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What Makes Sunscreen Unsafe For The Ocean?


We all enjoy hitting the beach, from taking a dip in the ocean, surfing, or simply soaking up the sun. Irrespective of your favorite activity at the beach, you wear a sun-protective agent for the apparent reason- protecting your skin and body from the scorching sun rays. But, while the sunscreen protects you, have who protects the ocean from your sunscreen? Well, you may or may not be aware of this, but the sunscreen products that you generally use from high-end brands contain ingredients that can harm marine life. To find out how that happens and in what ways, you can continue reading this guide. 


Which Sunscreen Ingredients Are Unsafe For The Ocean And Why?

The coral reefs are incredibly delicate, while certain ingredients present in the sunscreens we use are too harsh. When we wear sunscreen and enter the waters, a part of it washes off and the chemicals, too, settle within the marine environments for eternity. 

Sunscreens are full of chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are both FDA- approved ingredients that prove highly effective in protecting the human skin. However, studies show that these ingredients are too harsh for coral reefs. So much so that they are one of the direct causes of coral bleaching. 

In addition to that, commonly used sunscreen ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium oxide also adversely impact marine beings. The mineral zinc is in seawater, so how does its presence in the sunscreen create a difference? Sunscreens contain zinc oxide in the form of nanoparticles. Nanoparticles affect the environmental bodies very differently as they are insoluble or bio-persistent. Zinc nanoparticles are highly toxic to marine life, especially fish. Even a low level of its concentration can lead to severe disorders in marine bodies. 

Well, that’s not all. There are many other chemicals ordinarily in sun protective products that destroy the marine ecosystem. Some of them are homosalate, microbeads, parabens, sodium lauryl, and the list goes on. 

So, What Can We Do To Combat The Issue?

Now, I know what you’re thinking. If sunscreens are ruining marine life, what can we do to keep that from happening? We still need to use sunscreen to protect ourselves from the intense sun rays and many other issues. We cannot completely give up on using sunscreen, can we? So how do we continue its application without risking marine life? All these questions are entirely valid, and we are here to solve them for you.  

The answer to these concerns is to get rid of all your old sunscreens and purchase reef-safe sunscreens. Reef-safe sunscreens are those which do not contain harmful chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate and many others. As discussed previously in this guide, these chemicals cause coral bleaching and also affect marine life. Not only are they safe for the planet, but they are also safe for your body, as the absence of strong chemicals makes sure that your skin is safe from any side effects. 

Here Are Some Of The Best Reef-safe Sunscreens

Suntegrity Natural Mineral Sunscreen 

This is a chemical-free, vegan sunscreen, which means that it is environmentally safe and cruelty-free, making it the ideal sustainability-promoting sunscreen. Instead of harmful chemicals like parabens, mineral oils, sulfate, and nanoparticles, it contains organic alternatives such as green tea and cucumber extract, etc. 

Mama Kuleana Waterproof SPF 30 Reef-Safe Sunscreen

This is a Maui-based company working towards protecting the planet by ensuring that the sunscreen and its packaging are environmentally friendly. This sunscreen has also managed to eliminate the use of chemicals and used organic ingredients such as coconut and almond oil, shea butter, and so on to ensure protection and moisturization.  

Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen 

As the name suggests, this is an SPF 50 sunscreen, fit for your beach days as it can thoroughly protect your skin from UV rays. It is highly effective while also safe for the ocean, as there is no use of toxic ingredients. This water-resistant sunscreen is also easily and quickly absorbed by the skin and lasts for up to 90 minutes. 

Stream2Sea SPF 30 Mineral Sunblock 

This company is mainly dedicated to making ocean-friendly personal care products, and we must say that their mineral-based sunblock is one of their winning products. This sunscreen is free from chemicals and enriched with antioxidant agents such as tulsi, green tea, olive leaf, and so on to ensure the safety of the ocean and your skin. 


Humans have exploited beautiful marine life for years and years due to climate change, pollution, and chemicals. Places like Florida keys, the Gulf of Mexico, and many other sites have seen extreme coral bleaching. But now, it’s time we take charge to keep the ocean clean and free from chemicals by using environmentally-friendly products only. 


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