What is reef-safe sunscreen and where can I buy it in Hong Kong?
By now, we should all be aware of the importance of wearing sunscreen (FYI, you should really wear some form of UV protection daily, not just when you’re out in the sun!). But beyond that, have you ever stopped to consider what your choice of SPF is doing to our coral reefs and marine life?
It’s a known fact that UV rays and sun exposure can cause sun burn, premature ageing and, most importantly, skin cancer; but we have to acknowledge that while we need to stay safe, our choice of sunscreen could be harming the environment in a big way. The numbers say it all: 14,000 tons of sunscreen are thought to wash into the oceans each year, while up to 82,000 chemicals from personal-care products may be tainting the seas*. These toxic ingredients not only lead to coral bleaching and the destruction of our reefs, but can also detrimentally affect marine life.
So, what can we do about it? While there are many enemies of reefs (plastic pollution and sewage to name but a few), our choice of sunscreen is one factor that we can completely control, and immediately! Luckily, scientific advances have made it possible for us to opt for “reef-safe” or “reef-friendly” sunscreen products, which use physical UVA and UVB filters as opposed to harmful chemical ones.
How Do I Know If A Sunscreen Is “Reef-Safe”?
It’s important to note that the term “reef-safe” and “reef-friendly” are not regulated, so you can’t always trust products with this description. A safer bet is to take a long, hard look at the ingredients list, and make sure to avoid sunscreen that contains the following:
- 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, octinoxate, butylparaben and 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, which cause coral bleaching.**
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. Here are a few of our favourites to help you get started…
Read more: Local Ethical Beauty Brands To Try Now
Reef-Safe Sunscreen We Love
Pai, British Summer Time Sensitive Sunscreen SPF 30, $313.50
Stream2Sea, Sunscreen For Body SPF 30, $260
Supergoop!, Play Everyday Lotion SPF 50, From $80
Thinksport, Sunscreen SPF 50, $135.73
Drunk Elephant, Umbra™ Sheer Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30, $285
Badger, Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30, $145.43
Goddess Garden, Everyday Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30, $326
Raw Elements, Face + Body Sunscreen, $195
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Lexi Davey on 5, June, 2018, and was most recently updated by Jessica Ng in April, 2021.
Please note that this article contains some affiliate links to products and we may receive commission for select purchases.
Featured image courtesy of Bagus Tri Kuncoro .J from Pexels, image 1 courtesy of Look Fantastic, image 2 courtesy of Stream2Sea, image 3 courtesy of Sephora, image 4 courtesy of iherb, image 5 courtesy of Sephora, image 6 courtesy of iherb, image 7 courtesy of iherb, image 8 courtesy of Raw Elements.