Summer Essentials: Ocean-Safe Sunscreen
So I originally meant to get this post up for World Ocean’s Day over the weekend, but I missed the boat (pun intended) in favor of unplugging a bit and spending time with my girlfriend on her birthday (Saturday also happened to be National BFF Day so at least I got something right).
However, I think every day is worthy of our paying some attention to environmental issues causing harm to our oceans and aquatic life. Also, it’s summer and as good a time as any to talk about the importance of reef-safe sunscreens.
I’ll never forget how, on a trip to Cancun with my girlfriends a few years ago, we spent one day snorkeling at a popular beach for spotting turtles (be still my heart) and colorful coral reefs. Well, the turtles were there yes (and to this day watching them graze and float inches from my face is one of my favorite vacation memories), but the colorful reefs? Not so much. Instead we saw withering, brown-beige coral that had been damaged by the thousands of tourists who had preceded us over the years. That was a sobering moment for sure, and the first time I started to think seriously about the effects of damaging sunscreen ingredients on our environment.
By 2021, Hawaii and parts of Florida will effectively ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone and oxtinoxate - two common and earth-damaging ingredients in many sunscreens. A 2016 study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other institutions found that little baby corals who interacted with these ingredients exhibited signs of distress, including a condition known as coral bleaching, as well as critical DNA damage.
While there doesn’t appear to be a perfect solution, mineral sunscreens that don’t contain Oxybenzone or Oxtinoxate are a good place to start, ESPECIALLY when heading to popular beaches or touristy reef destinations. Also, wearing more UVB-protectant clothing at the beach reduces the amount of sunscreen you need overall, which is a win.