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What You Need to Know About Reef Safe Sunscreen

In 2018, the state of Hawaii decided to ban sunscreen. Well, to be more specific, they banned the use of chemicals which are harmful to coral reefs, and a lot of those chemicals tend to be in many popularly used sunscreens. Hawaii’s decision wasn’t made to turn beach goers into bacon, but instead to keep coral reefs colorfully vibrant and thriving.

With Key West, Florida adopting a similar ban in 2021, this doesn’t seem to be an aberrant change. The ban doesn’t have to be anything negative, however. They are not banning all sunscreens. Just those which are harmful -- and really, why were they even approved for use in the first place?

How do we find these reef safe products? Well, to be honest, it can be kind of tricky. First of all, not all labels are honest. Many sunscreens will display something like “reef-safe” or “eco-friendly,” but these are mere marketing words. There is no governmental or institutional backing to these labels, which is to say that nobody has checked to ensure that these products are safe. They just present themselves as such.

So what do I look for?

Some of the best options are those which are made from minerals -- zinc especially. Even further, you want to avoid chemicals like oxybenzone or octinoxate, assuming that these are clearly listed in the description (which isn’t always the case).

What does that leave us with? There are many options which are safer for ecosystems, but these might vary by location (shop local!). So we have found three of our favorites to share with you. Here they are:

First we have the Honest Company’s 30 SPF Mineral Sunscreen. This one is not only lighter on coral reefs, but it is also very friendly for those with sensitive skin and allergies.

Second up we have Sun Bum’s Original ‘Face 50’ Sunscreen Lotion. This SPF 50 cream is great for your face, in particular. Best of all, the finish is matte and not shiny!

Last on our list of favorites is Coola’s Full Spectrum 360° Mineral Sun Silk Creme. This organic sunscreen nourishes the skin as it protects, and even has a light enough finish to apply makeup over. Great for on and off the beach!

Remember to shop carefully for your sunscreen -- there will be a lot less ocean life to enjoy if you’re not! Shop smart, pack wisely, and don’t forget to bring your Shark OFF shark repellent jewelry when you hit the beach next!

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