Posted on November 23 2018, by Els Kraakman.
What sailing trip to the BVI is complete without a heavy dose of sunshine? For many, the promise of sun-dulgence is one of the key reasons to visit the Caribbean. Just don’t forget to apply sunscreen! The only problem is that most sunscreens are very bad for the beautiful corals and while snorkeling over them, you might cause more damage than you realize.
We know that our reefs are suffering at the hands of global climate change due to rising ocean temperatures, as the stress of warm water causes corals to bleach. In addition, scientists now say that chemically based sunscreen can induce the same bleaching response in coral. Studies have shown that oxybenzone and octinoxate are found in over 3,500 sunscreen products, including household names like Tropicana, Banana Boat, and Coppertone.
When corals absorb these chemicals, they have a similar reaction as they would if surrounding water temperatures were to get too warm. In addition, the presence of these chemicals in sea water allows viruses to thrive, putting corals at high risk of catching an infection that could lead to bleaching and death.
What can you do to help?
While there is still a lot of work to be done in order to save fragile coral reefs, our individual choice to purchase reef-safe sunscreen can be of huge help! And the good news is, there are plenty reef-safe options on the market for consumers to choose from.
When you’re shopping for sunscreen, here are some key things to look for:
- The absence of oxybenzone and octinoxate in listed ingredients. These two chemicals are harmful to corals and can cause sunscreen-induced coral bleaching, so look for them in the ingredient list. Their absence points the product being reef-safe.
- Mineral based sunscreen with the ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Sunscreens made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are mineral-based, so rather than being absorbed like traditional sunscreen, the particles of these ingredients sit on top of the skin and block harmful UV rays. These ingredients are less harmful to corals and are not linked to coral bleaching.
- Indication that ingredients are “non-nano”. In order for mineral sunblocks to leave corals untouched, they must be “non-nano”, meaning the ingredient particles must be below 100 nanometers in size so that they cannot be ingested by corals.
- Reef-safe labels. Typically, companies will label their products as “reef-safe” but always check the ingredients to be sure.
There are many brands, but we can recommend the following sunscreens, which are reef safe and very affordable on Amazon: