Sunscreen & Coral Reefs | How to Enjoy The Reefs Without Destroying Them
Time recently published an article, How Sunscreen May Be Destroying Coral Reefs, about sunscreen’s toxic effects on coral reefs. It explained how an ingredient found in many sunscreens called oxybenzone, damages coral reefs and their DNA, causing problems for both current and future reefs. In addition to hurting the makeup of coral, the ingredient also “exacerbates coral bleaching, a process by which coral reject symbiotic organisms and lose their color.” It only takes the equivalent of a drop of oxybenzone in an Olympic size swimming pool to contaminate the ecosystem and “cause toxic effects” on the reefs.
With El Nino’s warmer weather coming this winter, the coral reefs of the world will be under duress and at risk for coral bleaching from increased water temperatures. According to an article published by Chris Mooney in the Washington Post, “Coral bleaching occurs when warm ocean waters — considerably warmer than corals evolved to live with for an extended period of time — leave the organisms stressed and cause them to banish the symbiotic algae that provide corals with both their color and also nutrients. Without them, corals turn white, and become very vulnerable — thus, following bleaching, coral die-off can occur. How much coral death happens depends on how much temperature stress the corals actually experience, and how prolonged it is.” Scientists are witnessing a worldwide coral bleaching event that is expected to last two years, putting our world’s corals under immense stress.
Add to this the sunscreen many of us wear when we snorkel, and the reefs have a lot working against them. Without taking the right precautions, we are damaging the reefs we travel so far to admire.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP THE CORAL REEFS WHILE STILL ENJOYING THEM?
WEAR A SUN SHIRT INSTEAD OF SUNSCREEN | Most sun shirts are 50 SPF and come in a variety of styles and prices. Added bonus: it takes so much less time to put on a shirt that it does to lather on sunscreen. This means more time enjoying the ocean and less time getting ready! Here are a few of our favorite sun shirts:
WOMEN'S SUN SHIRTS
MEN'S SUN SHIRTS
USE SUNSCREEN THAT DOESN'T CONTAIN OXYBENZONE | There are a number of natural and organic sunscreens made without this toxic chemical, but some smell and feel better than others. Our favorite is Alba Botanica Hawaiian Sunscreen SPF 30. Not overly expensive, rubs in well and smells nice. Available at Target, Sprouts, and Whole Foods.
SUNSCREENS TO AVOID (CONTAIN OXYBENZONE) | Neutrogena, Banana Boat, Hawaiian Tropic
Not Recommended: Badger | Feels like you are lathering on honey and does not rub in. Essentially think of a thick, sticky, almond colored paste.
Enjoy the reefs!