It’s crucial to wear the right type of sunscreen that will properly protect your skin from harmful UV rays. The best type of sunscreen to wear is broad-spectrum, with an SPF of at least 30, and made with safe, natural ingredients. 

While those are all important qualities to look for in a sunscreen, you should also choose a sunscreen that is reef-safe. But what is reef-safe sunscreen exactly? And why is using one so important?

When you have sunscreen on and then go into the ocean, your sunscreen can wash off and potentially harm coral reefs. Some of the chemicals in sunscreen have been found to damage coral reefs and cause coral bleaching, putting the reefs at greater risk of starvation and disease.

Reef-safe sunscreen is sunscreen that doesn’t contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are two chemicals often found in sunscreen that can cause coral bleaching. But the list of harmful sunscreen ingredients doesn’t just end there. Certain preservatives, fragrances, and other UV-blocking chemicals have also been found to damage coral reefs. So, in addition to choosing a sunscreen that adequately protects you from the sun, it’s also important to choose one that is reef-safe.

In this article, we’ll be explaining in more detail about how sunscreen damages coral reefs and which sunscreens are reef safe. To learn more about what makes sunscreen reef safe and how to choose the best reef-safe sunscreen for you, continue reading this article or use the links below to skip to a section of your choice.

How Does Sunscreen Damage Coral Reefs?

You may have read that common sunscreen chemicals, including oxybenzone, damage coral in news stories such as " Sunscreen Could Be Killing The World's Coral Reefs, Study Says" Huffington Post, or "Sunscreen Killing off Coral" National Geographic. These and all other reports of how sunscreens harm coral are based on just two peer reviewed scientific studies.

A brief summary of their findings:

Between 6000 and 14,000 tons of sunscreen washes off swimmers, scuba divers, and snorkelers into coral reef environments each year. Even more sunscreen pollution can reach coastal areas via wastewater discharges. Up to 10% of the world's coral reefs may be threatened by certain chemicals found in most sunscreens.

Which Sunscreen Ingredients Are Bad For Coral Reefs?

Four common sunscreen ingredients were shown to kill or bleach coral at extremely low concentrations (as low as one drop in 6.5 Olympic sized swimming pools).

  1. Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3, BP-3): Sunscreen ingredient that disrupts coral reproduction, causes coral bleaching, and damages coral DNA. Oxybenzone is found in over 3500 sunscreen products worldwide.
  2. Butylparaben: Preservative ingredient shown to cause coral bleaching.
  3. Octinoxate (Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate): Sunscreen ingredient shown to cause coral bleaching.
  4. 4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4MBC): Sunscreen ingredient shown to cause coral bleaching. Allowed in Europe and Canada, not in the USA or Japan. 

Global warming, pollution, and other human activities pose additional and significant threats to the survival of coral reefs. However, the results of these studies should be taken seriously and if you plan to swim, scuba dive, or snorkel in the tropical ocean near coral reefs you should use a coral reef-safe sunscreen. How can you tell if a sunscreen is safe for coral reefs? 

Reef-Safe Sunscreen: How Do You Know If Sunscreen Is Reef-Safe?

Look at the active and inactive ingredients on your sunscreen label. Do not use a sunscreen that contains oxybenzone or the other ingredients listed above that are proven to harm coral. 

Reef-safe claims on sunscreen labels are unregulated and therefore potentially meaningless. You really have to look at the ingredients and judge for yourself.

Use a water resistant sunscreen which will be more likely to stay on your skin and out of the water. Water resistant claims are regulated by the FDA.

The US National Park Service, PADI (the Professional Association of Underwater Instructors), and numerous eco-tour operators (including coral reef parks in Mexico) recommend that you avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone and use only mineral based sunscreens to help protect coral reefs.

Are Babo Botanicals Sunscreen Reef-Safe?

Babo Botanicals has the best reef-safe sunscreen that is safe for your body and the environment. All of Babo Botanicals’ sunscreen products are formulated with all-natural, organic, and plant-based ingredients that do an excellent job at protecting your skin from the sun – without damaging the environment while doing so.

The reason why Babo Botanicals Sunscreen is reef-safe is that it doesn’t contain any of the chemical and harmful ingredients that are often found in other types of sunscreen. All of Babo Botanicals’ sunscreen products are chemical-free, meaning they’re made with mineral-based ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which will not impact coral reefs. 

When shopping for ocean-friendly sunscreen, it’s important to choose products that are mineral-based and formulated without oxybenzone, octinoxate, or any other harmful ingredients, which makes Babo Botanicals a great choice for all your reef-sunscreen needs.

Reef-Safe Sunscreen FAQs

Here are some helpful FAQs about reef-safe sunscreen so you can better understand which sunscreens are reef-safe.

What Does ‘Reef-Friendly’ Sunscreen Mean?

The term “reef-friendly” sunscreen basically means that the sunscreen contains only mineral-based UV blocking ingredients, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Reef-friendly sunscreen does not contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, which are two UV blocking chemicals that are often found in sunscreen and can cause coral bleaching.

Is Reef-Friendly The Same Thing As Reef-Safe?

Yes, the terms “reef-friendly” and “reef-safe” can be used interchangeably. They both are used to describe sunscreens that do not contain oxybenzone or octinoxate.

What Sunscreen Is Safe For Coral Reefs?

All of Babo Botanicals sunscreens are safe for coral reefs. They’re all made with a mineral-based formula that doesn’t include any of the harmful chemical ingredients that have been found to damage coral reefs.

Wrapping Up

There are various factors that you need to keep in mind when shopping for sunscreen. Your sunscreen should be broad-spectrum, have an SPF of at least 30, and be made with safe, natural ingredients. And, it should be reef-safe. We only have one Earth, so it’s our responsibility to keep it as safe and healthy as possible, and that means using ocean-friendly sunscreen that doesn’t damage our coral reefs.

If you’re looking for reef-safe sunscreen that is good for your body and the environment, Babo Botanicals is the way to go. Babo Botanicals carries a variety of different kinds of sunscreen products – all of which are ocean-friendly and safe for the entire family to use. With Babo Botanicals, you can slather on your sunscreen without worrying about it washing off and damaging our beautiful coral reefs.

* This article was adapted using information from Badger