If you've been hearing a lot of buzz about "reef-safe" sunscreen lately, you might be wondering if this is something you need to add to your summer shopping list (and if so, why?). Since Hawaii's recent ban on sunscreens containing chemicals that are destroying coral reefs, even concerned beachgoers who don't live in the Aloha State are switching to sunblocks that use natural ingredients to block UV rays — partly because the same chemicals that are harming the reefs can hurt humans, too. So what are the best reef-safe sunscreens out there?
What makes a sunscreen reef-safe is the absence of the chemicals oxybenzone and/or octinoxate, which have been shown to cause "bleaching, deformities, DNA damage and ultimately death" in coral reefs, according to CNN. Yes, oxybenzone and octinoxate are used in sunscreens in the first place because they work well to protect the skin. Still, there are other, all-natural ingredients that can do the job without destroying marine life, like those in mineral sunscreens. (The all-natural sunscreens aren't harmful to human life, either, whereas oxybenzone also causes damage to DNA which can lead to cancer and developmental abnormalities.) While chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays and convert them into heat, which is then released through the skin, mineral sunscreens contain tiny zinc oxide or titanium dioxide particles that sit on top of your skin to deflect UV rays.
“Mineral-based sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are as effective as chemical sunscreens,” Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist, told WomensHealthMag.com.
If mineral sunscreens work, there's really no reason to use the stuff that's killing the coral reefs, is there? Especially now that it's easier than ever to find reef-safe sunscreens. These are some of the best-selling, highest-rated options available (for more suggestions, check out the Environmental Working Group's 2018 guide to safe sunscreens).
If you've been stuck on chemical sunscreens because they're more likely to come in kid-friendly colors and a variety of scents and styles (sticks, sprays, etc.), then this is the all-natural line for you: Bare Republic offers reef-safe sunscreen in lotion, spray, stick and even mousse form, with plenty of bright colors for little ones and irresistible fragrances for all ages (coco-mango, citrus cooler, and more). Products available for babies, kids, grown-ups... even hair!
2Source Vitál Apothecary
Made with soothing botanicals including shea butter, aloe vera, green tea, and coconut oil, this moisturizing sunscreen uses zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to provide broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection — and it's even water resistant for up to 80 minutes. Beat that, chemical sunscreen!
$9 to $50
All Good's founder, Caroline Duell, also started a Safe Sunscreen Council in March of this year (so you know this is a company that takes their mission of making vegan, chemical-free sunblock and body care super seriously). #ReefFriendly products include water-resistant sprays, lotions, and sticks for kids and adults, plus a popular "sunscreen butter" that comes in a handy tin.
The first sunscreen to pass Whole Foods Premium Care Requirements, Thinksport's line of adult, kid, and baby sunscreen lotion and sticks offers the highest level of SPF allowed by the FDA and has been ranked #1 by the Environmental Working Group since 2010.
MANDA is the first sun care product of its kind to use Thanaka, a natural sun protectant from the wood of a tree native to Myanmar. Also prized for its anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and moisturizing properties, Thanaka has been used for over 2000 years (who needs chemicals?).
Featuring such spa-worthy ingredients as anti-inflammatory Tamanu oil, sea kelp extract, and cocoa seed butter, this convenient stick provides broad spectrum SPF 50 protection via non-nano zinc oxide. Perfect for easy-to-miss spots like the lips and tops of the ears.
A versatile daily non-nano sunscreen that's "made especially for an active outdoor lifestyle," this formula contains organic jojoba and aloe as well as antioxidants and vitamins C and E to keep skin both protected and nourished. Suitable for the whole family!