Everyone heading to a beach knows they always need to wear sunscreen to keep their skin healthy and protected. But do you know the disastrous consequences this could have for the ocean? Over 14,000 tons of sunscreen ends up in the water each year after washing off of swimmers, divers, and snorkelers. This has been directly linked to hurting marine animals and the death of coral reefs. Choosing the correct biodegradable sunscreen is more important than ever before.
Coral reefs around the world are in the worst condition they have ever been. They are not only beautiful to look at and fun to swim with, but are also one of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems in world by giving shelter to thousands of marine animal species. Unfortunately, 50% of the world’s reefs have already died in the last 30 years and it is estimated that up to 90% could die within the next century. This decline in reef population and health is due to a number of factors, from rising ocean temperatures to human pollution. Most of the reasons for coral reef decline are due to humans in one way or another. Some factors might be out of our individual control, but there are still ways you can make a meaningful difference.
Craig Downs of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory conducted a study that found that the sunscreens divers, snorkelers, and beachgoers wear when entering the ocean near a reef is dangerous to the coral. He found that the main ingredient oxybenzone, which is what soaks into the skin to block UVA and UVB rays, both bleaches and kills the polyps.
There does not have to be much oxybenzone in the water for these dangers to take effect. Just one drop of the chemical in six and a half Olympic swimming pools of ocean water is enough to kill coral. In several areas near popular beaches that have been tested, the levels were much higher than this. Compounded with the other stresses, there is little chance the coral reefs will be able to survive long.
There are two types of sunscreen that you can buy. The first kind, which is currently most brands, is chemical based. The oxybenzone is soaked into the skin and chemically keeps the UVA and UVB rays from being absorbed. While it does it’s job of protecting the skin, the consequences for the environment are tremendous. The better type of sunscreen is physical biodegradable sunscreen; the ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide combine to physically sit on top of the skin and reflect back the sun’s UVA and UVB rays similar to how a mirror works.
These physical biodegradable sunscreens do not pose the same danger to the coral reef because the chemicals are not present. Many tropical resorts saw the damage that the sunscreen has been causing and completely banned visitors from using it. The threat is so real that State Senator Will Espero of Hawai’i proposed a bill to ban the sale of oxybenzone based sunscreens in his state. It is not sure yet whether the rule will be adopted, but some version of it will likely be passed in locations with lots of coastal resources once they start seeing the deadly effects. In many places the economy is dependent on the ocean. Coastal resources including reefs add an estimated $800 million per year to the state of Hawaii's economy alone.
Mexitan biodegradable sunscreen is carefully formulated to not harm the coral reefs. The Coral Safe brand is perfect for people staying at an eco-friendly resort that requires reef safe sunscreen, and for the environmentally conscious consumer who cares about the marine animals and ecosystems they could disrupt. There are no harsh chemicals that can cause allergic reactions, and there is even green tea extract included with powerful antioxidant properties. Mexitan is safe around the ocean and healthy for the skin!
You can view our reef-safe, biodegradable sunscreen and other biodegradable products below: