With summer just around the corner, swimmers, surfers and beach bums are reaching for the nearest sunscreen to prevent getting burned. While sunscreen is vital for keeping our skin safe, when selecting a brand we should make sure it keeps our ocean safe too. According to The National Park Service, every year between 4,000 and 6,000 tons of sunscreen infiltrate reef areas, and this number will only increase in the years to come.
Used for their UV-blocking properties in many popular sunscreen brands, research has shown that chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate are connected to coral bleaching. The Coral Reef Alliance published that oxybenzone can “increase a coral’s susceptibility to bleaching, damage coral DNA which interferes with reproduction, and cause deformities and growth anomalies.”
With reefs located right off of Sunset Cliffs and all throughout San Diego, selecting reef-safe sunscreen is an easy and conscientious decision we can make to care for the environment. Below are some student recommended reef-safe sunscreens for those looking to make the switch.
Neutrogena SheerZinc Mineral Sunscreen
Ivie Mazzola, a rising sophomore child and adolescent development major, recommends the Neutrogena SheerZinc sunscreen.
Mazzola switched to reef safe sunscreen almost a year ago after learning about the effects normal sunscreen has on reefs. She said it’s both an easy switch and not expensive.
“I like it because it is reef safe and gentle on my skin, yet gets the job done,” Mazzola said.
The only downside she mentions is “it leaves a subtle white cast, especially if you do not have very light skin.”
Raw Elements Face and Body Sunscreen
First-year graphic design major Cami Landreth goes for Raw Elements Face and Body Sunscreen when catching rays.
“I like this sunscreen because on top of its reef safe and wholesome ingredients, it stays on my face while I surf and doesn’t get all over my wetsuit or hair.”
Raw Elements offers tinted sunscreen, which avoids the dilemma of leaving a white cast like Neutrogena SheerZinc does.
Landreth made the switch a few years ago after moving to Kauai.
“I saw the impact non-reef safe sunscreen had on the reefs and sea life. All the toxic sunscreen from unaware tourists has over time turned all the reef lining along Kauai dead or barely alive,” Landreth said.
In 2018, Hawaii was the first state to ban sunscreens with oxybenzone. Landreth has first hand experience seeing her environment change over the years, especially during the pandemic.
“A year or so after Kauai was shut down from tourism, the reef and sea life were starting to flourish again,” Laudreth said.
She said it showed her how much the chemicals and toxins in regular sunscreen impacted the reefs and ocean life not just in Hawaii, but everywhere.
Salt & Stone Mineral Sunscreen Lotion
Salt & Stone sunscreen is recommended by first-year environmental science major Caitlyn Trainor, who made the switch after being informed about the effects of chemicals in most sunscreens like Landreth and Mazzola.
“I am passionate about protecting our beautiful planet and I love the ocean and all marine life, and without coral reefs, this will cease to exist.”
Each of these students has noticed reef-safe sunscreen becoming more popular and advocate for people to make small life decisions and habits that can contribute to making a difference in our oceans.
By: Katie Morris