Our posts may contain affiliate links.
Chances are you have been hearing more and more about the need to use “reef-safe” sunscreen. But what is “reef-safe” sunscreen and how do you find it? I’ll walk you through selecting the best sunscreen for your cruise!
While packing for our last Caribbean cruise, I realized all of our sunscreen had expired. And, while you can buy sunscreen onboard most cruise ships, it’s definitely not the most cost-effective route to go.
In the past, my top priorities for sunscreen were that it smelled amazing and did a serviceable job of keeping me from burning. However, for this trip, I was online shopping which meant I had to lean on reviews. I began to notice comments in reviews about “reef-safe” sunscreen and my interest was piqued. After a bit of research, what I learned was a wake-up call.
While it is believed that some chemical sunscreen ingredients are potentially hazardous to humans, these ingredients are incredibly toxic to sea life. Additionally, they are believed to be contributing to the destruction of our coral reefs. “From 6,000 to 14,000 tons of sunscreen slide off of humans into coral reef areas each year, exposing the gorgeous underwater ecosystems to chemicals that can kill them” (Vox, 2018). Because of damage to coral reefs and other sea life; Mexico, Hawaii, and parts of Florida have recently banned the use of chemical sunscreens.
What to look out for
- The terms “ocean safe” and “reef safe” are not regulated. Your best bet is to read ingredients.
- Avoid products with oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, PABA, triclosan, and parabans.
- Look for sunscreen that contains coated and “non-nano” ingredients. Nano-size particles, even in safer ingredients like zinc oxide, can penetrate the cells of humans and sea life.
- Note that chemical sunscreen ingredients may also be present in moisturizers, hair products, and cosmetics.
A better choice
Since we love to snorkel and have done two stingray excursions, choosing a better sunscreen was a no-brainer. After a ton of research, I selected a clear SPF 30 non-nano zinc formula from Babo Botanicals. No, it doesn’t smell like paradise, but it works like a dream and isn’t harming our oceans (or me). And I can save my tropical-scented products for shore days.
To learn more about sunscreen, please read the following articles:
- The Trouble With Ingredients in Sunscreen (Environmental Working Group)
- Is Your Sunscreen Bad for the Planet? Here’s How to Choose an Ocean-Safe Formula (Vogue, 2017)
- Hawaii is banning sunscreens that kill coral reefs (Vox, 2018)