A Conscious Diver’s Guide To 11 Reef Safe Sunscreen

By | January 28, 2022

Is this Sunscreen Safe? A Buyer’s Guide:Why is Sunscreen Bad for the Ocean?

The short answer is “because it washes off”.

As a general rule, we don’t do local ecosystems any favors when we dump foreign chemicals into them, and this masalah is exasperated by the large numbers of people that tend to congregate around beaches and fragile marine habitats. As we mentioned in our list of favorites above, sunscreen is a game of lesser evils, and the chemicals used in most widely-available sunblocks are the most egregious offenders.How Are Sunscreen Rated?

In this guide considered products based off of three criteria: protection, practicality, and environmental impact.

Protection = The sunblock significantly filtered out the sun’s rays and is water resistantPracticality = How widely available the product is, and factors regarding ease of useEnvironmental Impact = What sort of chemicals/minerals does this product employs

Beyond this, the Environmental Working Group publishes a yearly database cataloguing the specific chemical breakdown of a litany of sunblocks. It’s a great resource if you have questions about a specific product that extend beyond the scope of this guide, or want to do some research on brands not listed here.What About SPF?

Beyond around 50 SPF, there is no correlation between higher SPF ratings and additional actual sun protection. In fact, there are several reasons why high SPF ratings aren’t a great criteria to base sunblock judgements

First, these products don’t actually offer as much protection as they advertise. Beyond a certain point, more chemicals just means more chemicals, no added benefits.High SPF products have been shown to be misused by consumers who overestimate the sunblocks ability to keep them safe, leading to overexposure.

Ingredients to watch for: The “Bad O’s” and Beyond

The main chemical culprits are oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are found in about 40% of commercially available sunblocks. These are the two “Bad O’s” of the sunscreen world and seeing them pop up on an ingredient list should be your biggest red flag when investigating new skin care options.

Not only do these chemicals cause issues with the development of juvenile corals and sea life, they have been shown to build up in the human bloodstream in as little as a single use.

Another rule of thumb to follow is to rule out any aerosol sunscreens. These are specifically problematic in areas of high visitation because they have the tendency to end up getting sprayed on the sand during the application process, and as a result get washed directly into the ocean and marine habitats.

Products that are heavily artificially fragranced are usually best avoided as well.How “Safe” is Reef Safe?

If our goal is to have the smallest possible impact on the ocean, while providing ourselves the most possible protection, the answer is “it isn’t.” In the same way, it’s hard to prevent chemicals and free-radicals from leaching into your skin after long term use.

From an ethical and utilitarian standpoint, we should rely on UPF clothing and placing other physical barriers between our bodies and the sun; sunscreen should be used only as a last resort tactic. If I’m being realistic though, standing in the sun feels good and I’m going to keep using sunblock because I’m heavily invested in my long term wellbeing.

As mentioned in our article above, there’s a definite trend of products that are built with coral habitats in mind being as a whole better for our individual health. While “Reef Safe” doesn’t completely solve the persoalan for us, it’s a great place to start.

If you already have a sunblock or you just bought one, leave a comment in the comment section below and share your experience with it.

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