Sunscreen is a summertime must to protect our skin, but not all sunscreens are considered equal. Choosing the right sunscreen is so important for not only your skin, but for the environment too!
Coral reefs are the most valuable ecosystems on Earth: home to a million different species of fish, coral, and other marine life. Unfortunately, the health of our coral reefs faces a lot of threats: just in Hawai’i, six thousand tons of sunscreen enter the ocean each year from beachgoers. Even if you’re not near the ocean, when you shower off sunscreen, the chemicals end up in the ocean. These chemicals, as well as rising ocean temperatures, lead to coral bleaching, which is when stress causes corals to expel the algae that gives them their bright color. If the cause of the stress is not fixed, the corals will never let the algae come back, and sadly will die.
Thankfully, a small change in your habits can really help our coral reefs. If we all switch out our sunscreens for reef-safe sunscreen, we can help decrease the amount of chemicals that stress out corals! Carefully read the ingredient list of your sunscreen to see if they include any of the following: Oxybenzone, Benzophenone-1, Benzophenone-8, OD-PABA, 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor, Butylparaben, Octinoxate (Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate), Triclosan, 3-Benzylidene camphor, Microplastic spheres or beads, nano-Titanium dioxide, and nano-Zinc oxide. If they do, they’re harmful for marine life, and you should definitely make the switch!
Now that you know what to avoid in your sunscreen, let’s talk about the ingredients that don’t harm reefs! Mineral based sunscreens with non-nano particles are considered safe for coral reefs, either non-nano Titanium dioxide or non-nano Zinc oxide. You might have noticed that nano-Titanium dioxide, and nano-Zinc oxide are both on the list of ingredients to avoid-- the difference is the non-nano particles have a larger particle size, and quickly settle to the sea floor, becoming part of the sediment.
In addition to paying attention to ingredients to prevent harm to marine life, there are also a couple of things you need to make sure of in your sunscreen! In order to properly protect your skin from skin cancer and sun damage, sunscreen needs to shield you from both UVA and UVB radiation-- often these kinds of sunscreens are known as “broad spectrum” sunscreens! Sunscreen should be at least an SPF of 15, but if you’re in a sunny area or are prone to getting sunburned, you’ll definitely want a higher SPF (up to SPF 50).
Ready to make the switch to help save coral while still protecting your skin? Little Hands Hawaii’s mineral sunscreens are our favorite reef-safe option, using non-nano Zinc oxide! They also have a SPF of 30-40+ and are water-resistant for up to 80 minutes-- perfect for taking a swim or surfing at the beach!