What is reef safe?
Products that are considered to be reef safe are free from ingredients that are toxic or otherwise harmful to coral and/or other marine life that exists in coral reef ecosystems.
Currently, there is no official definition for what constitutes a reef safe product and therefore this isn’t strictly regulated by governments. To ensure that products are as reef safe as possible, we use the broadest definition of the term to ensure adherence to the goal of protecting coral reefs and marine life inhabiting the unique habitats and ecosystems they form.
Why it matters
Known as the “rainforest of the sea”, coral reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems on earth. Despite only occupying 1% of the ocean floor, coral reefs are home to over 25% of all marine species, including over 4000 species of fish. Reefs also play an integral role in coastal ecosystems by forming barriers that protect shorelines from waves and storms.
Factors including overfishing, coastal development, pollution, tourism, and the effects of climate change (notably warming seas and increasing levels of CO2 in the water) are causing coral reefs to die at an alarming rate. According to a 2011 study: “Unless steps are taken to reduce local pressure and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, the percent of threatened reefs will increase to more than 90 percent by 2030 and to nearly all reefs by 2050.”
Why you might want to choose reef safe products
Certain ingredients commonly found in sunscreen and other personal care products, particularly those you might use at the beach or in the ocean, have been found to be highly damaging to corals, causing bleaching, deformity, and even death of the coral itself.
Oxybenzone and octinoxate, two of the most commonly used UV blockers in conventional sunscreen products, have been identified as being potentially harmful to aquatic life. Other ingredients, such as octocrylene, para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), and nanoparticles are coming under increasing scrutiny for their detrimental impact on marine life, including coral reefs. Additionally, many of the chemicals used to block UV are endocrine disruptors and it’s not entirely clear whether, or to what extent, they cause harm to humans.
To be considered reef safe, products must be free from:
- 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
- Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
- Microplastic sphere or beads (microbeads)
- Nanoparticles (e.g. zinc oxide or titanium dioxide)
- Triclosan & triclocarbon
What you can do
It’s always important to protect your skin from the sun, however there are some simple steps that you can take to protect both your skin and the coral reefs.
If you plan to spend time at the beach or in the ocean, one of the most environmentally friendly things you can do is to cover up as much of your skin with clothes as you can. You’ll still need to wear sunscreen on the parts of your skin that are exposed to the sun, but you’ll need far less of it. If possible, opt for reef safe sunscreens that are free from reef damaging chemicals (e.g. oxybenzone, octocrylene, octinoxate).
You can search our store for products that are reef safe or check our list of reef safe brands. You can also read about what we can all do to support wildlife, the oceans,and prevent biodiversity loss or give directly to a relevant charity working with these causes.