Your Reef Safe Sunscreen Guide – 15 Sunscreens That Are Reef Safe

By Karen Rose

Hawaii is the first state in the US to ban the sale of sunscreen containing the coral-harming chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, ushering in a new era of reef safe sunscreen. The new law goes into effect January 1, 2021, but many visitors and residents are already trading in their non-reef safe sun protection.

Oxybenzone and octinoxate are two ingredients believed to contribute to coral bleaching. When coral bleaches, it is not dead, but under significant stress and subject to increased mortality levels. According to the National Park Service, 14,000 tons of sunscreen enter coral reefs every year. These now banned chemicals are believed to be one of the contributing factors to the coral reef destruction. Most popular sunscreen brands are known to contain these dangerous chemicals. These brands include Coppertone, Hawaiian Tropic and Banana Boat, to name a few. However, we are starting to see a trend of these big brands creating new, less toxic sunscreen lines such as Banana Boat’s Simply Protect which is made without oxybenzone & parabens.

Choosing the right sunscreen is important not only to protect skin from burns and cancer, but also to preserve our oceans and marine life. Selecting a sunscreen that is both effective and reef safe can be overwhelming.

Here is a check list to take along when shopping for sunscreen that will protect both your skin and the reefs, as well as a list of sun protection considered reef safe.

Sunscreen Ingredients to Avoid:

sunscreen

Trading in old sunscreen for reef safe versions. Photo: Cindy Ellen Russel / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

  • Avoid sunscreens containing petrolatum, commonly known as mineral oil, which takes years to biodegrade, and are known to be harmful or fatal to aquatic life and waterfowl.
  • Avoid sunscreens with high content of Titanium Dioxide. This mineral does not biodegrade and is found to react in warm seawater to form hydrogen peroxide which is harmful to all sea life.
  • Oxybenzone and octinoxate, the two chemicals recently banned in Hawaii and are believed to cause coral bleaching.

Reef Safe Sunscreen:

Hanauma Bay, Oahu, Hawaii. Photo: Napua Heen / Hawaii.com.


Here is a list of sunscreens considered to be reef safe. Made in Hawaii sunscreens are marked with an *asterisks.

  • *Mama Kuleana Waterproof SPF 30 Reef-safe Sunscreen
  • *Kokua Sun Care Hawaiian SPF 50 Natural Zinc Sunscreen
  • *Little Hands Hawaii SPF 35+ All-natural and Organic Sunscreen
  • Manda Organic SPF 50 Sun Paste
  • *Raw Love SPF 35 All-natural Mineral Sunscreen
  • Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen
  • All Good SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion
  • Babo Botanicals SPF 30 Clear Zinc Lotion
  • Suntegrity Natural Mineral Sunscreen
  • Badger SPF 30 Unscented Sunscreen Cream
  • Raw Elements SPF 30 Certified Natural Sunscreen
  • Stream2Sea SPF 30 Mineral Sunblock
  • Loving Naturals Clear Body SPF 30+ All-natural Sunscreen
  • Reef Safe Oxybenzone Free Biodegradable SPF 50 Sunscreen
  • Banana Boat Simply Protect SPF 50+ Sunscreen (spray, not lotion)

Many of these reef safe sunscreens are available at your favorite retailer.

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