A chemical which is responsible for extreme coral reef bleaching, found in most high street suncreams
Though it seems like the warm weather (read: terrifying global warming heatwave) is coming to an end in the UK, many of us are still looking to find some last minute summer sun by the sea. But before you reach for the factor 30 (or 50 for my pale pals out there), take a minute to check the ingredients of your favourite suncream.
Most high street sun cream brands include a chemical called Oxybenzone. It’s what gives sun cream its slightly oily consistency. It’s also what causes that weird shimmer you sometimes see on the ocean or pool surface when you’re in a busy tourist spot.
Unfortunately, it is also this chemical that has helped cause the aggressive coral reef bleaching that has led to the Great Barrier Reef, and many Caribbean reefs being considered ‘dead’. When this chemical reaches the water, it lowers the defences of the coral, meaning that the UV Rays the chemical protects our skin from, can now attack and destroy the coral.
It has been estimated that in Hawaii alone, up to 6000 tons of suncream will be brought into the sea by the tourists that visit. This has led to Hawaii passing laws that mean that by 2021 sun creams that contain Oxybenzone will be banned.
There are other harmful ingredients too: petrolatum (sometimes referred to as mineral oil) & titanium dioxide can also have fatal consequences for marine life.
The good news is that with a little bit of effort, you can easily find more eco friendly suncream. Just check the label before buying.
Green People do a range of reef safe sun creams and lots of other brands are starting to follow suit. Glossier even do a Oxybenzone-free sunscreen, so you can save the planet while you pick up your boy brow.
Switching up your sun cream is just one small effort that can change long term outcomes for our endangered coral reefs. What’s your favourite reef safe brand?