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Is Your Sunscreen Killing the Ocean?

by Susan Finch

Sep 22, 2019

Lastly, enjoy a mostly undiscovered spot in Peru. Paracas features a dramatic desert landscape that bumps into the Pacific Ocean. Red Beach offers a secluded, photo-worthy time, while El Chaco combines beautiful surroundings with the convenience of nearby dining and shopping. © Kanokrat Tawokhat | Dreamstime.com

Products / Beauty

Travelers are already savvy about keeping trash out of oceans and focused on our rising shorelines. But according to MarineSafe, sunscreen is one of the biggest and permanent polluters to our oceans. The common sunscreen ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate are toxic to coral reefs and other marine life. The chemicals are shown to cause coral bleaching that ultimately leaves the coral vulnerable to infection and malnourished. Of course, sunscreen isn’t the only source of pollution in our oceans, but is quickly escalating into a crisis.

 

To help combat the problem, reef-safe sunscreens hit the market and promise to keep harmful chemicals out of the water. However, Consumer Reports warns reef-safe sunscreens are not guaranteed to be harmless once they leach into underwater ecosystems. Other chemicals in sunscreens, like parabens, don’t necessarily cause coral bleaching, but can still be devastating to marine life.

 

There’s still some disagreement over what’s considered reef safe, and what could just help reduce coral bleaching but still harm marine life. Carefully select products that lack ingredients including oxybenzone and octinoxate and reach for options like Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen. They promise protection against the sun’s harsh rays without the toxic chemicals.

 

The zinc-based Kokua Sun Care Hawaiian SPF 50 Natural Zinc Sunscreen skips the harmful chemicals, and instead is enriched with Hawaiian spirulina. It also features soothing oils like those from the kukui nut to soothe skin while offering a layer of sun protection. Another non-nano zinc option is Beautycounter’s Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Lotion. Infused with California Poppy, the lotion blocks out UV rays and refreshes your skin.

 

However, there’s another option. Simply wearing a T-shirt and hat in the water can offer sun protection without harmful coral-bleaching chemicals leaching into the ocean. Studying up on the long list of ingredients and potential toxicity also isn’t required with plain, cotton clothing.

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