How reef safe is your sunscreen?

Summer is coming! Who else is as excited as a 5 year old on Christmas Eve?

For me, summer means longer days, shorter skirts, long nights on “terrasse” drinking wine with some friends but also and that’s probably my favorite part, THE BEACH.

To say that I’m an ocean lover would be an understatement. Going to the seaside, wherever in the world, is one of my favorite thing to do in the whole world, even more lately since I’ve become a certified diver and I can now go see what’s going on under the surface.

And one of the first thing I found out while learning about the underwater world is that our summer habits such as putting sunscreen to avoid looking like a lobster are not entirely harmless to our friends below the water. Yep, we've been told for decades that we should apply sunscreen thoroughlyto avoid getting cancer and other skin problems but we've never been told about the impacts that those chemicals are having on biodiversity. But hey, here are a few explanations and tips on what you can do to prevent that (I promise it doesn’t include looking like a tomato for the rest of your holidays)!

Oxybenzone and other chemical stuff

Oxy-what? you’re probably thinking. Oxybenzone is a chemical used in many sunscreen brands to protect our skin from the damages of UV light. Such as skin cancer Pretty useful right? Well, not so much for the ocean.

The chemical has been found to poison corals in several ways:

·      Increases bleaching (a phenomenon during which coral reject symbiotic organisms and lose their color)

·      Has the same effect on coral DNA as gasoline

·      Disrupts reproduction and growth

·      Causes deformities and growth anomalies

If that’s not sad enough, studies have found that every effect above can take place with very low doses of the chemicals : the equivalent of one drop of water in 6,5 Olympic pools! How crazy?

The product enters the water when people go swimming or when when they spray themselves with aerosols as the spray mostly falls on the sand and then gets washed into the sea when tide is high or falls into sea turtle nests.

Now you’re probably thinking, “ Of course I don’t want to hurt the corals or baby turtles but if I still want to go to the beach and get a tan, what are my options?”. I got you covered, keep reading.

Biodegradable and mineral filters

If you want to favor sunscreens that are not harmful to the marine biodiversity, the first advice is to READ THE LABEL. Indeed, sunscreens made with zinc oxide or titanium oxide are biodegradable which means it will wash off during your swimming or scuba diving without harming the local ecosystem. Moreover, these are mineral physical filters meaning they create a physical barrier between the sun and your skin rather than a chemical one.

Overall, the chemicals you really want to stay away from are PABA, oxtinoxate, oxybenzone (you again!), 4-methylbenzylidene, camphor and butylparaben as they are the most known to cause damage to the reefs. Also, if possible avoid spray-on sunscreens as the risk of it dropping on the sand is higher than with a cream.

My personal favorite is the cream from Acorelle, a french organic brand from the South West that ensures that its products are reef safe.

But if you’re not in France or Europe, here are a few brands I found to be respectful of our environment.

And most importantly, don't forget to PUT IT ON GENEROUSLY! Nobody ever thought lobsters were sexy ;)