Terms like “reef-safe” or “reef-friendly” are typically used to identify sunscreens that do not contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, two common UV-blocking chemicals, that studies have shown can cause coral bleaching. When coral bleaches (turns white), it’s still alive, but it’s under severe stress, which leaves it susceptible to disease and death. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are two of the more widely studied chemicals in sunscreens, but other ingredients, such as preservatives, fragrances and other UV-blocking chemical agents, like as octocrylene, and are also being scrutinized for their impact on coral.
Here’s what we recommend when considering the impact of reef safe sunscreen on coral reefs:
1. Wear sun protection clothing: Covering our skin with clothing that’s UPF-rated significantly reduces the amount of sunscreen we need to wear.
2. Avoid oxybenzone or octinoxate: Evidence suggests that oxybenzone and octinoxate are two of the more harmful chemicals for reefs found in sunscreens.
3. Choose a non-nano, mineral-based formula: According to the National Park Service, mineral-based sunscreens that use ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium oxide are not associated with coral bleaching and therefore are less impactful to reefs. When choosing a mineral-based sunscreen, make sure it's labeled as "non-nano." This means that the particles in the sunscreen are larger than 100 nanometers and therefore too large to be ingested by coral.
4. Avoid parabens: These are preservatives found in some skin-care products including some sunscreens. Butylparaben has been shown to cause coral reef bleaching, and some health questions surround parabens in general, so many brands don’t use them and promote their sunscreens as “paraben-free.”
5. Use a rub-on lotion: Use a lotion that we rub onto our skin rather than a spray that can easily land on the sand and wash into the ocean.
The products of Caribbean Blue emphasizes on the fact is we should use a sunscreen that stays on longer when we are in the water because it is less likely to wash off but at the same time it should be nature friendly.
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