Reducing the impact of potentially harmful sunscreens on our reef seems like a no-brainer… only use the right sunscreens and get rid of the bad ones. Unfortunately, the problem is a little more complicated. We have received a number of questions and suggestions with regard harmful sunscreens and we decided to make a FAQ-category called: Why can’t you just…
Why can’t you just make a list of the sunscreens that are safe for corals?
1. Research with regard to harmful UV-filters, such as Oxybenzone and other potentially “bad” ingredients is still ongoing. Oxybenzone (benzophenone-3 or BP-3) has been studied the most, which is why we know that this UV-filter is damaging to corals, even at very low concentrations.
2. Each sunscreen brand carries a wide variety of products, with variation in SPF’s: 15-100, packaging: lotion/sprays, target groups: kids, sports and ingredients: with or without Oxybenzone. The active ingredients for each product can vary, and manufacturers frequently change formulations. A list of “good” sunscreen brands would simply be too time consuming to keep up to date. Which makes it necessary to READ the ingredient list.
3. Communication from sunscreen manufactures can be very misleading, often promoting products with claims as “reef safe”. Some of the so called “reef safe” products contain Oxybenzone, so beware! Consumers will have to go the extra mile and try to read the microscopically small print of the ingredient list and check for Oxybenzone/Benzophenone-3/BP3.
Tip: Take a picture with your phone and enlarge 😉
4. The sunscreens that are currently perceived as the best alternatives are based on (non-nano) Zinc Oxide (ZnO) and Titanium Dioxide (TiO2). These products can feel different compared to conventional sunscreens, they often have a thicker consistency and smell different due to a lack of perfumes. It is best to test these sunscreens and decide for yourself, based on your personal preference.