How do I know if sunscreen is reef safe?
BEWARE! Unfortunately the terms “reef friendly” and “reef safe” are not regulated, so you can't always trust products with this description. It's important to actually check the “active ingredients” label on the back of your sunscreen to ensure that reef-harming chemicals are not included.
You may be wondering 'why does reef safe matter?'
Research has shown that commonly used chemical sunscreen ingredients are affecting coral reefs. We now know that chemicals such as oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), avobenzone, octinoxate, parabens and nano-particles can be ingested by corals, damaging their DNA and contributing to coral bleaching, which occurs when the life-sustaining algae that normally lives on coral vanishes, due to changes in ocean temperatures, stress, or pollution. Eventually they die and crumble to dust on the ocean floor. Each year an estimated 14,000 tons of sunscreen washes off swimmers and snorkelers into coral reef environments. If you're going into the water, you should always only use a water resistant, non-nano, mineral-based sunscreen.
Is your sunscreen 'reef safe'?
You might only know the coral reefs for the great diving, or perhaps your favorite surf-spot is a reef break. They're so much more. Beneath the surface the coral reefs are the most diverse and critically important marine ecosystems on the planet. While they cover only two percent of the ocean floor, nearly twenty-five percent of all ocean species spend at least part of their lives on a reef. For good reason they are often called the 'rainforest of the sea'.
Corals come in all shapes and sizes. Hard corals and soft corals. They’re not mineral or plant. They are living, breathing marine animals related to invertebrates like sponges and jellyfish. They capture their food from the water with tiny tentacles. An individual coral animal is comprised of many individual and genetically identical polyps. Each polyp builds a hard limestone skeleton that helps them become established on the structure. When many corals settle and grow in one area it forms the reef.
Zooxanthellae algae lives within the polyps and it's this which gives the coral reefs the vibrant colors we love so much. The reefs we’re familiar with now have taken hundreds, if not thousands, of years to form.
Coral reefs are incredibly fragile. When corals become stressed (e.g. due to physical damage, pollution, warming ocean temperatures, etc.) they begin to bleach. This means that the corals expel the zooxanthellae algae from their tissues, leaving behind a vulnerable, white skeleton.
We can make a difference for coral reefs by making sure we only use reef safe sunscreen, reducing our carbon footprint, making use of recyclable items, and choosing responsible snorkel and scuba-diving tour operators when on vacation.
To learn more, visit Coral Reef Alliance.
The coral reef
Healthy coral reefs are one of the most valuable ecosystems on Earth. They provide billions of dollars in economic and environmental services, such as food, coastal protection, and tourism. However, coral ecosystems around the world face serious threats from a number of sources, including climate change, unsustainable fishing, land-based pollution, coastal development, disease, and invasive species.
Recently, scientists led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a U.S. government agency, have confirmed that some of the chemicals found in sunscreen and other personal health products also threaten the health of coral reefs. This remains an active area of research.
1% for the planet
Through our membership with One Percent for the Planet we've pledged to contribute at least one percent of our annual sales to environmental causes.
A portion of our profits support Oceana. Oceana is the largest organization in the world solely devoted to marine conservation. Their vision is to make our oceans as rich, healthy and abundant as they once were, creating the ideal environment for marine eco-systems like the coral reefs to survive.
The Coral Sure line of sunscreens are all accepted as reef safe in the Hawaiian Islands of Hawai'i, Maui, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, and Lanai.
The chemical ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate were banned in Hawaii because they wreak havoc on the marine environment. Avobenzone is an endocrine disruptor and can reduce coral resilience against the high ocean temperatures that are killing corals worldwide through global warming. It too will very soon be banned in Hawaii.
Coral Sure has zinc oxide as its active ingredient. It's non-pasty, moisturizing formula is completely harmless to the environment, coral and marine life; so it's great to use every day as part of your regular skin care regime to protect the whole family.
Hawaii joined the ranks of Key West, US Virgin Islands, Bonaire, Palau, and some Mexican vacation spots by imposing strict bans on sunscreens to combat the deaths of many coral reefs on the islands. The Maldives are expected to follow this lead soon.
The legislation (SB2571) prohibits the distribution of sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate that scientists have found contribute to coral bleaching when washed off in the ocean. The Hawaii sunscreen law went into effect on January 1, 2021. You can read the governor's announcement here. Senate bill (S.B. 132 SD2) banning avobenzone will go into effect January 1, 2023.
On October 1, 2022, Maui banned ALL chemical sunscreens across Maui County, Hawaii. This includes the islands of Maui, Lānaʻi, Molokaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, and Molokini.
Hawaii sunscreen restrictions
It certainly looks like it.
The problem is that sunscreens are often applied every day and chemical sunscreens, by their very nature (unlike mineral sunscreens such as Coral Sure), are absorbed into the body through the skin.
In recent years, studies have shown that many of the common chemical ingredients used in sunscreens (oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and avobenzone) are absorbed into the body's bloodstream at concentration levels higher than the FDA's safety threshold. The concerns are that the chemicals can disrupt hormones in the body, cause irritations and allergies, have the potential to cause cancer, and cause harm during reproduction and development.
Store bought chemical sunscreens are not just harmful to the environment, they are potentially harmful to you too. This is why the Federal Food and Drug Administration – the agency that governs sunscreen safety – have found that only two ingredients, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, can be classified as safe and effective.
Are chemical sunscreens
bad for you?
The FDA proposed new regulations for sunscreens in February 2019 which concluded that of the 16 currently used ingredients, only two — zinc oxide and titanium dioxide — are generally recognized as safe and effective. These two are both mineral sunscreens that work as physical blockers on the surface of your skin. Coral Sure sunscreen is a mineral sunscreen which uses zinc oxide as its active ingredient.
Read the announcement here.
New FDA rules
All of our sunscreens are broad spectrum.
Coral Sure sunscreen is one of the highest SPF reef safe sunscreens available with broad spectrum spectrum protection. Broad spectrum protection refers to protection from both UVA and UVB waves. Some sunscreens only protect against UVB rays, the ultra violet rays that cause sunburn. Our sunscreen protects against both and helps prevent premature aging, wrinkles, and some skin cancers.
Is your sunscreen broad spectrum?
But it is preventable.
Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer. And the most common types of skin cancer — basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas — tend to appear on areas of the body exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, ears and hands. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 5 million nonmelanoma skin cancers (basal and squamous cell cancers) were diagnosed in 2012. In 2018, melanoma was diagnosed in approximately 91,270 people.
The best way to avoid skin cancer is to cover up with sun protective clothing. If this is not feasible you should make sure to use a broad spectrum sunscreen and reapply at frequent intervals. For the best protection, apply sunscreen generously 30 minutes before going outdoors. Don’t forget to protect ears, noses, lips, and the tops of feet. Reapply every two hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
The CDC recommends some easy options for protection from UV radiation—
Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours.
Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears, and neck.
Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays.
Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, with both UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) protection.
Avoid indoor tanning.
Because skin cancer's a bitch
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