These days we are all concerned about the damage to our home, Earth. People are recycling, forgoing single-use plastic and educating themselves about what products are safe for humans and the environment. Sunscreen is one example. The ideal sunscreen is both safe for human use and for marine life.
What Makes a Sunscreen Reef Safe (and Safe for Humans)?
When considering skin protection, we want our sunscreen to offer broad-spectrum protection, meaning it should protect our skin from both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are most commonly associated with skin aging and cause age spots, wrinkles, and fine lines, which make our skin look prematurely older. UVA rays can pass through glass, so our skin is exposed to them when we are driving or near windows in our homes. UVB rays are most commonly associated with sunburns but cannot pass through glass. Both UVA and UVB rays are carcinogens, which means they can cause skin cancer, which is why it is important to invest in a sunscreen that offers protection against both types of sun rays. Even if you have darker skin or generally tan and don’t get sunburns, skin cancer can be diagnosed at any age and for any gender or skin type.
Ideally, sunscreen should be water-resistant, preferably for 80 minutes, and should also be cosmetically pleasing. Some sunscreens contain quality skincare ingredients.
When considering the environment, it is important to remember that the world has lost roughly half its coral reefs in the last 30 years and scientists predict that more than 90 percent of the world’s coral reefs will die by 2050, so using coral safe sunscreen is extremely important. Pollutants affect different environments including freshwater streams, rivers, beaches, and ocean systems, and wildlife like corals, fish, birds, marine mammals, and sea turtles.
The most common ingredient in sunscreen that is thought to be harmful to both humans and the environment is Oxybenzone. In humans, it is thought to mimic hormones and cause hormonal disruptions, while in marine life, it contributes to coral bleaching and toxicity in seawater.
It’s not necessary to know the ins and outs of why each of the following chemicals and ingredients are pollutants, it’s just important to know you should avoid sunscreens that include them. It’s also important to remember that not all sunscreen manufacturers are honest in their marketing, so it’s imperative to read labels. Anything containing the following is not a reef-safe sunscreen:
· Any nanoparticles like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide
· 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
· Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
· Methyl Paraben
· Ethyl Paraben
· Propyl Paraben
· Butyl Paraben
· Benzyl Paraben
· Any form of microplastic sphere or beads
Remember, wearing a rash guard is the best “eco-friendly sunscreen” and the healthiest option for both humans and marine life. These recommendations don’t only apply when swimming in the ocean, sunscreen is often applied before sun exposure even if no swimming is involved, especially with children. Once we shower however, there’s a good chance these chemicals will still reach our oceans.
Let’s work together to save our precious ecosystems and marine life, and our skin, by making the extra effort to use biodegradable sunscreen.
Cancun Mexico Weather: This blog will help you with the possible weather conditions when planning your vacation.
¡ Check out part two of this post, where we share a list of the best reef safe sunscreen !