Best Reef Safe Sunscreen

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Reef Safe sunscreen buying guide

Love to scuba dive and enjoy other underwater activities? Everyone loves to enjoy a long swim in the ocean and indulge in other water activities.

But if someone tells you that you are destroying the habitat of the underwater creatures by doing so? Terrible news to take all the fun out of these activities. The sunscreen you use to protect your skin from the harmful UV rays is silently murdering the coral reefs in the ocean.

DNA alteration, coral bleaching, and several other growth abnormalities are some of the house-warming gifts you are delivering to them by applying the cream and jumping in the ocean.

The irreplaceable damage can be further prevented by just making one simple change. Start using reef safe sunscreen. The product protects your skin and is safe for the underwater corals and other creatures.

Give a glance over the buying guide before selecting the appropriate reef safe sunscreen

It is crucial to know the product's ingredients and other features before blindly trusting the brand and applying it on your skin. The buying guide allows you to go through every aspect of the product and understand the pros and cons. You can then evaluate them easily and make the right decision to select the best product.

Read the guide till the end to get detailed information about reef safe sunscreen.

Save the Reef with Reef Safe Sunscreen

Damage to the Underwater Coral World

When you go scuba diving, applying sunscreen is the first thought that enters your mind. You put some on and only then dive in to explore the world that lies underwater. You are not the only one jumping in with sunscreen.

Do you know what happens when the sunscreen rubs off you and mixes with the ocean water, the home to coral reefs, and other species? The chemicals that make up that cosmetic drift onto the corals and its inhabitants. It builds up, and this accumulation continues until the corals are saturated with the chemicals that suffocate and kill them.

What happens to the inhabitants of the corals after it dies? They lose their homes, and their lives become endangered. One million species of fish that find a home in corals are rendered homeless and often perish. They are unable to contribute towards the health of the marine ecosystem because people do not use reef safe sunscreen!

Why Use Sunscreen?Advantages of reef-friendly sunscreen

Your skin is vulnerable to skin cancer, early aging signs, and severe burns if directly exposed to the sun. So not using sunscreen is a no-no. But even something as essential as sunscreen has chemicals that are harmful to the environment.

Sunscreen is made of chemicals like Octinoxate and Oxybenzone that cause irreparable damage to coral reefs. Switching to reef safe sunscreen will do a world of good to the fragile ecosystems.

Even if you do not plan on swimming or snorkeling, you can indirectly cause harm. When washing off the sunscreen at the end of the day, the residue can still travel from your sink to the oceans and kill corals. So picking out a reef-safe sunscreen can help you become environmental-friendly.

Things to Consider When Looking For the Appropriate Sunscreen

Water and Sweat Resistance

The degree to which sunscreen works well even when exposed to water measures its 'water and sweat resistance.' No sunscreen can last extremely long when swimming or sweating non-stop, so no sunscreen is deemed waterproof or sweat-proof.

To test water and resistance, sunscreens have tests that give them one of two ratings: either it will remain water-resistant for 40 minutes or 80 minutes. Such tests are often FDA approved and true to word. You can choose the sunscreen according to your time preferences.

Constituents of the Sunscreen

The ingredients that make up a sunscreen are regulated by the FDA to ensure that it is safe for use on skin. However, some of these constituents are not exactly environment friendly but remain widely used because they increase the effectiveness of the cream to fight against sun-rays.

  1. Octinoxate

This chemical is especially banned in regions like Hawaii because of its ill effects on coral reefs' health. Often, some sunscreens label themselves as reef safe sunscreens because of not using Octinoxate, but they may contain other ingredients that harm the corals. So, they do not always fulfill the criteria for being reef safe sunscreens. You must remain beware of such products.

  1. Oxybenzone

This chemical has caused the maximum harm to coral reefs, and so, this is also banned in regions with marine ecosystems like Hawaii. It is highly used because of the strong protection it provides against UV rays, but the health hazard it creates is not limited to marine life. It has been found in the blood samples of users. This result has increased caution and led to the limitation of its use in sunscreens. Lack of this chemical makes the sunscreen reef safe.

  1. Parabens

These are found in many skin-care products because they act as preservatives to increase the products' shelf-life. It has been implicated in causing coral reef bleaching and causing damage to coral DNA. It is preferred that sunscreens be paraben-free to make it reef-safe sunscreen.

  1. Para Amino Benzoic Acid (PABA)

This chemical is known to be a health hazard for its users. Health researchers claim that it causes an allergic reaction as well as photosensitivity in some people. You must steer clear of the sunscreens using this chemical as it will cause more harm than it will prevent. Sunscreens that do not use this chemical have labels like PABA-Free and are reef safe sunscreens.

  1. Fragrances

Ever wonder how sunscreens smell so nice apart from their primary function of protection against direct sun exposure? Chemicals that are added to sunscreens to make them fragrant cause itchiness and irritation in the eyes. They can also cause the user to have allergic reactions. They are not a necessity for sunscreen, and it is better to use sunscreens that avoid its usage. Especially for children and adults who swim or sweat, fragrance-free sunscreens are a wiser choice.

  1. Zinc Oxide

Such natural constituents often make sunscreens much safer to use than those that make use of synthetic chemicals. The mineral ingredient makes the sunscreen very effective in fighting against UVA and UVB rays, so protection is ensured without harm to the user or the environment. It is labeled as a reef safe sunscreen ingredient.

  1. Nano particles

These incredibly small particles can easily enter the skin cell membrane. This feature can prove to be an advantage if you are looking for longer and deeper protection, but can also serve to be dangerous. Recent researches do not find nanoparticles posing a threat or risk to the environment.

SPF Rating

The Sun Protection Factor or the SPF tells us how well a sunscreen can protect us against sun exposure and the accompanying UV Rays. When we apply sunscreen, we wish for maximum protection against sunburns and skin cancers caused by the extremely harmful UVB rays.

Different rating of the scale of SPF is given below.

  1. SPF 15 blocks approximately 93 percent of the UVB rays. It is the minimal SPF rating that is recommended by dermatologists for any type of sun exposure.
  2. SPF 30 protects the skin against 97 percent of the UVB rays.
  3. SPF 50 prevents damage from 98 percent of UVB rays. It is the most preferred SPF rating for extreme exposure to the sun.
  4. SPF 100 blocks approximately 99 percent of the harmful UVB rays.

It is essential to note that no SPF rating can provide protection against 100 percent of the UV rays. With increasing SPF ratings, the harm that the sunscreen will cause the skin also increases.

The use of SPF 100 may seem ideal for maximum protection, but dermatologists recommend nothing more than SPF 50. It is because the protection factor only has a marginal difference. So using SPF 30-50 is ideal for protection and sun as well as for safe use.

Rules for Application

Generous and copious amounts of sunscreen must be applied to cover not only the face, but ears, neck, and other exposed body parts before stepping into the sun. There are mainly three rules to adhere to apply sunscreen for maximum protection.

  1. Two Hour Rule

This rule states that sunscreen must be reapplied every 2 hours when you are in constant sun exposure. This frequency should increase if you are in contact with water like swimming or sweating profusely. If this is not followed, the effect of the applied sunscreen will wear-off, and your skin will become vulnerable to skin burns and other harmful consequences.

  1. Time of the Day Rule

The sun is at its brightest and scorching at certain times during the day. This is when it can harm you the most, so this time of the day – 10 am to 2 pm – must be kept in mind. Limit your exposure to the sunlight during this interval.

  1. When to Apply Rule

According to dermatologists, it requires at least 30 minutes for the sunscreen to soak into the skin and prepare the shield. So, instead of applying it right before stepping outside, give it about half-an-hour to prepare its protective shield.

Broad Spectrum

The ultraviolet radiation of the sun rays is extremely harmful to the skin. There are two types of ultraviolet rays, namely UVA and UVB rays. Most sunscreens provide protection against UVB rays alone. Such sunscreens do not ensure full protection against the sun rays because UVA rays are just as harmful. They pose the threat of skin cancer development as well as premature aging of the skin.

Broad-spectrum sunscreen was developed to protect your skin from both types of UV radiation. The SPF ratings that indicate the degree of protection against UVB rays are not available for UVA protection. However, according to the FDA, the UVA protection level is often closely proportional to UVB protection. It is thus important to opt for broad-spectrum sunscreen to shield your skin against the two types of ultraviolet rays.

Additional Protection of the Skin

As the saying goes, you can never be too careful. It is important to shield yourself against all the dangers that the sun poses. Especially if you plan on spending a long time outside, the sun exposure needs to be minimized through more than just emptying bottles of sunscreen.

While applying sunscreen remains predominant in safety against UV rays of the sun, there are other methods to resort to so that you can ward off the sunburns and threats of skin cancer completely. Fairer skins have the least amount of melanin and are often, at most risk. So the following are a few additional ways to protect your skin.

  1. Shade

The middle of the day is when the sun shines brightest, and the rays are at their peak intensity. Exposure to the sun in these peak hours can cause the worst possible burns and contribute greatly to skin cancer development.

Even the most generous amounts of sunscreen with the highest SPF may fail you at times like these. So the best option may be to seek shade whenever possible. If remaining indoors is not a feasible option, there are other ways of remaining in the shade. The cool shadows of the trees or using an umbrella can make all the difference.

  1. Hats

When it comes to the face, the extra protection of hats can do a lot of good in addition to the sunscreen. They add an aesthetic to your look and provide a shield against the scorching sun to your scalp, ears, and face. Even for children, caps or baseball hats remain a good choice for the extra layer of safeguarding the skin against the harmful sun rays.

  1. Clothing

A long day in the sun for unavoidable reasons can be remedied with apt clothing. You can layer yourself adequately with clothes that cover you perfectly to reduce the chances of direct exposure to the skin. This may include wearing full sleeves tops and full pants. Long skirts remain a viable option as they are breezy and prevent sun exposure all the same.

Colors also make a huge difference. Darker colors will offer more protection against the UV rays than lighter colored clothing. The make of the fabric can also contribute to the protection factor. Tightly woven materials will not allow the sun rays to penetrate. Further, a wet t-shirt will provide negligible UV protection when compared to dry clothing.

  1. Sunglasses

The skin around the eyes is extremely sensitive, so more protection for the skin against sharp sun rays is crucial. Eye strain from squinting in the sun can cause damage. This can be rectified with the use of sunglasses. They cover your eyes from direct exposure and allow you to see without straining your eyes. The more coverage that is provided by the sunglasses, the better it protects your eyes.

Tips to Safely Apply Sunscreen

  • Sunscreen must be applied thoroughly and generously without missing any spot for maximum protection. One of the essential steps is to put on sunscreen and apply copious amounts of it. There should be enough to cover every inch of your face and other body parts that may be directly exposed to the sun like the ears or the tops of the feet. These are often neglected, but they are as prone to sunburns as any other body part.
  • You must apply sunscreen 30 minutes before stepping into the sun. This will give the sunscreen to soak in and begin its work of shielding your skin. Simply putting on sunscreen at the last minute and moving out will not help you derive maximum protection.
  • Use a minimum of SPF 15, although a better choice would be SPF 30 or SPF 50. It will help with blocking the maximum amount of harmful UV rays that make you vulnerable to skin burns, premature skin aging, and even contribute to skin cancer.
  • It is necessary that you choose the SPF and the amount of sunscreen to be applied along with taking other measures depending on your skin type.
  • Fair people should use more sunscreen and reapply it more often because their skin type is more likely to absorb solar energy. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours to get the maximum benefits.

Treating a Sunburn

A sunburn can prove to be very nasty and painful. It is a result of direct exposure to sun rays for a relatively long time. If the measures of protection against sun and UV rays fail or are not followed, the following are ways to treat a sunburn.

  • For immediate relief, a cool object like an ice pack must be compressed around the affected area. It may be followed by a cool bath or a shower so that the burn is soothed. Ensure that you do not run against the infected area with your hand or a towel. Pat yourself dry.
  • Moisturizers containing aloe vera can hasten the healing of the burn.
  • Keep out of the sun for as long as it takes to heal the burn perfectly. Stay indoors and, if not feasible, stay in the shade as much as possible. Keep your surroundings cool by switching on the air conditioner.
  • For extreme swelling and pain, you may resort to over the counter drugs like ibuprofen. This can help with the discomfort or redness.
  • Keep yourself well-hydrated. Getting sunburned can cause the body to dehydrate, and the affected area often draws all the fluids from the body towards it. Hydration with water, juice, or sports drinks can help replace easily drawn out body fluids and fasten the healing process.
  • In case of a second-degree burn, you may have blisters. You should ensure that you do not pop them. If, after a bit of healing, the skin begins to peel, do not pick on it.
  • You should take care of the burn until it is fully healed. Avoid wearing clothing that might rub off against it and irritate it. Cover the burn in case you have to go outside.
  • Several home remedies like apple cider vinegar, baking soda, and oatmeal bath can help the burnt area get better quickly.


  1. Should I opt for a rub-on lotion or spray can variant of the product?

Rub on lotion is a better option to opt then the spray can variant. In spray can, several droplets fall on the sand base of the ocean and can mix with the ocean water easily due to shore wash-off. These droplets then can lead to coral bleaching and cause other harmful effects to the water creatures. Also, in rub-on lotion, there is no wastage of the product.

  1. Is it suitable to invest in mineral sunscreen, or am I just being duped?

No, the mineral sunscreen is much better than the chemical ones as they do not cause damage to the corals underwater. You are playing an important role in saving the underwater flora and fauna.

  1. What is special about non-nano sunscreen?

The particles in the non-nano sunscreen are bigger than 100 nanometers. Corals underwater are unable to ingest these particles and remain safe from the harmful effects of sunscreen.

  1. Are all ingredients safe in sunscreen?

No, not all the ingredients are safe in sunscreen, especially for the coral reefs. Here are two ingredients to avoid:

Titanium Dioxide: The substance is highly volatile in harm water and produces hydrogen peroxide when it comes in contact with it. Hydrogen peroxide is harmful and fatal for several underwater creatures.

Petrolatum: The substance is very sturdy and takes a long time underwater to biodegrade. This makes it a fatal substance for underwater creatures.

Final Verdict

The Earth does not belong to the human only. We have inherited it like many other creatures, and it is our duty not to damage it for them. Investing in reef safe sunscreens is an efficient and simple step towards protecting the underwater flora and fauna.

In this guide, we have listed all the crucial points of the product to help you select the best sunscreen. Take a suitable decision and take your first step in protecting the aquatic life. / - © Copyright 2020