Next time you slather on that sunscreen, think about what it’s doing to the environment around you.

It’s common knowledge that wearing sunscreen is not only your best defense against anti-ageing, but also against sunburn and skin cancer. We’re all for shielding our skin from damaging UV rays, but we might also be damaging the coral reefs in the process.

In 2018, Hawaii became the first state in the US to ban the sale of sunscreens that contain two common ingredients in the product: oxybenzone and octinoxate. While they’re both commonly used UV blockers worldwide, they’ve also been deemed potentially harmful to aquatic life — most alarmingly, coral bleaching. Other ingredients like octocrylene, homosalate, and octisalate have also been found to be potentially damaging to marine life.

[Hero Image Credit: Mael Balland/Unsplash; Featured Image Credit: Wei Ding/Unsplash]

It’s important to note, however, that there’s still no agreed-upon definition of what constitutes a “reef-safe” product. The lack of government regulation means that manufacturers aren’t required to test every single product before it goes on the market.

This doesn’t mean that you should totally abandon sunscreen, Instead, proper knowledge of ingredients are key to ensuring that you leave as little chemical footprint as you can while in the ocean. Besides avoiding the ingredients mentioned above, mineral (aka physical) sunscreens with “non-nano” zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are also better alternatives for coral reef health because they sink and become part of the ocean sediment instead of dissolving in the ocean and potentially threatening marine life.

If you truly want to make a difference however, there are more reef-friendly steps you can take. Wearing clothing with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor), for example, will require lesser sunscreen to be applied while still giving you the same amount of protection.

While it’s important we do everything we can, climate change is still the number one cause for coral reef death and marine life endangerment all over the world, so making informed decisions about every purchase you make — not just sunscreens — can make a big difference.

Here are the best reef-safe sunscreens that will be kinder to the environment.

This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore


Designed to provide broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection while mitigating the effects of HEV light (including blue light) and pollution, this organic, oil-free formula contains the brand’s proprietary plant-derived Full Spectrum 360° Complex, and is filled with antioxidants, plant stem cells and niacinamide to promote radiant, youthful skin. The transparent non-nano zinc oxide also makes for a good base under makeup, and most importantly, has been tested to be Hawaii Reef Friendly by not containing oxybenzone and octinoxate.

THB 1900
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Powered by 22 percent non-nano zinc oxide, this oxybenzone-free, broad-spectrum SPF delivers the best possible protection against UVA and UVB rays without further damaging the ocean. For those with oily skin, this one has rice starch to help keep the skin matte all day, while yellow passion fruit seed extract provides antioxidants that support skin‘s internal defense system, providing even more protection from pollution and free radical damage in the long run.

THB 325
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Formulated with 20-percent non-nano zinc oxide, antioxidant-rich algae extract, and sunflower sprout extract to provide UV and free radical damage protection, this sunscreen is a godsend for those who want a multi-tasking hero. The lightweight and sheer formula not only offers protection from environmental aggressors, but also leaves no chalky or greasy finish on your skin.

THb 1320
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Shatricia Nair
Shatricia Nair is a motoring, watches, and wellness writer who is perpetually knee-deep in the world of V8s, tourbillons, and the latest fitness trends. She is fuelled by peanut butter and three cups of coffee a day.