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Why Reef-Safe Sunscreen is Better for the Planet AND Your Skin!

why reef-safe sunscreen is better

Skincare enthusiasts will tell you that you should never miss sunscreen in your skincare routine. Whether you live in the tropics where the sun is out most parts of the year or not, you need to use sunscreen every time you step out of the house.

However, just any sunscreen that happens to be on sale is probably not the best option for your skin or the environment. Some sunscreen brands contain chemicals that may be harmful to you and coral reefs. 

It’s best to always choose a reef-safe sunscreen when shopping, especially if you will be swimming in the ocean. But, just because someone slapped a ‘reef safe’ sticker on the bottle doesn’t mean it is the best option for you or our oceans. 

Here’s a guide to understanding what to look out for when sunscreen shopping:

Chemicals to Avoid When Shopping For a Reef-Safe Sunscreen

Don’t let sunscreen packaging fool you into thinking that it contains safe ingredients. Always go through the list of ingredients before making a purchase. 

Some may not pose a known threat to your skin or health, but are still harmful to coral reefs. Exposure to these chemicals could damage or even kill reef systems. One issue that has become more obvious is coral bleaching. This is due to nanoparticles in the chemicals disrupting the growth cycles and reproduction of the corals. Other effects include growth abnormalities and DNA damage.

And … let’s be real, if these ingredients are killing sea life, do we really want to put them on our skin and risk it?

 Here are chemicals to watch out for that harm coral reefs (and often your body, too!):

  • Octinoxate 
  • Oxybenzone 
  • Homosalate
  • Parabens
  • Petrolatum (also known as mineral oil)
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
  • PABA
  • Triclosan
  • Micro-plastics like exfoliating beads
  • Titanium Dioxide (thought to be harmful to sea life)


Many of these have been found to also be hormone disruptors in humans and to cause other issues. Consider sunscreens that use physical UVB and UVA filters rather than chemical ones. This helps minimize coral reef deterioration and avoids adding toxic chemicals to your body!

Top Reef-Safe Sunscreens

Fortunately, there are many reef-safe sunscreen brands in the market today that are also great for your skin. And some places, like Hawaii, are going so far as to ban sunscreens that aren’t safe, so choosing a safe option is becoming easier!

These brands don’t use toxic chemicals to make their sunscreens, so their products are suitable for your skin and are also environmentally friendly. 

A few popular examples of reef-safe sunscreen include:

Supergoop! Mineral Sheer Screen

This natural sunscreen option from Supergoop! has an SPF of 30. It contains no harmful chemicals and leaves no white cast when you apply. It gently hydrates your skin and can also be used as a make-up primer.

Countersun Daily Sheer Defense

This sunscreen by BeautyCounter also has an SPF of 30. It’s lightweight enough to be used on babies and people with sensitive skin. It contains organic ingredients such as chicory root extract, which help hydrate the skin.

Raw Elements Certified Natural Sunscreen

Another 30 SPF option, Raw Elements users rave about its natural ingredients and ability to last through sweaty beach days and other outdoor activities. Plus, they get bonus points for offering it in plastic-free packaging!

It may not seem like a big deal, but having reef-safe sunscreen goes a long way in preserving aquatic life and it is a good bet for your skin as well. When buying sunscreen, ensure you get a brand that doesn’t threaten the environment or your health.

And when it is time to wash it off, don’t forget to have some of our lush natural castile soap on hand!

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