Top 5 Reef-Safe Sunscreens

By guest blogger Beth Alexander

Plenty of divers already know that sunscreen can damage coral. It’s been noted that “between 6,000 and 14,000 tons of sunscreen washes off into our coral reefs every year, accelerating the process of coral bleaching,” and it’s the common ingredient oxybenzone that’s to blame. The chemical has been shown to kill coral and cause DNA damage, which prevents coral in its larval stage from reaching adulthood by trapping it in its own skeleton, making it unable to float within currents for distribution. Oxybenzone has also been linked to coral bleaching, wherein corals expel the colorful algae living inside them, leaving the bleached-looking exoskeleton behind, and ultimately leading to coral-reef death.

It’s this marine damage, caused by the seemingly harmless task of applying sunscreen, that was the inspiration for the creation of a number of less-damaging products. And although it’s hard to known exactly what “reef-safe” means, any small effort to reduce the amount of oxybenzone pollution in our waters could mean that a coral reef survives a hotter-than-usual summer, or that a degraded area begins to recover. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of some of the top sunscreens currently on the market.


This eco-conscious company manufactures body-care products that are biodegradable and aquatic toxicity tested, so that they not only protect you and your family from the sun’s damaging rays, but also the planet’s waters. All products have been rigorously tested and the company guarantees that they’ve all been made with the safest possible ingredients. Check out the conscious diver kit, available with sunscreens and body lotions, which makes a perfect holiday gift for your favorite diver.

Green People

Green People is a UK-based small company that focuses on natural and organic skin-care products. They never test on animals and never use any harsh chemicals, even working alongside the Marine Conservation Society to highlight the growing impact sunscreens have on the marine environment.

Badger Healthy Body Care

New-Hampshire based Badger Healthy Body Care is a family run business that produces certified organic and natural skin-care products. The company offers a range of sunscreens, from products specifically formulated for babies and kids, to those that are meant to last up to 80 minutes underwater.

Raw Elements

Raw Elements, with the tagline “your skin, our ocean, one sunscreen,” specializes in sun and lip-care for water-based activities. Their Eco Formula 30 is water-resistant past 80 minutes, non-GMO and never tested on animals.

With these and so many more ecofriendly products now available, there’s no reason to sacrifice either your skin or the health of the world’s coral. If your favorite sunscreen isn’t on this list, be sure to check the list of ingredients and avoid known reef-damaging substances like the aforementioned oxybenzone, as well as butylparaben, octinoxate and 4-methylbenzylidine camphor.

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