The Best Reef-Safe, Eco-Friendly Sunscreens.
The biggest foe to reef aquarium sunscreen is oxybenzone, an extremely dangerous ingredient usually found in cosmetic sunscreens. Not only does it get into your bloodstream very quickly, move into breast milk and urine, disrupt hormone production, and show links to prostate cancer, but it has toxic effects on both coral reefs and marine life at the same time. Reefs can be harmed by a sunscreen that contains oxybenzone. So if you’re looking for an effective sunscreen, don’t buy a cosmetic brand with this ingredient.
There are some good companies out there making an effective, reef-safe sunscreen that includes no oxybenzone. The reason they are safer is because all-natural alternative ingredients like Functional Keratin, green tea extract, or sea kelp (phytessence wakame) are included. These plant extracts provide antioxidants and protect against the harmful UVB rays from the sun. All-natural sunscreens are not only effective but have longer-lasting effects than typical cosmetic sunscreens with oxybenzone. Functional Keratin is effective in treating skin pigmentation disorders and acne, while green tea extract and sea kelp are beneficial in many other ways.
The other reason to use all-natural sunscreens is because they do not contain ingredients that cause harm to marine life and the reef. Most sunscreens sold today are made from petrolatum and mineral oil, which are petroleum based, not naturally occurring oils. This makes them a “no go” for healthy, natural marine life and reefs.
Oxygen depleted, open water, high nutrient-water content waters are like a closed feeding tank for thousands of seafood species. Because of constant feeding, these animals are highly susceptible to oxygen toxicity. Toxicity is exacerbated by human activities including improper disposal of trash and improper recycling. Reef-keepers and marine biologists face a constant struggle against both toxic wastes and direct sunlight at the same time.
Sunscreen contaminants pose a severe threat to both marine life and the reef; these contaminants have been found in the samples tested by the International Marine Reef Council. In the last two decades there has been a serious decline in the testing of sunscreen ingredients, as companies were more concerned about their profit margins than ensuring the safety of aquatic wildlife and the reef. Today, after pressure from politicians and watchdog groups, sunscreen companies have finally pledged to reduce and ban the banned sunscreen ingredient hydroquinone (aka Permit), which has been shown in scientific research to be a major cause of damage to the health and lifespan of both marine life and the reef.
But, until these pledges are met, it is important to use sunscreen products with natural sunscreens with no UV ray protective agents. Sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are a safe alternative to hydroquinone and will not cause this detrimental side effect. By using natural sunscreen agents, we can reduce both direct and indirect causes of death and diseases to both marine life and the reef. This is a win-win situation that will benefit both people and the environment. By taking immediate action, we can help our environment by protecting it from further destruction and prolonging the lives of our precious ocean dwelling creatures.