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Reef Safe Sunscreens

By now we should all know that sunscreen is bad for the health of coral reefs and the chemicals these products are made of are potentially dangerous to us, humans, as well.

Coral reef ecosystems are believed to be one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, but they are also very fragile. They are vital for a lot of communities’s economy, sources of food and coastal protection. They provide habitats for an enormous amount of marine species. So what can we do to protect our skin from aging too fast or from getting skin cancer without destroying the reef?

Well, luckily, some awesome companies have made a name for themselves by creation products that are not going to negatively affect the reef or our health. Here is why you should start using a eco-friendly, reef-friendly sunscreen!

The state of Hawaii is the first state to ban sunscreen containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are 2 chemicals that are known to cause corals to bleach and die. Most commercial sunscreens contain these chemicals. Reef-safe sunscreen manufacturer Stream2Sea, gives us a comprehensive list of products to avoid. If you want to do your part to save the ocean, but also your own health since some products like parabens are absorbed by the skin, but also by corals, and are known to disturb hormones which can lead to cancer and other health issues, ditch the commercial sunscreens. Just be aware that the label “reef-safe” is not regulated by the government, so it is very important that you do your own research about the ingredients contained inside those magical potions.

Instead of using commercial sunscreen, you want to use a mineral based sunscreen which provides a physical barrier to protect you from the sun. Ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are two reef-safe minerals. Mineral sunscreens are known to usually be harder to spread evenly on your skin and leave your face looking like a pale version of yourself. I have personally tried a few of them, even though I don’t mind looking like I’m going to war against the sun, I was happy to find a few products that actually work well with my skin. Here is a list of companies that decided to become awesome by creating reef-safe sunscreen.

1. Biodef by Zorah Biocosmétiques, is an amazing canadian company and is my personal favorite when it comes to sunscreen. It is the only sunscreen that I’ve found that I can easily spread evenly on my skin. They product is very liquid and easy to use. It is of course more pricy that a sunscreen that you can find at any pharmacy, but you don’t need to apply a lot since you can spread it very easily and it also feels very light on your skin. As I am a SCUBA instructor, I spend long hours in the sun and I need a good protection for my skin. I haven’t had any sunburn with it! Bonus point, the container is made out of recycled plastic.

2. Stream2Sea offers a regular and a tinted version of their sunscreen. It is a brand that is more and more popular among divers. It is not as easy than the previous one to spread, but it is not far behind. The tinted version of the product, might be better if you want to avoid that ghosty look, but again, this product offers an awesome protection against the sun without being nocive for the environment. This company also offers a Leave-in-conditionner to protect divers’s hair from the effect of the salt and sun. They are very open about the ingredient the use and aim to use natural ingredients only.

3. Goddess Garden is another one of those awesome companies that use ingredients that are safe for us and for the planet. Like any reef-safe sunscreen, you need to apply this one little by little and take the time to spread it evenly. It offers an excellent protection against the bad effects of the sun, without contributing the coral bleaching. They are certified B Corp, which means that they have higher standards about the environment, sustainability and they have higher social standards. Companies that are B Corp certified try to be better for the planet.

So those 3 companies provide products that are good for you and for the environment. You can easily buy them online or find them in stores in North America, but don’t stop there and do your own research. There are dozens of good companies out there that offer awesome products.

These are just the ones that I’ve personally tried and liked. If you have a favorite brand of reef-safe sunscreen, please let us know, so we can try it too!

Gabrielle Bertrand is an IDC Staff Instructor in Utila, Honduras. Follow her on Facebook or on Instagram.

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