Sunscreen: Protecting Yourself and The Coral Reef

Zoey Green

More stories from Zoey Green


Sunscreen is known to protect our skin from the UV rays of the sun. It has beneficial ingredients in it to help protect from skin cancer, sunburns, aging, etc. But depending on the sunscreen you are using could not only be harming the reefs but the marine life within. 

There are twelve harmful chemicals you should look for when buying sunscreen; Benzophenone-1, Benzophenone-8, OD-PABA, 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor, 3-Benzylidene camphor, Octocrylene, Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Homosalte, Parabens, Triclosan, any form of “micro” or “nano”. Opt for non-nano mineral based sunscreens. The minerals that are safe and should be looked for are; Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. 

It is good to look at the active ingredients because the term “reef friendly” is not a regulated term yet. It is also good to use lotions instead of sprays because Titanium Dioxide can be harmful for overall health. It is also suggested to look for packaging that is reusable, high recycled content and/or made out of biodegradable plant-based materials. Even mineral based sunscreens can harm marine life and coral reefs at high concentrations. 

Here are things you can do to keep yourself safe from the sun: 

  • Avoid sun exposure during the sun peak times (10 am – 2 pm)
  • Cover up (hats, clothing)
  • Use more reef friendly sunscreen on the exposed areas 

Here is a chart I found from the Surfrider Foundation explaining the different reactions marine life can have to sunscreen.