Warm, sunny days may be a distant memory here in New Zealand as the dreary winter days have well and truly set in. Sigh. So this one is for any Northern hemisphere readers (or those lucky enough to be going on holiday to the warmth!) who, as the days start to heat up, you are going to need to buy some sunblock to protect you and your family.
You may not realise that most common ‘off the shelf’ sunblocks are actually hiding a nasty secret. Oxybenzone (found in over 70% of sunscreens) is currently the number one dirty toxin used in chemical based sunscreens which is absorbed by our bodies and can be harmful to both us and our precious marine life.
As well as being better for our health, there are many benefits to choosing a “reef safe” or environmentally friendly sunscreen. Here are a few reasons to get you thinking….
Although we may not have abundant coral reefs here in New Zealand – other countries certainly do. It’s been proven that Oxybenzone directly affects corals by contributing to coral bleaching and possibly even more scarily, it also sacrifices the lives of 25% of marine species and entire ecosystems! More than 200 studies have provided evidence of the toxicity of nanoparticles in aquatic organisms.
Sunscreens have been found to be a culprit of contributing toxic chemicals into the environment. UV filters and other components such as UV stablizers have been found in the tissue of marine organisms and are known to kill microalgae.
Reef Safe sunscreens eliminate oxybenzone and protect your skin by using zinc oxide which is a mineral that sits on top of the skin, scattering, reflecting, and absorbing UVA & UVB rays.Zinc oxide has come a long way from the brightly coloured paints we used to smear across our noses and is the safest and most effective natural and active sunscreen ingredient and is not found to pose a threat to coral.
So when you’re out looking for a new sunscreen, try to find one that is biodegradable as this is more likely to have the double benefit of being reef friendly. Although there are no specific tests at the moment to determine if a sunscreen is reef friendly, any sunscreen that promotes they are biodegradable has to have certification of this from approved laboratories.
Remember that every drop counts, and if everybody continues to lather up in chemical based sunscreens just think about how many drops of oxybenzone will keep contaminating our oceans with a huge impact on our marine life, not to mention your own health. Slip, slop, slap and wrap – by being environmentally friendly!
To give you a helping hand, I’ve done the research for you and found three great options to make the switch nice and easy :