Have you ever wondered what happens to your sunscreen after you jump into the ocean? It’s been estimated that 14,000 TONS of it ends up washing off of people and accumulating in coral reefs each year. Not only does this mean less protection for your skin; it’s also harming the environment. In fact, marine biologists have shown that certain sunscreen chemicals can be toxic to coral reefs. That’s why I have been encouraging my patients to choose "reef-safe" sunscreens.
A few months ago, lawmakers in the state of Hawaii passed legislation that would ban the sale of sunscreens containing ingredients such as oxybenzone, which has been shown to damage coral DNA, leading to bleaching (death) of coral reefs. Starting this summer, you will be seeing more sunscreens labelled “reef-safe,” which indicates that they do not contain this ingredient.
Here’s how you can help the environment while still protecting your skin from UV rays:
· Wear a rash guard or swim shirt when you’re in the water, and cover up with sun protecting clothing when you get out of the water. Your skin will be less exposed, so you won’t have to use as much sunscreen.
· Choose reef safe sunscreens. These typically contain non-nano particle zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, which are inert minerals that have not been shown to harm marine life.
· Use water resistant formulas that are less likely to wash off.