Titanium Oxide (non nano particle)
Titanium interacts with oxygen to form titanium oxide — a physical blocker of UVA/UVB rays (not a chemical one)! Traditionally, this ingredient is found in mineral sunscreens and other skincare products to provide broad spectrum protection with little harm to human health or the environment.
Zinc Oxide (non nano particle)
Non Nanoparticle Zinc Oxide offers the most effective UVA/UVB broad spectrum sun protection in the world. The key word here is Non-NANO. Nano sized particles of zinc or titanium dioxide are microscopic, can be consumed or absorbed by marine life, and might be disruptive to reef growth processes. Non-nano Zinc Oxide has no evidence of hormone disruption and is a physical sun blocker, meaning it is not absorbed through the skin.
This is one of the most common chemical filters found in sunscreens and personal care products worldwide. Oxybenzone chemically interferes with UV’s ability to damage our skin by absorbing into our skin. Scientists have detected oxybenzone in mother’s milk and presume it is present in nearly every American. The chemical damages coral DNA by inhibiting its ability to reproduce, and makes coral more susceptible to bleaching. The harms of this endocrine disruptor have urged the state of Hawaii to place a ban on any sunscreens that include this ingredient.
(also known as Octyl methoxycinnamate or ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate)
The most widely used UVB absorbing ingredient in sunscreen. This chemical UV filter can rapidly be absorbed by skin, causing hormone disruptions. The most commonly affected hormone by oxtinoxate in humans and wildlife is estrogen. Additionally, have you ever heard of free radicals? Oxtinoxate is known to produce molecules like these that can have significant damage to living cells and tissues, which could lead to premature aging. Yikes!
The state of Hawaii has recently passed legislation that bans sunscreens with octinoxate in them.
Avobenzone is used in most sunscreens due to its broad spectrum properties. However, this chemical filter is sort of like a “gateway” ingredient to other more harmful chemical ingredients. Avobenzone protects most against UVA rays but only for about 30 minutes, leaving brands no other option but to add stabilizing yet harmful ingredients like octocrylene to their formulas. If you have sensitive skin, you should especially avoid this ingredient! Avobenzone is known to have a relatively high rate of skin irritation for those with sensitive skin.
Almost half of all sunscreens in the United States include homosalate — a hormone disruptor for men and women. According to EWG, the compound disrupts estrogen, androgen, and progesterone. The sun causes homosalate to break down into harmful byproducts that then have a more direct entryway into your skin. Not to mention, Homosalate is also linked to enhancing the absorption of pesticides in the body.
Although further research on this colorless liquid needs to be done, it’s better to be safe than sorry. We vote octisalate as a chemical ingredient to avoid when looking for #ReefFriendly sunscreens. The chemical’s oily consistency adds water-resistance properties to sunscreen formulas, and aids in the absorption of UVB rays. When octisalate is in a product, there’s a pretty good chance that other harmful chemicals – like oxybenzone and octinoxate – are too. Japan has even restricted its use in certain beauty products… be sure to avoid!
This chemical compound is unfortunately added to a lot of sunscreens to assist with their water-resisting properties. If you have sensitive skin, you should especially avoid this ingredient! Octocrylene is a viscous, oily liquid that is thought to have moisturizing effects on skin, but is frequently reported as a skin irritant.
Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A Palmitate)
Vitamin A… doesn’t sound so bad, does it? In reality, when retinyl palmitate is added to skincare products like sunscreen, it can have destructive impacts on your skin. FDA studies have shown the ingredient may actually speed up the development of skin tumors and lesions when mixed with sunlight (the exact opposite of what you’d want in a sunblock!).
Phthalates (also known as ‘FRAGRANCE’ on a sunscreen label)
Brands rarely use the word phthalates in their ingredient list — instead, they’ll use ‘fragrance’ or ‘artificial fragrance’ in its place. Keep an eye out for these terms! Phthalates can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system according to animal studies. They are linked with deformed sex organs in newborn boys and early puberty in young girls, and are unfortunately found in skincare and household items everywhere.
Paraben Preservatives (butyl-, ethyl-, methyl-, and propyl-)
Parabens are used in all sorts of different products to lengthen shelf life. Parabens are linked to accelerating skin aging, increasing the risk of skin cancers, and are known to be dangerous to reproductive health and breast tissue. Steer clear of any ingredient that ends in ‘-paraben’ (Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Ethylparaben, Butylparaben).
Source — (Osamu Handa et al, 2006, Yoshinori Okamoto, 2008)
Take the #Reeffriendly Pledge
With rampant coral bleaching and die offs spreading around the globe, emerging studies show the dangers that chemical sunscreens pose to coral reefs. Common sunscreen chemicals like oxybenzone, octinoxate, PABA, avobenzone, octocrylene, plus preservatives like parabens and triclosan all have deleterious impacts on the biological functions of coral reefs and marine life. Humans deposit over 14,000 tons of chemical sunscreens into coral reefs annually, adding another danger to these ecosystems already suffering from the effects of climate change and runoff pollution.
After attending the 2016 International Coral Reef Symposium, a gathering of ocean steward scientists who study the dangers of chemical sunscreens on marine ecosystems, All Good Founder and CEO Caroline Duell was inspired to take action; thus, the #ReefFriendly movement was born.
Thousands of pledges have been collected and the count continues to grow as more and more mineral sunscreen companies, ocean lovers, scientists, nonprofit organizations, and individuals pledge to make conscious consumer decisions for our oceans. The severity of this issue and the growth of the #ReefFriendly movement has caused the Hawaiian State Legislature to pass a bill that will ban the use of sunscreens in Hawaii that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate in them by 2020.
Now, it’s time for the world to follow suit. Take the pledge, review the #ReefFriendly sunscreen criteria, keep an eye out for #ReefFriendly sunscreen imposters, and spread the word; together, we can make a difference.
Will you join them?
Moona Whyte World Champion Kitesurfer
Sensi Graves Professional Kiteboarder
LoaTree Eco-Lifestyle Company
Olivia Hsu Climber
Alison Gannett World Champion Free Skier, Surfer, Farmer
Chanelle Sladics Snowboarder, Producer
Chris Burkard Explorer and Photographer
Kimmy Fasani Professional Snowboarder
NO to Chemical Suncreens & the Awful Eight
Most chemical sunscreens have one or more of the following active ingredients that are toxic to our coral reefs and marine ecosystems:
- 1. Oxybenzone
- 2. Octinoxate
- 3. Octocrylene
- 4. PABA (Aminobenzoic Acid)
- 5. Enzacamene
- 6. Octisalate
- 7. Homosalate
- 8. Avobenzone
NO to Toxic Preservatives and Additives
Parabens, Pthalates, Triclosan, Microbeads (plastic)
YES to Zinc Oxide:
YES to 3rd Party Testing:
As you are aware, loose regulations allow many companies to claim their products as ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly’ but those claims tend to fall apart under testing. If they claim green, ask them to show verification by a third party laboratory.
Together, we can go #ReefFriendly
With these four steps, you can make a choice that supports coral reef health and the ecosystems they support. Join scientists, divers, surfers, snorkelers, hotels, environmental organizations and civic leaders around the world and go #ReefFriendly.