A recent study published in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology found that it only takes one drop of sunscreen containing oxybenzone to damage an ocean area the size of six and a half Olympic swimming pools. And each year, an estimated 14,000 tons of sunscreen enter the oceans via swimmers, snorkelers and shower drains.
State of Hawaii legislators passed a bill this year banning the sale and use of any sunscreen that contains oxybenzone and octinoxate—chemicals that are believed to contribute to coral reef damage. Sunscreens containing the two reef-damaging chemicals have also been banned on the Caribbean island of Bonaire and some parts of Mexico (Xel-Ha Park, Cozumel’s Marine Park, Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park and Xcaret Park).
If you’re planning to travel anywhere tropical soon, the new rules won’t go into effect until January 2021, but there no reason to wait to switch out your sunscreen!
The good news is that you can still use sunscreen without polluting the ocean or your body. Mineral sunblock generally contains the minerals zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. While both minerals are safe, you can also choose to use non-nano zinc oxide products, which is considered the safest possible option for us and the ocean. Mineral sunblock sits on top of your skin to protect it from harmful rays, unlike chemical sunscreens that absorb into your skin and disappear into your blood stream. Some mineral sunblocks will leave a white sheen on your skin, which is a good thing in terms of sun protection, but not always ideal in a social situation! Nowadays, there are clear mineral sunblocks, such as this one by Badger or this one by Babo. There’s also blocks that contain a slight skin-tone tint to counter the whitening and act as a light foundation at the same time, here is one by Badger. Find out more about safe sunscreens here.
Before you head off onto your next trip, make sure you’ve checked your old sunscreen for these banned chemicals and replace it if needed.