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January 25, 2022

Coral Reef Safe Sunscreen

A coral reef safe sunscreen is free of chemical active ingredients and nanoparticles. Some sunscreen companies will put “Reef Friendly” or “Reef Safe” labels on products that contain toxic chemicals that harm coral reefs because this type of language is not regulated by government agencies. The only way to know for sure that a sunscreen is reef safe is to check its ingredients. The same chemicals that harm our environment are known to cause serious human health issues.

Finding the right sunscreen for your skin and our environment can be complicated - this article will help you understand what makes a sunscreen reef safe and why that matters.

Coral Reef Safe Sunscreen

Why Use Reef Safe Sunscreen

You should use reef safe sunscreens to keep yourself safe and protect the ecosystems that you enjoy and depend on. Chemical UV filters from chemical sunscreens as well as the nanoparticles found in cheaper mineral formulas contribute directly to coral bleaching. Coral bleaching is a phenomenon in which environmental stressors such as chemical pollution cause coral polyps to expel a symbiotic algae. This renders the coral pale, unable to grow and reproduce, and with a higher risk of infection and mortality.


It is important to note that chemical pollution, like global warming and extreme weather, is one of many factors contributing to coral bleaching. Because of its toxicity to coral, travel destinations around the world have banned the possession, production, and use of chemical sunscreens.  


Coral reefs are one of Earth’s invaluable resources. They support nearly 25% of the ocean’s fish. Reefs not only provide for the fish, they provide for people as well. According to NOAA, nearly half a billion people rely on coral reefs for food, income, and protection. Without our coral reefs, those fish die, our coasts erode, and people go hungry. They are a keystone species that need to be taken care of as best as possible. One simple, easy way you can help protect coral is using reef safe sunscreens, like TropicSport:



What Makes Sunscreen Reef Safe

The ingredients list on the back of a sunscreen will indicate whether a sunscreen is reef safe -Do not blindly trust the labeling on the front. Even if a sunscreen is labeled “Reef Safe” or “Reef Friendly” it could still contain toxic ingredients because these marketing terms are not regulated by government agencies. The only way to tell if a sunscreen is coral reef safe is to check the active ingredients and look for the following:

Reef Safe Sunscreen Ingredients

The only Reef Safe sunscreen active ingredients are Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. Make sure to read the back of your sunscreen bottle to make sure it does not contain any other active ingredients. Avobenzone, oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene are several of the most common chemical UV Filters. Visit the company’s website to see whether they can guarantee that the product does not contain mineral nanoparticles. 

Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are the only two mineral UV filters and the only two sunscreen ingredients considered safe and effective (GRASE) by the FDA. No active chemical sunscreen ingredients achieve this combination of safety and protection. Choosing sunscreens with these reef safe ingredients is not only safe for our environment, but safe for you as well!

What ingredients to Avoid for Reef Safe sunscreen

The main ingredients to avoid for reef safe sunscreens are:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • Avobenzone
  • Octisalate
  • Octocrylene
  • Ensulizole
  • Homosalate
  • Cinoxate
  • Dioxybenzone
  • Meradimate
  • Padimate O
  • Sulisobenzone
  • Any Nanoparticles

Places like Key Westthe Virgin Islands, and Aruba have all banned a handful of these ingredients due to their harmful effects on coral in their area. More and more countries and counties continue to limit the use of chemical sunscreens legally, with Hawaii being the latest.

Hawaii Reef Safe Sunscreen Law: Reef Safe Sunscreen in Hawaii

Ordinance 5306 bans the sale, distribution, and use of all non-mineral sunscreens in Maui County, Hawaii. Why did they do this? In a study by Haereticus Environmental Labs, it was found that just one drop of Oxybenzone in 6.5 olympic size swimming pools proves toxic to juvenile coral and The Department of Land and Natural Resources estimated that 55 gallons of sunscreen chemicals are being washed into Maui’s nearshore waters every day. The Maui County Council decided that the best way to stop these chemical pollutants was to eliminate the possession, use, and sale of any sunscreens containing chemical active ingredients


Hawaii Reef Safe Sunscreen Law

Is Mineral Sunscreen Reef Safe

Yes, mineral sunscreen is reef safe if it only contains either non-nano Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide as its active ingredients. The label, “mineral-based” is not enough. This term generally refers to dangerous mixes of chemical and mineral ingredients - this recent study demonstrates the human and environmental health risks of these mixtures

You need to read the ingredients list! Similar to “reef safe”, “mineral based” is not a regulated marketing term. Sunscreen companies can label their package as “mineral based”, but they will still contain chemical active ingredients. For the time being this is the case, however, consumers are fighting back against these companies misleading labeling and filing class action lawsuits. These lawsuits target companies who have abused these loose labeling regulations to make profits by tricking customers.

Reef Safe Sunscreen Bulk: Reef Safe Sunscreen

If you are looking for reef safe sunscreen in bulk, check out our TropicSport mix and match bundle. Our sunscreen is 100% Reef Safe and we only use Non-Nano Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. Our goal at TropicSport is to provide consumers a mineral sunscreen that is reef safe, goes on smooth, and gives you great protection from the sun. Go grab some today!

Jack Herrmann
Jack Herrmann

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