Is Your Sunscreen Marine Safe?
Did you know your sunscreen ingredients can have an irreversible damaging effect on our underwater ecosystem?
The efforts to protect ourselves from the sun’s powerful rays has led to an unprecedented reliance on commercial sunscreen. However, the cocktail of chemicals many big name brands are made from, have been proven to harm the ocean environment – and the jury is still out on what the long term effects on humans can be too.
The BIG problem
According to National Geographic, around 14,000 tons of sunscreen is washed into the oceans each year, with 82,000 chemicals from personal care products also entering the marine environment.
This marine pollution has been directly responsible for coral bleaching and contributed significantly to the loss of 80% of the Caribbean reefs. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are the two main chemicals known as the marine toxins causing damage to coral reefs - both found throughout big name sunscreen brands.
Many sunscreens are being banned
In Hawaii and Palau there are now complete bans on certain sunscreens due to the harmful effects on aquatic life. The problem is that as you swim, the chemicals wash away from your skin and are absorbed by corals and other marine life. And even if you’re not swimming, when you shower, bath or wash... where does that water go...?
One solution is to get your SPF from clothing, rather than creams, so you could wear an SPF rated swim vest or long sleeve top – ideal for kids – but you will inevitably need some form of sunscreen for your face and other exposed skin.
What to look for in a responsible sunscreen
There are many brands of sunscreen made from natural ingredients that not only protect your skin from the sun, but also won't have negative effects on the environment when washed from your skin.
Zinc oxide is perhaps the most important ingredient to look for. This has powerful skin protecting properties and absorbs UV rays as well as reflecting them away, found in Shade.
Ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil and almond oil are also completely natural and safe for the marine environment and keep your skin hydrated without the need for chemical ingredients.
If you are looking for vegan friendly sunscreen, you can try the sunscreen and aftersun range by Green People, making your sunscreen kind on every level. They also have a range for children, one with Edelweiss tan accelerator, scent free and SPF15 or 30.
Beware of waterproof sun creams. These may contain petrochemicals like silicones which block the skin and cause prickly heat.
Watch out for the spray-on sunscreens too as they are more likely to contain alcohol, a common skin irritant.
When swimming, it is still best to wear SPF-rated t-shirts and vests, to limit the amount of unusual ingredients being absorbed by marine life, but if you do one thing this summer, switch to a sunscreen that is free from oxybenzone and oxtinoxate.