Reef-Safe Sunscreen Brands That You Can Buy in Hong Kong
Whether you’re on a junk or kicking back on a beach this summer, we’ve put together a list of sunscreens that won’t harm coral reefs if you are swimming, snorkelling or scuba diving
We all have memories of our mum slathering us in SPF50 (with a long-sleeve rash vest to boost) and bathing in coconut-scented tanning oil on our girl’s trip to Phuket, because it’s been ingrained in our minds that if we’re in the sun, we need to be protected from it. If we don’t, we burn, right? But beyond ‘slipping on a shirt, slopping on the sunscreen and slapping on a hat’ we never really take notice of the deeper implications our trusty SPF has on our coral reefs and marine life!
Researchers have estimated that between “4,000 to 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen wash off swimmers annually in oceans worldwide, and that up to 10 percent of coral reefs are threatened by sunscreen-induced bleaching” [source: National Geographic]. Even the smallest amount has been found to react with the algae and bleach coral in just four days. It’s a known fact that UV rays and sun exposure can cause sun burn, premature ageing and, most importantly, skin cancer, but we need to acknowledge that while we still need to stay safe, our choice of sunscreen could be harming marine life in a big way. Unlike personal care or cosmetic products, there aren’t any federal regulations for defining which sunscreen products are ‘natural’ or ‘green’, so knowing which products make the cut for coral-safe consumption isn’t always easy. In fact, according to reef-safe favourite, Stream2Sea, “some brands will add a very small percentage of an ingredient in their products, then put safe, natural, green or organic on the label,” which in their words, “is not only misleading, but is really not cool.” And while we can only hope that more countries will follow in Hawaii’s footsteps and pass a bill to ban sunscreen that can harm coral reefs, as individuals we all have the power to make small changes by switching to products that don’t contain harmful ingredients. The reef-safe stuff works just as well (if not better!).
There are many enemies of reefs (plastic pollution and sewage to name but a few), but this is one factor that we can completely control, and immediately! Sadly, many reef-safe brands aren’t available on the shelves in Hong Kong just yet, but we’ve listed a couple of our favourites that can easily be bought online and shipped to your door. Just be sure to double check labels and avoid sunscreen which contain the following:
- High contents of Titanium Dioxide, which can’t be broken down and has been found to react with warm seawater to form hydrogen peroxide, which is harmful to all sea life.
- Products which contain petrolatum (commonly known as mineral oil), which is harmful, even fatal, to marine life and birds. It takes years to biodegrade.
- Oxybenzone and octinoxate, which cause coral bleaching.