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Reef-Safe Sunscreen: Why It Matters

Today is Sunscreen Day – a day where we can collectively spend some time thinking about the importance of protecting our skin from the sun. As a brand made for the summertime and perfect for the pool, beach, and other warm-weather outdoor activities, Tidewater Sandals is all in on Sunscreen Day.

Here’s the thing, though – it’s bigger than just remembering to wear sunscreen. We should also all be paying attention to the TYPE of sunscreen we’re using, and choose formulas that will be safe for our oceans as well as protect us from the sun’s harmful rays. (Related note: Vitamin D has amazingly beneficial elements, including decreased risk of heart attack, heart failure, and stroke, as well as being a mood booster, so it's great to be in the sun  just protect your skin in the process!)

Since Hawaii and the Florida Keys both passed legislation that banned the sale of sunscreens with ingredients that harm coral reefs by 2021, there’s been lots of buzz about this issue nationwide. But what sunscreen ingredients are unsafe for ocean life? And how can we make smart decisions about the sunscreen we buy?

We’re glad you asked!: 

  • How does sunscreen get into the ocean? When we swim and shower while wearing sunscreen, the sunscreen washes off and enters the marine environment.
  • What should I look for on labels? Two of the ingredients that are especially harmful for coral reefs and other marine life are oxybenzone and octinoxate, so it’s best to look for sunscreen formulas that don’t include those ingredients.
  • But, how much of an issue is this, really? The National Park Service says that between 4,000 and 6,000 tons of sunscreen enter reef areas every year, and they damage reefs by bleaching them and killing them. (can we find an image to use here and then use an image alt tag with this text “coral reef sunscreen)

coral reef sunscreen

  • Can sunscreen solve it? Sunscreen certainly isn’t the only threat to coral reefs, but it IS one we have more control over than others, which is why we’re starting to see this kind of legislation pass.
  • Where can I find sunscreen that passes the test? There are many online resources with suggestions on safe sunscreens to try. For example, Hawaii published this list of both sunscreens to avoid and safer options to try

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