You probably hear more and more about sun creams prohibited in certain places or " reef safe »(Safe for reefs in French). So is it a reality or even a marketing cost to make us buy more expensive sunscreens ?! Well, unfortunately, this is not the wind ... The latest research has clearly shown that sun creams classics destroy corals because of the use of certain chemicals which considerably accelerate their destruction (bleaching, disturbance of their DNA, increase in deformation, etc.). There is still time to act thanks to new "reef safe" sunscreens or " reef friendly »That appear on the market, but you still have to understand which ones to choose! I'm trying to decrypt all of this for you!
Context: As a diving professional I see this phenomenon every day, no matter what country I am in! Everyone puts on sunscreen to protect themselves from the sun, but we are not always well informed about these harmful effects.
ARTICLE GUIDELINES # Overview # Why are they harmful to corals? # Solutions: "reef safe", "reef friendly" creams # Countries that have already banned # Not only when you bathe # Product I recommend # My diving review
CORAL PROTECTIVE SUN CREAM NOTICE
- Most sunscreens we use everyday have components harmful to corals and destroy them.
- Of new terms appeared to define these creams but there is no specific label, are purely marketing terms ("reef safe", "reef friendly" ...)
- Even when we do not bathe / dive sunscreens can still end up in the sea: on the sand, in shower water…
- Creams should be used without oxybenzone and octinoxate and without nanoparticles.
- Many countries have already banned non reef safe sunscreens : Hawai, Palau, US virgin islands, Key west, Mexico (Playa del Carmen), Bonaire… and it's not over.
WHY SUN CREAMS KILL CORALS?
Component of sunscreens
- There are 2 types of sunscreen : chemical and physical (mineral).
- Creams chemical sunglasses:
- Use chemical ingredients to absorb UV: oxybendoze and octinoxate especially.
- Several studies have clearly shown theharmful impact on corals of these 2 components.
- Creams physical solar (or "natural") use mineral or natural ingredients that reflect the sun's rays like a mirror.
Consequences of the chemical components
- Corals are usually covered with zooxanthalles.
- These tiny creatures absorb light and use photosynthesis to create food for the coral.
- When corals get stressed due to pollution by chemicals found in sunscreens (same phenomenon with increasing water temperature), they expel the zooxanthalles.
- These tiny creatures are their main source of food and oxygen and also their colors.
- Some bleached corals are more vulnerable to disease, their growth is slowed down and the most will starve ...
Use sunscreens without oxybenzone and octinoxate.
Not only oxybenzones and octinoxates, but also nanoparticles.
- Oxybenzone and octinoxate are not the only causes.
- Sunscreens often contain nanoparticles so that the cream diffuses well into the skin.
- Yes but these nanoparticles are so small that they can be absorbed by marine life.
- These minerals are toxic to many marine species and can cause stress (ex: decrease the fertility of certain fish, damage the immune system of sea urchins, alter the photosynthesis of algae...)
- There are only 2 filters of natural origin: the " titaniun dioxide" and the " zinc oxide" , which are larger than 100 nanometers and therefore too large to be ingested by corals.
Use sunscreens without nanoparticles or "nano-free".
THE SOLUTION: USE "REEF SAFE" OR CORAL-FRIENDLY SUN CREAMS
New sunscreens have therefore appeared, but not always easy to analyze the true from the false in manufacturers' marketing and the terms used:
- " Reef-safe ": In French" safe for corals "
- " Reef friendly ": In French" respectful of corals "
- " Non-toxic for the reef ": In French" not toxic to corals "
Or play on popular terms:
- " Eco-friendly ": In French" respectful of the environment "
- " Organic ": In French" organic "
- " Natural ": In French" natural ", a little vague as a term ...
There is no regulation, lhe manufacturers write what they want on their packaging!
Not easy to sort…
What you should know is that to date (February 2020):
- There is no label or legislation given by the FDA (the body that regulates the authorized ingredients in sunscreens) defining a 100% cream that respects corals and marine life ("Reef safe").
- The terms “reef-safe” or “reef-friendly”
- Were created following Hawaiian law banning products using oxybenzone and octinoxate.
- These are the most used terms and suggest that the products used by their creams are respectful of corals.
- So we can almost be sure that these products do not use oxybenzone and octinoxate but that's it. Are they nano-free ?
Even if we don't know the details exactly, taking a "reef safe" or "reef friendly" cream is already a good step. If in addition, it is nano-free, you are in the right direction!
A MOVEMENT ALREADY ON THE MOVE (HAWAII, PALAU, etc.)
States or regions are really starting to take the subject very seriously and prohibit certain sunscreens that destroy corals:
- Hawai was the first to ban sunscreens using the components "oxybenzone and octinoxate "
- Followed : Palau, US virgin islands, Key west, Playa del Carmen, Bonaire...
TO KNOW: NOT ONLY WHEN WE SWIM / DIVE
- Even if you are not going to swim but you use a spray at the beach, some will go and settle on the sand and will have a good chance of end up at sea because of the tides or the wind.
- In many countries, shower waters end up in the sea, so even if you have not been close to the sea, you are still affected.
Sunscreen on sand or shower water also ends up in the sea
SOME PRODUCTS I RECOMMEND TO YOU
It was not easy but after researching the net here is what I recommend that respect all the characteristics that I gave you (there are plenty of others of course).
Niu SPF 30 mineral sunscreen - 50 ml - € 19.95
- A French company with a great product!
- The best value for money.
- Do not leave a white mark.
- Authorized in Mexico, Palau, Bonaire, Hawai ...
MY OPINION ON THE DETERIORATION OF CORALS BY SOAL CREAMS
If you read this blog it is that you are a diver, so you love corals and marine life. I hope this article has allowed you learn or discover a subject that particularly affects us but not only. Even if it is still complicated to share things on what the manufacturers tell us, we can already have the reflex to look for a eco-friendly cream : without oxybenzone, nor octinoxate and nano-free. Also be aware that the phenomenon also occurs when you are not in the water (spray on the beach, shower that spills into the sea). Go to reef safe sunscreen !
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