What Is Coral Reef Safe Sunscreen?

As you might know, coral is a living organism that thrives on algae for food. Coral reefs in Hawaii and around the world are also home to marine life, which relies on the reef to survive.

Why reef safe sunscreen

Human interference with the coral reef can sometimes lead to destruction of these underwater habitats. Simply touching a coral can kill it, and certainly dumping any kind of chemical into the water is harmful to the reef and fish, too. Scientific research has shown that chemicals used in common, store-bought sunscreens are dangerous to coral and can damage the algae that reefs rely on.
Certain synthetic ingredients in some suntan lotions can activate harmful viruses inside algae, killing the algae and thus leading to coral dying.

What to avoid

The following ingredients have been found to “cause the rapid and complete bleaching of hard corals, even at extremely low concentrations”:
  • Oxybenzone (benzophenone-3)
  • Octyl methoxycinnamate (octinoxate)
  • Propylene glycol and Butylparaben
  • Camphor
  • Cinnamate
  • Statistics show that approximately 4,000 and 6,000 tons of sunscreen are washed off in coral reef areas every year. Can you imagine the devastating effects that thousands of tons of harmful sunscreen can have on reefs in one year?

Tips on Using Sunscreen

  1. Avoid harmful ingredients (listed above). Also, some experts suggest avoiding ingredients with prefixes with “oxy-” or “hexa-”.
  2. Choose sunscreen that doesn’t wash off easily and doesn’t leave an oily residue.
  3. Apply sunscreen at least 10-15 minutes before going in the water so that the lotion absorbs into your skin.

Where can you buy reef safe sunscreen

If you can’t find reef safe sunscreen in your local department store or swimming boutique, you can search online via Google or Amazon. Our Molokini snorkeling tours include complimentary reef safe sunscreen so you can enjoy the beautiful reefs of Molokini and Lanai without harming the marine life habitats.

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