coral
Environmental Issues,  Travel goods

Why Reef Friendly Sunscreen
is Important

Most times, when one is relaxing on the beach under the sun, we care for our skin, but rarely do our considerations extend beyond our own bodies, when it comes to the products we are using.

We are aware that the coral reefs are suffering, but do we truly understand the contributing factors? Continue reading below to discover why reef friendly sunscreen is an important purchasing decision regarding the health of the world’s coral reefs!

For quite many years now, we have heard the warnings from marine biologists and nature scientists alike, that the world is losing its once bountiful coral reefs. We are able to learn more and more about the cause and effect of these happenings, hopefully in good time to take solid action to prevent the further damage of the world’s coral reefs.

Many consumer sun products, such as sunscreens, are reported to cause damage to the coral reefs. According to National Geographic, approximately 14 000 tons of sunscreen are said to wash off into the seas, annually. 14 000 tons is a mind boggling amount of product, especially when one considers that it is an indirect form of pollution. 

The most widely-recognised ingredients which cause harm to the coral reefs are cited to be the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are both common chemicals in sunscreen products. (Consumer reports) Although these 2 chemicals are the most common, they are not the only ingredients which pose an environmental threat. This is exactly why it is important to make the effort to purchase reef friendly sunscreen, when you are at your beach destination.

How Damage Occurs

There are several ways in which sun products come to be in the oceans. Corals are highly absorbent creatures. These sponges absorb all of the nutrients available to them in the surrounding waters, thus also absorbing all chemicals as well. For example, the chemical Oxybenzone has the effect of disturbing the growth of the reefs, which exhibits itself in the phenomenon called ‘bleaching’.

The most common form is that sunbathers apply sunscreen and then go for a refreshing swim when the sun gets hot. This results in the sun products washing off of the swimmer’s body and into the ocean water. 

Other forms include product remnants on the sand, which is later washed into the sea via high tides and even shower rinses when the run-off is directed to the ocean water. 

What Can We Do?

Finding environmentally friendly means of UV protection can be challenging. However there is a plethora of information available on the internet which includes the use of sun shades, cotton clothing and recommendations of reef friendly sunscreen. The use of mineral sun products is recommended as an alternative to the traditional sunscreens containing oxybenzone or octinoxate. Reef safe sunscreens are also becoming available due to consistent demand.

The possibility also exists to make use of sun umbrellas or even large sun shades for your relaxing day at the beach, and to opt out of using potentially harmful sun products entirely. Other alternatives such as covering skin with light cotton clothing, are being put into practice with many beach-goers.

Some destinations, such as Hawaii, have taken legal steps to prevent the usage of such damaging products by forbidding the sale of sunscreens containing the oxybenzone or octinoxate chemicals.

If you are using sun lotions, it is imperative to use ocean-friendly, coral reef friendly sunscreen and other sun products, if they are available in your destination. A quick online search will be able to give you a better idea of the coral reef friendly sunscreen which will be available in your chosen destinations.

It is good to learn about the products we use and the effects they have on our environment. Through making wiser purchasing decisions, we are able to generate a positive impact on our environment!

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