Quick Guide to Reef-Friendly Sunscreen

One of our favorite things to teach about is how small actions can make a big difference, and it’s astonishing how a simple thing like sunscreen (even inland) can make a big impact on the health of the ocean!

It especially impacts corals, which are actually colonies of tiny animals that can build reef formations. They are living, growing rock formations that form the heart of the habitat for so many amazing marine creatures!

Corals can be pretty sensitive to water conditions, including the toxic chemicals that are found in many sunscreens.

Reefs provide so much for our world, humans included. They provide:

  • medicine & research opportunities
  • oxygen we breathe
  • habitats
  • tourism & jobs
  • food
  • storm buffer that slows down storms

They are truly amazing places!

To find out if your sunscreen protects your skin and coral reefs, it takes a little detective work to see if there are any toxins lurking. Spoiler alert: even some sunscreens that have “reef-safe” on the label can be harmful!

So to help you navigate this sunscreen switch to help protect these important habitats, we’ve created an infographic guide with 3 simple steps.

It’s great for all ages, including kids.  In fact, involving kids in this activity can be a great way to help instill a conservation mindset and an understanding that as we learn more about our impact, we can act to help make a positive difference.

Gather your sunscreen bottles, take a look at the infographic below, and help spread the word too!

By the way, the artwork in the infographic above is from our hand-drawn and hand-painted children’s book collection found on our author page on Amazon here. Check them out for lots of ocean fun!

To help protect their local reefs, some places have banned toxic sunscreens to protect their reef habitats, like Hawaii and Key West.

These toxic ingredients include:

  • oxybenzone
  • octinoxate
  • homosalate
  • avobenzone
  • octocrylene

Other ingredients (non-sunscreen related) can also harm reefs. They are:

  • parabens
  • triclosan

These substances can cause corals to become stressed, which creates a chain of reactions that can lead to whole coral colonies becoming sick and eventually die if they can’t recover.

Non-nano mineral-based sunscreens (with titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide) are safe for reefs. Words like “reef-safe” on the label doesn’t mean it is! Check the ingredients to be sure.

Be sure to toss the toxic ones and use reef-friendly sunscreens even inland or when you’re not swimming. Why? The chemicals wash off (in the shower, lake, river) and eventually find their way to oceans through waterways or drainage systems.

You can also consider UPF clothing, hats, and umbrellas for the ultimate ocean-friendly sun protection.

Don’t stop there! Tell others about this simple switch that can make a big impact on the health of our oceans and reefs. You can start by pinning this, sharing the link on social media, or simply by word of mouth.

We can all make a difference!

Live porpoisefully,

Eve & Rett (Everett) Taylor

Disclaimer: All activities on this blog are intended to be performed with adult supervision. Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when activities call for the use of materials that could potentially be harmful, such as scissors, or items that could present a choking risk (small items), or a drowning risk (water activities), and with introducing a new food/ingredient to a child (allergies). Observe caution and safety at all times. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any of these activities on this blog.

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