Coral reef pexels

Action: Use reef-safe sun lotion

Every year we use millions of bottles of sun screen and lotion around the world, and a lot of it has proved to be harmful

Climate change, pollution, and other environmental factors are slowly eroding the health of coral reefs around the world, which in turn affects the health of the oceans – the whole marine ecosystem.

Now we know that some of the ingredients in sunscreen damage delicate coral reef systems as well.

Up to 6,000 tons of sunscreen are estimated to wash into coral reefs around the globe each year. Also, rather than being evenly distributed, much of that sunscreen is concentrated at popular diving, swimming, and snorkeling sites – where the reefs have attracted visitors.

In a 2016 study (Downs et al) by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other institutions, the authors found that baby coral exposed to oxybenzone and octinoxate exhibited signs of distress, including coral bleaching. These are ingredients found in most sunscreens.

Coral bleaching is a condition that leaves coral vulnerable to infection and prevents it from getting the nutrients it needs to survive. It also leads to DNA damage and abnormalities in their growth and skeleton.

This bolstered the findings of a 2008 study performed by Italian scientists and published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, which found that commonly used sunscreen ingredients, including oxybenzone again, caused coral bleaching in reefs across the globe, including in the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean.

Other studies have also found the ingredients to be harmful to other marine organisms, such as fish, sea urchins, and shrimp.

Did you know? … in 2018, Hawaii banned the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Coral reef safe sun lotion

Switch to a coral reef safe sun lotion

We can help address this problem by choosing our brand of sun lotion carefully.

The problem is being recognised by the companies that make sunscreen and sun lotion, so a simple search for “reef safe sun lotion” throws up lots of brands that you can switch to instead. Examples include the following (please note that these are not our recommendations, but listed recently by TripSavvy ( as best buys:

ThinkSport SPF 50+ 

Banana Boat Simply Protect Sunscreen SPF 50 

Aveeno Positively Mineral Sunscreen 

Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Sunscreen 

Sun Bum Face Lotion 

Coola Classic Face Sunscreen 

Take action

The cost of reef-safe lotions and creams is the same as for those containing the damaging ingredients, so there really is no reason not to take this simple action to protect marine life.

For further reading click through to this search:

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