I know I already have an entire page dedicated to eco-friendly travel ideas. You can find it here. But occasionally I’ll deep dive into a subject here on the blog. I am a self-proclaimed unapologetic tree-hugger, and I go through life trying to leave the lightest footprint I can. That includes my traveling habits. Whenever possible, I take the extra time to research, purchase, and use eco-friendly and mindfully sourced products - bonus points if it’s made by a small business owner. A crusade near and dear to my hippie heart is that of reef safe sunscreen.

Aerial picture of sandy beach and ocean waves

What is reef safe sunscreen?
Hawaii recently became the first state in the country to ban chemical-laden sunscreens that have been scientifically shown to harm marine life and coral reefs. The ban doesn’t go into effect until 2021, but as a responsible ocean lover, you can start making the change now. The short version of the long scientific jargon: the chemicals in typical sunscreen run off of our skin and damage the coral reefs of our oceans. The damage to coral causes a domino effect on our ocean’s health, causing a myriad of issues. If we don’t act now, our children and their children will never know vibrant coral reef or clean ocean snorkeling.

So I can't bring my own?
Hawaii won’t ban you from bringing your own sunscreen in, but they will ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate within the state. Instead, physical sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide will be sold. These sunscreens are a little harder to apply, but mixing them with a bit of coconut oil makes them glide on and adds a little more SPF - coconut oil has a natural SPF of around 8. However, they work just as well when applied correctly. Many excursion companies in Hawaii won’t let you use certain sunscreens anyway - they’ll offer up their zinc based SPF before they let you in the water with the chemical stuff, so it’s best to just adjust accordingly and get on board with this change.

Underwater picture of small turtle amongst coral

It's our responsibility.
It’s a small price to pay for the health of our oceans. I recently snorkeled in Hawaii, off the coast of Lana’i, and the coral was significantly bleached. Many pristine snorkeling locations around the world, such as the drift snorkel in Taha’a, French Polynesia, are at risk for the same damage if humans don’t start to take responsibility for their actions. Our oceans demand a certain level of respect and care, and we must acknowledge that truth.

Want to make the switch to reef safe sunscreen, but unsure of where to start?
Here’s a list to get you started. Many are found online, and some can even be found in mainstream stores, such as Target.

  • Elemental Herbs Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30
  • Green Screen D Organic Sunscreen, Original, SPF 35
  • BurnOut Ocean Tested Physical Sunscreen, SPF 30
  • All Terrain KidSport SPF 30
  • Star Naturals Sunscreen Stick SPF 25
  • Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen
  • All Good SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion
  • Babo Botanicals SPF 30 Clear Zinc Lotion
  • Suntegrity Natural Mineral Sunscreen
  • Badger SPF 30 Unscented Sunscreen Cream
  • Raw Elements SPF 30 Certified Natural Sunscreen
  • Stream2Sea SPF 30 Mineral Sunblock

For a more comprehensive list of reef safe sunscreens, click here

Have you made the switch to reef safe sunscreen?
Share your favorite brand in the comments below!

All this talk of beaches, sunshine, and sunscreen make you want to up your eco-friendly travel game? I can help with that!