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Why You Should Be Traveling With Reef-Safe Sunscreen


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Charmain Avery



Welcome to the world of sustainable travel! As environmental awareness continues to grow, more and more people are becoming conscious of the impact their actions have on the planet. From reducing plastic waste to supporting eco-friendly accommodations, travelers are now seeking ways to make their adventures more sustainable.


One important aspect of sustainable travel is using reef-safe sunscreen. You may be wondering, what exactly is reef-safe sunscreen and why is it important? In this article, we will explore the impact of traditional sunscreen on coral reefs, the benefits of using reef-safe sunscreen, how to identify reef-safe sunscreen products, and some top brands to consider. So, whether you’re a seasoned traveler or new to the world of sustainable tourism, read on to discover why you should be traveling with reef-safe sunscreen.


Coral reefs are not just breathtakingly beautiful, but they also serve as crucial marine habitats. They support a diverse ecosystem and provide a home for countless marine species. However, these fragile ecosystems are under threat from various factors, and one of them is the chemicals found in traditional sunscreen.


Traditional sunscreens often contain chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have been found to be harmful to coral reefs. When we swim, snorkel, or dive in the ocean while wearing conventional sunscreen, these chemicals wash off and end up in the water. They can then contribute to coral bleaching, disrupt the reproduction and growth of coral, and even lead to coral death.


So, why should we be concerned about the health of coral reefs? Well, coral reefs are not just beautiful to look at; they play a crucial role in our ecosystem. They act as a natural barrier, protecting coastlines from erosion and storm damage. They also support a wide range of marine life, including fish, crustaceans, and shellfish, which are important for coastal communities and provide food security for millions of people around the world.


By using reef-safe sunscreen, you can help protect these delicate ecosystems and ensure their preservation for future generations. But what exactly is reef-safe sunscreen? Stay tuned in the next section as we explore the benefits of using reef-safe sunscreen and provide tips on how to identify these products.


The Impact of Traditional Sunscreen on Coral Reefs

While sunscreen is essential for protecting our skin from harmful UV rays, it’s important to understand the negative impact that traditional sunscreen can have on coral reefs. The chemicals commonly found in these sunscreens pose a significant threat to the health and survival of coral ecosystems.


Oxybenzone and octinoxate are two ingredients commonly found in traditional sunscreens that have been shown to be harmful to coral reefs. These chemicals can be toxic to coral, causing bleaching, DNA damage, and even death. They can also disrupt the development and reproduction of marine life, leading to long-term damage to the delicate balance of the ecosystem.


One study conducted in Hawaii found that oxybenzone can cause coral bleaching at very low concentrations – as low as 62 parts per trillion, which is equivalent to a drop of water in six and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools. Considering the enormous amounts of sunscreen that end up in the ocean each year, it’s evident that this is a widespread and concerning issue.


The impact of sunscreen on coral reefs is not limited to popular tourist destinations. Even in remote and pristine marine areas, traces of sunscreen chemicals have been detected in the water. This highlights the urgent need for individuals to take responsibility for the products they use and choose reef-safe alternatives to protect our fragile ecosystems.


It’s worth noting that coral reefs are already facing multiple threats, including rising ocean temperatures, pollution, and overfishing. The addition of harmful chemicals from sunscreen only exacerbates these challenges, pushing coral reefs closer to the brink of extinction.


While some argue that the contribution of sunscreen to coral reef decline may be relatively small compared to other factors, every action counts when it comes to preserving our oceans. By choosing reef-safe sunscreen, you can make a positive impact and help protect these valuable marine ecosystems.


In the next section, we will delve into the benefits of using reef-safe sunscreen and why it is a crucial choice for eco-conscious travelers.


Benefits of Using Reef-Safe Sunscreen

Using reef-safe sunscreen not only protects coral reefs but also offers numerous benefits for both your health and the environment. Here are some key advantages of opting for reef-safe alternatives:

  1. Coral reef conservation: The most obvious benefit of using reef-safe sunscreen is the preservation of fragile coral reef ecosystems. By choosing products that do not contain harmful chemicals, you can help prevent coral bleaching, DNA damage, and coral death, ensuring that these vital habitats thrive for generations to come.
  2. Protects marine life: Traditional sunscreens not only harm coral reefs but also have detrimental effects on marine life. The chemicals found in conventional sunscreens can disrupt the development and reproduction of fish, shellfish, and other marine species. By using reef-safe sunscreen, you reduce the risk of harming marine life and contribute to the overall health of the ocean.
  3. Safer for your health: Reef-safe sunscreen is not only better for the environment but also for your personal well-being. Many traditional sunscreens contain chemicals that can be absorbed into your bloodstream and potentially disrupt hormone function. By choosing reef-safe alternatives, you reduce your exposure to these potentially harmful substances.
  4. Effective sun protection: Don’t worry, reef-safe sunscreens offer powerful protection against harmful UV rays. These products use mineral-based ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to create a physical barrier that reflects and scatters the sun’s rays, providing broad-spectrum protection without the need for harmful chemicals.
  5. Environmentally friendly: Reef-safe sunscreens are typically formulated using biodegradable and environmentally friendly ingredients. This means that when they wash off in the ocean or waterways, they have minimal impact on aquatic life and ecosystems. By choosing reef-safe alternatives, you contribute to reducing the pollution and chemical contamination of our precious water resources.

By considering these benefits, it’s clear that using reef-safe sunscreen is a win-win situation. You protect your own health, contribute to the preservation of coral reefs and marine life, and minimize your impact on the environment.


In the next section, we will explore how to identify reef-safe sunscreen products, so you can make informed choices for your next adventure.


How to Identify Reef-Safe Sunscreen Products

With an increasing awareness of the harm that traditional sunscreen can cause to coral reefs, many brands have started producing reef-safe alternatives. However, it can be challenging to determine which products truly meet the criteria for reef safety. Here are some key factors to consider when identifying reef-safe sunscreen products:

  1. Mineral-based ingredients: Look for sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredients. These minerals form a physical barrier on your skin that reflects and scatters UV rays, without the need for harmful chemicals that can harm coral reefs.
  2. Reef-friendly certifications: Various organizations and certifications, such as the “Reef Safe” label and the “Protect Land + Sea” certification, provide assurance that a product is safe for coral reefs and aquatic life. Look for these certifications on the sunscreen packaging or the brand’s website.
  3. Avoid oxybenzone and octinoxate: Check the ingredients list for oxybenzone and octinoxate, as these chemicals have been shown to be harmful to coral reefs. If a sunscreen contains these ingredients, it is not reef-safe and should be avoided.
  4. Biodegradable and eco-friendly: Look for sunscreens that are labeled as biodegradable and eco-friendly. These products are formulated to have minimal impact on the environment and water ecosystems.
  5. Consider packaging: In addition to the formulation of the sunscreen itself, consider the packaging. Look for products that use environmentally friendly packaging, such as recyclable or biodegradable materials, to further minimize your ecological footprint.

Remember to thoroughly read the labels and do your own research to ensure that the sunscreen you choose is genuinely reef-safe and aligns with your sustainability principles. Many reputable brands now offer a range of reef-safe options, making it easier than ever to find an effective and eco-friendly sunscreen.


In the next section, we will highlight some of the top reef-safe sunscreen brands available, giving you a head start in your search for a suitable product.


Top Reef-Safe Sunscreen Brands

When it comes to choosing reef-safe sunscreen, there are several trusted brands that prioritize both effective sun protection and environmental responsibility. Here are some of the top reef-safe sunscreen brands to consider:

  1. Badger: Badger is a well-known brand in the world of eco-friendly personal care products. They offer a range of reef-safe sunscreens that are mineral-based, biodegradable, and certified organic.
  2. Stream2Sea: Stream2Sea is a brand committed to producing safe and eco-friendly sunscreen products. Their sunscreens are mineral-based, biodegradable, and free from harmful ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate. They are also tested and verified to be safe for both humans and marine life.
  3. All Good: All Good creates reef-safe sunscreens that are mineral-based, non-toxic, and coral-friendly. Their products are made with natural and organic ingredients and come in recyclable packaging.
  4. Raw Elements: Raw Elements offers a line of reef-safe sunscreens that are free from harmful chemicals and feature non-nano zinc oxide as the active ingredient. Their products are biodegradable, ocean-safe, and water-resistant.
  5. Tropical Seas: Tropical Seas is a brand that focuses on creating reef-safe sunscreens that provide effective sun protection without compromising the health of coral reefs. Their sunscreens contain mineral-based ingredients and are formulated to be gentle on the skin and the environment.

These are just a few examples of the many reef-safe sunscreen brands available in the market. When choosing a sunscreen, it’s important to read the labels, consider the ingredients, and ensure that the brand aligns with your personal values and sustainability goals.


Now that you know how to identify reef-safe sunscreen products and have a list of top brands to explore, it’s time to prepare for your next adventure. In the following section, we will provide some essential tips for traveling with reef-safe sunscreen.


Tips for Traveling with Reef-Safe Sunscreen

Before embarking on your next travel adventure, here are some essential tips to ensure you’re using reef-safe sunscreen effectively and responsibly:

  1. Research local regulations: Before traveling to a specific destination, research the local regulations regarding sunscreen use. Some places, such as Hawaii and parts of the Caribbean, have banned the sale and use of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and other harmful chemicals. Make sure to comply with these regulations and choose reef-safe alternatives.
  2. Apply sunscreen correctly: Proper application of sunscreen is crucial for effective protection. Apply a generous amount of reef-safe sunscreen to all exposed areas of skin at least 15-30 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply every two hours, or more frequently if you’re swimming or engaging in activities that cause excessive sweating.
  3. Wear UPF clothing: Consider wearing clothing with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) to provide additional sun protection. UPF clothing can help reduce the amount of sunscreen you need to apply and minimize your impact on the environment.
  4. Seek shade: Whenever possible, seek shade during peak sun hours (usually between 10 am and 4 pm). This not only reduces your sun exposure but also decreases the amount of sunscreen that may wash off into the water.
  5. Use reef-safe alternatives: In addition to using reef-safe sunscreen, consider other forms of sun protection such as hats, sunglasses, and beach umbrellas. Limiting your reliance on sunscreen helps reduce the amount that ends up in the water.
  6. Dispose of sunscreen responsibly: Properly dispose of any sunscreen containers to avoid them ending up in the ocean. Look for recycling programs or facilities that accept plastic containers, or consider repurposing the empty containers for other travel essentials.
  7. Spread awareness: Share your knowledge about reef-safe sunscreen with fellow travelers and educate others about the importance of protecting coral reefs. Encourage friends, family, and fellow adventurers to make the switch to reef-safe alternatives.

By following these tips, you can enjoy your travels while minimizing your impact on coral reefs and the marine environment. Remember, every small action makes a difference in the collective efforts to protect our planet.


Before we conclude, let’s summarize the key points discussed in this article.



Traveling with reef-safe sunscreen is a simple yet powerful way to contribute to coral reef conservation and protect marine ecosystems. By understanding the impact of traditional sunscreen on coral reefs and choosing reef-safe alternatives, you can make a positive difference in the health and preservation of these fragile and vital habitats.


Reef-safe sunscreen offers numerous benefits, including protecting marine life, promoting personal health, and reducing environmental pollution. By opting for mineral-based sunscreens, checking for reef-friendly certifications, and avoiding harmful ingredients, you can ensure that your sunscreen choice aligns with your sustainability values.


Several top reef-safe sunscreen brands are dedicated to producing effective and eco-friendly products. From Badger to Stream2Sea, All Good to Raw Elements, these brands offer a wide range of options that prioritize both sun protection and the well-being of coral reefs.


When traveling with reef-safe sunscreen, it’s important to research local regulations, apply sunscreen correctly, and consider additional sun protection measures such as UPF clothing and seeking shade. By disposing of sunscreen containers responsibly and spreading awareness about the importance of reef-safe sunscreen, you can inspire others to make environmentally conscious choices.


Remember, every small action counts. By using reef-safe sunscreen, you become an advocate for coral reef conservation and contribute to the sustainability of our oceans. Let’s come together as responsible travelers to preserve these incredible ecosystems for future generations to enjoy.


So, for your next adventure, don’t forget to pack your reef-safe sunscreen and embark on a sustainable journey that protects both your skin and the magnificent underwater world beneath the waves.