How does sunscreen affect coral reefs?
Coral reefs are more than just a pretty face. They support an incredible underwater ecosystem, cover less than 1% of the ocean floor but support more than 25% of all marine life, and their very existence defends our coastlines against the worst effects of storms and hurricanes. Nature knows what’s up. But climate change and human impact (like overfishing and chemical runoff) have accelerated coral bleaching and mutation, ultimately leading to coral death.
Some of that chemical runoff comes from the 14,000 tons of sunscreen products that reach and damage our coral reefs each year. That just doesn’t sit well with us. In 2016, our founder, Caroline, got hip to the issue of coral bleaching from toxic sunscreen runoff. She got to work searching for reef friendly alternatives and found there was a huge need for more credible, non-toxic suncare products. To help preserve the coral that’s still alive, it’s critical that we use sunscreen that meets reef friendly criteria.
Once in the water, the nano-particals in sunscreen chemicals latch onto Coral and clog the pores (yes, coral has pores). This prevents the coral from getting the sunlight and nutrients it needs, which can lead to coral bleaching and eventual death.
Several studies have shown that the most common chemical, oxybenzone, actually damages the DNA of young coral reefs and disrupts their normal growth and development. This inhibits coral’s ability to reproduce healthily and causes physical deformities that make them even more susceptible to coral bleaching. Chemical-based sunscreens have been found to cause viral infection and starvation in corals, and can be equally toxic to other marine wildlife species, like fish (say goodbye to Nemo, kids).
Reef Friendly Sunscreen Criteria
What’s good for the reefs is good for the gander. Most of the chemicals that are harmful to marine life are just as damaging to human health. Reef-friendly sunscreen means environmentally safe, nontoxic, kid-friendly, and human safe. It means safe for people and safe for critical marine organisms like the coral reef. Reef friendly criteria is pretty simple: A sunscreen cannot contain any of the ingredients from “The Awful Eight.” No matter how many “good” ingredients are listed, if even ONE “bad” ingredient is listed it’s a toxic, non reef friendly sunscreen.
A word to the wise: If you read something is “natural sunscreen” or “dermatologist-approved,” that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s reef-friendly. Some brands tout the use of exotic, super-food ingredients (like green tea or beeswax) and claim to be “mineral-based sunscreens,” but there could be a lot of harmful ingredients mixed in that make it very unhealthy for reefs. This is what we call “greenwashing” – companies that claim to be eco-friendly, but when you scratch below the surface you find the science doesn’t back up the claims. And just so we’re all clear, WE BELIEVE IN SCIENCE! (Alternative facts can go die a fiery death.)
So, What Can You Do? Take the #ReefFriendly Pledge
When you do right by your body, you do right by the ocean (and vice versa). Join surfers, kayakers, canoers, explorers, divers, swimmers, conservationists, and ocean lovers in enjoying our ocean and making sure we protect the ocean from toxic chemicals. Pledging to take care of yourself and the environment by buying reef-friendly sunscreen lotion and cosmetic products, like the ones here at All Good Products. Sign up for our environment friendly newsletter and Tag us when you’re being #ReefFriendly. Together we can spread the word that choosing reef safe sunscreen makes a huge difference.