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There's been lots of talk about sunscreen filters that can cause coral-reef bleaching – some countries, including parts of the USA, have even banned them. Here's what you need to know.
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All sunscreen applied on humans is reef safe, whether it’s declared on the label or not.

Yep, you read that correctly. ALL SUNSCREENS ARE TECHNICALLY REEF SAFE. Obviously, that includes your favourite sunscreen – yay! So you don't have to remember what UV filters to avoid because it doesn't actually matter unless you're headed to a place that's decided banning a sunscreen ingredient or two is the most efficient way to combat climate change... or look like they're combatting climate change.

sunscreen and coral reefs IRL

There are much, much bigger, more immediate threats than sunscreen to coral health, and, as this updated (March 2022) Consumer Reports piece "The Truth About Reef Safe Sunscreen" says, the science is still inconclusive on whether UV filters worn by humans in the sea IRL is actually causing coral reefs harm. Results in a lab beaker don't necessarily translate to the real world and all its unpredictable factors and nuances, you know? (IRL stands for "in real life," by the way. I once had to ask what it stands for, too. *grin*) 

Posted this on @imabeautygeek on Instagram on, you guessed it, National Sunscreen Day *grin*

Posted this on @imabeautygeek on Instagram on, you guessed it, National Sunscreen Day *grin*

For one thing, the amount of sunscreen that comes off in the water while you’re swimming (let’s say near a reef) is an itsy-bitsy fraction of what could be considered dangerous for coral. Like the amount of dihydrogen monoxide you ingest in a day is a wee fraction of what could un-alive you via consumption, you know? #dosematters

Plus, people around you are likely wearing less than the correct amount of sunscreen to begin with, so there’s even less coming off in the sea than the study assumes.

Add to that the amount of water in the ocean and how currents work… you wearing whatever sunscreen at the beach is nothing compared to what global warming is doing to 🪸🪸🪸. Choosing sunscreens marketed via demonizing oxybenzone and octinoxate won’t protect coral reefs from further bleaching, nor will it fix climate change even the tiniest bit, much as we wish it could.

For facts and figures about reef-safe sunscreen filters, visit "Is Your Sunscreen Killing Coral Reefs" by Michelle Wong, PhD aka Lab Muffin Beauty Science if you haven't already seen it. Michelle explains the math as well as the science, and includes the reason coral expert Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies ranks sunscreen around 200 on a “list of negative human impacts on coral reefs.” (Spoiler alert: because evidence suggests humans and sunscreen filters aren’t directly involved in the worst cases of coral bleaching.)

locations that have sunscreen bans

If you're travelling to a location that thinks banning sunscreen filters will solve a climate change issue, though, you'll need a formula made without oxybenzone or octinoxate. At the moment, sunscreen-filter bans exist in Hawaii, Key West, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Florida Keys, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, Palau and Aruba. (Probably best to confirm approved options at your beach destination before you travel.)

Still worried? I get it. The data might not be conclusive, but no judgement if you would prefer to avoid SPF formulas that aren't labelled reef-safe. UPF 50+ swim and clothing are great options as well – they reduce the amount of sunscreen you need because you'll only need it for exposed skin.

Since every day is sunscreen day, I'ma wish you HAPPY SUNSCREEN DAY!

Is a "reef-safe" label something that you look(ed) for on sunscreen?

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