Pack Your Reef-Safe Sunscreen This Summer!

Guest blog by Elaine Robbins, Inland Ocean Ambassador

Are you heading to the beach or a tropical island this summer? Don’t forget to pack the reef-safe sunscreen.

What’s wrong with the sunscreen that may currently be in your swim bag? Many popular brands contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, two active ingredients that are linked to coral bleaching. “Chemicals in sunscreen that come off while swimming or travel through sewage systems when washed off in the shower are ‘bigger than climate change,’ in causing coral reef damage,” Craig Downs, the executive director of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, told The New York Times. Those findings have led Hawaii, Key West, parts of Mexico, and other tropical destinations to ban sunscreens that contain those ingredients.

It turns out that these chemicals may not be great for human health, either. FDA studies in 2019 and 2020 found that six common ingredients—avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate, and octinoxate—are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and may pose health dangers. That may be a good reason to switch even if your favorite swim spot isn’t near a coral reef.

Fortunately, there are now many reef-safe sunscreens to choose from. Reef-safe sunscreens are mineral-based lotions that contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to block UVA and UVB. Avoid lotions with parabens and those that contain nano-sized particles, so spray is a no-no. To further reduce ocean impacts, wear a hat and UV-protective clothing so you can use less sunscreen.

Here are a few of my favorite reef-safe, water-resistant sunscreens for swimming:

The Inland Ocean Coalition has teamed up with Goddess Garden and Stream2Sea to promote their reef-safe products. Sign IOC’s Reef Safe Pledge and share the message about reef-safe sunscreen with others!