Saving the Coral Reefs with the Right Sunscreen

On May 1st, 2018, Hawaii became the first state to pass a bill banning the sale of sunscreen containing chemicals believed to harm coral reefs. Beginning January 1st, 2021, Hawaii will completely ban the sale, offer of sale or distribution of any sunscreens containing oxybenzone or octinoxate (also labeled as benzophenone-3 and octyl methoxycinnamate) without a prescription from a licensed health care provider.


Why oxybenzone and octinoxate?

These two ingredients do help to protect our skin from UV rays, but they also cause bleaching, deformities, DNA damage, and often lead to eventual death of the coral.  

It has been estimated that about 14,000 tons of sunscreen are deposited in oceans annually and the greatest destruction has been found in popular reef areas like Hawaii and the Caribbean. Coral reefs are essential members of marine ecosystems; they protect beaches from erosion and even support biodiversity.


Can sunscreen do damage even if I am not near Hawaii?

The problem is more of a local-issue but it is definitely encouraged for everyone to use reef-safe sunscreens. Oxybenzone and octinoxate have been found in waters all over the world. Another thing to note is that, oxybenzone has a half life of 2.4 years in seawater. Because of this, when something like a sewage plume or a popular swimming area (which are full of washed-off sunscreen) drains into coastal waters, it could potentially damage the reefs.


How else can I protect myself from the sun?

It is so simple for us to do our part to save the reefs, while still protecting our skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Sunscreens with ingredients like non-nano zinc oxide or non-nano titanium dioxide work great because they place a physical barrier between your skin and the sun’s rays.


  • All Good SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion

This sunscreen is lightweight, water-resistant, and non-nano zinc oxide-based. The formula is rich in organic green tea, rose hips, and buriti oil which are all great for repairing damaged skin.

To buy: 






  • Raw Elements SPF 30 Certified Natural Sunscreen


This sunscreen is biodegradable, reef-safe, and water resistant for up to 80 minutes.

To buy: 


  • Stream2Sea SPF 30 Mineral Sunblock

This mineral based sunscreen contains a powerful antioxidant blend of green tea, tulsi, wakame seaweed, and olive leaf.

To buy: 



  • Loving Naturals Clear Body SPF 30+ All Natural Sunscreen


This all natural sunscreen contains non-nano zinc oxide, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, beeswax, honey, and sea salt. It was rated one of the best sunscreens for kids in 2017.

To buy: 



  • Mama Kuleana Waterproof SPF 30 Reef-safe Sunscreen


This is my personal favorite! I love the way it feels on my skin and the fact that it is a Maui-based company. It contains organic shea butter, organic coconut oil (another favorite of mine), and organic almond oil.

To buy: 


For a more information on sunscreen alternatives, check out this Sunscreen 101 article. 


Want to get involved?

Be Reef Safe  is taking initiative to help improve the reef ecosystem in every way. One of their campaigns is to help improve the very popular reef habitat at Molokini Crater in Maui. For more information or to join their efforts visit

Be Reef Safe is also interested in encouraging consumers and businesses to make choices that positively affect our oceans and reefs. To check out and support stores that sell reef-safe products visit







Pictures from:

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