine for any retailers selling it. 
  •  
  • US Virgin Islands Sunscreen Ban - effective March 31, 2020 
  • Among the first to enforce a ban on chemical sunscreens with unanimous approval, the US Virgin Islands prohibits products containing oxybenzone, octocrylene, and octinoxate.
  •  
  • Aruba Sunscreen Ban - Effective July, 2020 
  • In addition to a ban on single-use-plastics (yay!), Aruba has also banned the use of sunscreens containing oxybenzone. 
    • Hawaii Sunscreen Ban - Effective January 2021 
  •  
  • Key West Sunscreen Ban - Effective January 2021 
  • Home to the largest coral reefs in the continental US, the sunscreen ban in this area will restrict the sale of products containing oxybenzone and octinoxate.
  •  
  • Bonaire Sunscreen Ban - Effective January 1, 2021 
  • Sales of sunscreen products containing oxybenzone and octinoxate will be prohibited
    •  
    • Mexico Sunscreen Ban - Pending 
    • While there is no official ban in place yet, many popular tourist destinations (including Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, and the Riviera Maya) will ask that you use reef-safe sunscreens upon arrival.

What else can you do to help protect our reefs and oceans from these detrimental chemical effects?

 

  • Educate yourself on what reef-safe sunscreen is and why it’s important (you can mark this one as done ✔). 
  •  
  • Make the permanent switch over to reef-safe sunscreens. 
  •  
  • Avoid aerosol sunscreens. They’re bad for the ocean and bad for your lungs. 
  •  
  • Cover up in efforts to use less sunscreen. It’s important to protect your skin from the harsh sun rays, however, sunscreen is not the only way to do that. Covering up with hats, sun shirts or rashguards, and staying in the shade may allow us to minimize the amount of sunscreen entering our oceans.
  •  
  • Every little bit counts, right? 

REEF-SAFE SUNSCREENS
WHAT DIVERS NEED TO KNOW

Surely, you are well aware of the conversation around reef-safe sunscreen and as a scuba diver, we know you want to do your part to protect our underwater world. Navigating the best sunscreen to use can be difficult, so we have rounded up some quick facts to help you select the best sunscreen for you and our oceans.

An estimated 15-20% of the world’s coral reefs have been impacted by toxic sunscreen chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, resulting in potentially irreversible bleaching.

HOW SUNSCREENS WORK

CHEMICAL
Absorbed into the skin - the suns rays penetrate the skin. Absorbed sunscreen alters the UV wavelength and is diffused from the body in the form of heat.

Chemical-based sunscreen

MINERAL
Remains on the skin’s surface - Mineral sunblocks physically reflect the sun’s rays away from the body, minimizing absorption into the skin.

Mineral based sunscreen

Beyond the safety and effectiveness of sunscreen for humans, there are huge concerns about sunscreen ingredients negatively affecting our oceans, marine life, and coral reefs. Chemical ingredients, including oxybenzone and avobenzone, decrease corals’ ability to defend themselves against bleaching, causes deformities, and DNA damage. A 2015 study showed that the equivalent of just one drop of oxybenzone in six Olympic-sized swimming pools is enough to cause serious damage to corals. Concentrations more than 10x that amount have been measured at some of Hawaii’s most popular beaches. Talk about the potential for detrimental damage to our precious reef systems!

 

Some other damaging chemicals commonly found in sunscreens include octocrylene, octinoxate, and octisalate. To protect their precious marine & coral ecosystems, many travel destinations have passed bans on the sale and use of sunscreen containing certain chemicals.

LOOK FOR
Chemical-free

Reef-friendly / Reef-safe

Oxybenzone-free

Octinoxate-free

Avobenzone-free

Octocrylene-free

Paraben-free

Cruelty-free

Broad Spectrum

Zinc Oxide

AVOID
Petrolatum (mineral oil): Takes years to biodegrade, and known to be harmful or fatal to aquatic life and waterfowl

 

Titanium Dioxide: Does not biodegrade, may contain toxic nanoparticles and can form hydrogen peroxide in warm waters which is harmful to all sea life

 

Oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octisalate: Cause coral bleaching

Here are some great reef-friendly sunscreens we recommend to keep you and our oceans safe:


Here is a list of current sunscreen bans for you to reference before your next dive trip:

  • Palau Sunscreen Ban - effective January 1, 2020 
  • The first country to pass a sunscreen ban in efforts to protect coral reefs. The ban lists 10 prohibited sunscreen ingredients, which can be confiscated from tourists upon entry as well as a $1000 fine for any retailers selling it. 
  •  
  • US Virgin Islands Sunscreen Ban - effective March 31, 2020 
  • Among the first to enforce a ban on chemical sunscreens with unanimous approval, the US Virgin Islands prohibits products containing oxybenzone, octocrylene, and octinoxate.
  •  
  • Aruba Sunscreen Ban - Effective July, 2020 
  • In addition to a ban on single-use-plastics (yay!), Aruba has also banned the use of sunscreens containing oxybenzone. 
    • Hawaii Sunscreen Ban - Effective January 2021 
  •  
  • Key West Sunscreen Ban - Effective January 2021 
  • Home to the largest coral reefs in the continental US, the sunscreen ban in this area will restrict the sale of products containing oxybenzone and octinoxate.
  •  
  • Bonaire Sunscreen Ban - Effective January 1, 2021 
  • Sales of sunscreen products containing oxybenzone and octinoxate will be prohibited
    •  
    • Mexico Sunscreen Ban - Pending 
    • While there is no official ban in place yet, many popular tourist destinations (including Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, and the Riviera Maya) will ask that you use reef-safe sunscreens upon arrival.

What else can you do to help protect our reefs and oceans from these detrimental chemical effects?

 

  • Educate yourself on what reef-safe sunscreen is and why it’s important (you can mark this one as done ✔). 
  •  
  • Make the permanent switch over to reef-safe sunscreens. 
  •  
  • Avoid aerosol sunscreens. They’re bad for the ocean and bad for your lungs. 
  •  
  • Cover up in efforts to use less sunscreen. It’s important to protect your skin from the harsh sun rays, however, sunscreen is not the only way to do that. Covering up with hats, sun shirts or rashguards, and staying in the shade may allow us to minimize the amount of sunscreen entering our oceans.
  •  
  • Every little bit counts, right? 

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