What is reef safe sunscreen?

Sunscreen labelled ‘reef safe’ does not contain chemicals that have been proven to cause damage to coral reefs and marine organisms such as fish, shellfish and sea urchins; even in low concentrations.

Does sunscreen damage coral reefs?

Although the damage caused to marine life by sunscreens has been known for many years, the term “reef safe” came under the spotlight in 2018 when the pacific nation of Palau banned the use of sunscreens containing specific ingredients from their beaches, prompting a wave of other countries such as Hawaii and Thailand to follow suit.

The ban applied to specific ingredients in sunscreen products. The major culprits being Oxbenzone, Octocrylene and Oxtinoxate, widely used in mainstream sunscreen formulas as low cost UV filters.

Unfortunately for consumers, sunscreens labelled reef safe aren't always what they say they are and do in fact contain some of the banned ingredients. The term reef safe is currently unregulated meaning that there is no law in place to state that companies must be certified in order to claim that their products are reef safe.

To ensure that your sunscreen is reef safe, it’s helpful to know what to look out for.


Which sunscreen ingredients to avoid

Any sunscreen containing the below ingredients is not reef safe. Next time you pick up your sunscreen bottle, take a look at the back and see if you find any of these ingredients.

  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • Octocrylene
  • Benzophenone-1, 
  • Benzophenone-8 
  • OD-PABA 
  • 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor
  • 3-Benzylidene camphor
  • Nano-Titanium dioxide
  • Nano-Zinc oxide
  • Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
  • Methyl Paraben
  • Ethyl Paraben
  • Propyl Paraben
  • Butyl Paraben
  • Benzyl Paraben
  • Triclosan

Which sunscreen is reef safe?

Mineral sunscreens containing non-nano Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are reef safe and are accepted by all countries with a reef safe policy. So if you want to enjoy the ocean with the least impact to the natural environment choose non-nano zinc and titanium based sunscreens. It is for this reason that here at Palm & Pine our sunscreen products are reef safe.

Palm & Pine reef safe sunscreen

We have taken it one step further, however, to include our packaging in our ocean commitment. Above chemical pollution from sunscreen, the number one threat to the ocean is plastic. Our products come in recycled aluminium packaging to ensure that we are truly ocean friendly, from product to packaging.


Why use reef safe sunscreen? 

Millions of us travel to sun drenched locations all over the world on vacation, every year. Swimmers, snorkelers, surfers, divers and beachgoers wash more than 6000 tons of sunscreen from their bodies into the waters of beauty spots, national parks and protected areas every year. Often into concentrated, localised areas at specific times of the year, causing a shock to the local ecosystem.

Why reef safe sunscreen

This surge of chemicals causes damage to the fragile ecosystem that makes the locations so beautiful in the first place and unfortunately once the damage has been done there is no quick fix.

A 2008 study of the effects of sunscreen on coral states: 

“We conclude that sunscreens, by promoting viral infection, potentially play an important role in coral bleaching in areas prone to high levels of recreational use by humans”

But it’s not only coral that is affected by sunscreens, the below infographic by the National Ocean Service demonstrates how all aspects of marine life can be affected by these chemicals.

How sunscreen chemicals can affect marine life

Reef Safe is best

Most countries still allow the use of non reef safe sunscreens and not all countries have vibrant coral reefs but as you can see, every ocean, sea and river can benefit from us consumers making more sustainable choices. So, if you want to protect yourself and the ocean, check the ingredients and buy quality, mineral sunscreen.

Palm & Pine pledge to be reef, ocean, and earth friendly, from product to packaging. Protection for you and your world.


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