Did You Know Sunscreen is Hurting our Oceans?

I am a huge advocate of sunscreen! When I’m out in the sun, I reapply every couple hours without fail. When swimming I reapply as soon as I’m out of the water. But I had no idea that sunscreens are damaging to the coral reef!

This landlocked lady LOVES the ocean! We travelled to Hawaii often as kids to visit family and I developed such a love for the aqua shade, the salty waves, and the colourful fish.

As informed as I believe myself to be about basic environmental issues, I had no idea that the ingredients in many sunscreens are hurting our oceans! I first learned of it after Hawaiian Airlines partnered with RawElements to promote a contest and raise awareness of the issue.

I knew that coral reef bleaching was a very real problem in many areas.  In recent years, there has been a major decline of our coral reefs including:

  • 40% in Hawaii
  • 40% in the Great Barrier Reef
  • 85% in the Caribbean
  • 99% in the Florida Keys

According to the  U.S. National Parks Service, “research tells us that 4,000 to 6,000 TONS of sunscreen enters reef areas annually. This does not spread out rapidly or evenly over the entire ocean, but concentrates on popular tourist sites. It is estimated that 90% of snorkeling/diving tourists are concentrated on 10% of the world’s reefs. This means that our most popular reefs, such as those in our national parks, are exposed to the majority of sunscreens.”

My mind was blown! All that time I spent enjoying the ocean, my sunscreen was washing off into it!

How to be Reef Friendly- Check the labels!

The   U.S. National Parks Service says  no sunscreen has been proven to be completely ‘reef-friendly.’ Those with titanium oxide or zinc oxide, which are natural mineral ingredients, have not been found harmful to corals. Sunscreens sold for children or for those with sensitive skin may contain these gentler compounds as the active ingredients.

Enter RawElements! Developed by a lifeguard, these products contain only one active ingredient, 23% non-nano zinc oxide. It’s safe for all ages, hypoallergenic, and not tested on animals.

Nano-size particles are small enough to enter the bloodstream, whereas a non-nano size particle will not.  The non-nano zinc oxide sits on top of the skin, creating a physical barrier that both reflects UV rays away from the skin and effectively blocks UVA1, UVA2 and UVB rays. It does not absorb into living skin cells. It’s the only reef safe active ingredient.

If you’re like me, the first thing you’re thinking is “yeah but I bet it costs an arm and a leg!” It’s actually not too bad. A tube of body sunscreen is about $20, about $10 more than the everyday stuff. However, how much do you value your environment and even your own health? An extra $10 bucks doesn’t sound so bad does it?

Use the code ‘BETTERLIVIN’ when purchasing so they know I sent you their way! 🙂

One thing I know for sure, next time I’m in Hawaii I will NOT use a traditional sunscreen, I’ll be reaching for a reef friendly brand!

This post contains affiliate links, however I was not compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions (and concerns for our environment) are truly my own! 

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