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How Toxic Sunscreen is Hurting Our Coral Reefs and Ways You Can Help

Jun 01 /2020

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Our oceans have been around for more than 4 billion years. (I know. . . that’s a hard number to wrap your head around!). All that time, the “big blue” has covered 70% of our earth. It’s the crown jewel of the planet and a truly marvelous and enchanting sight to behold. While globally our oceans face a myriad of problems from overfishing to pollution, our coral reefs have their own distinct challenges. These unique habitats, home to an astoundingly diverse ecosystem, are disappearing. The coral reefs are dying, bleached to skeletal graveyards by the most unlikely villain: sunscreen.

Coral reef

Mainstream sunscreens use chemicals like Oxybenzone to shield skin from harmful solar rays (think “Sunburn”). Unfortunately, these same chemicals also poison the ocean’s coral reefs and devastate marine life dependent upon the coral for food and shelter. Sunscreen is essential — we totally get it — but bleaching the coral reefs is not. In fact, it’s totally, completely preventable.

Here’s what you need to know about the coral reefs, why they’re dying from toxic chemicals found in mainstream sunscreens, and what you can do to save our coral reefs!

Why Some Sunscreens are Killing the Coral Reefs

As mentioned, oxybenzone—as well as a number of other chemicals (see chart below)—increase stress on coral and lead to “coral bleaching” and substantial mortality. For this reason, certain areas are outlawing the usage of sunscreens which contain these ingredients. Hawaii became the first U.S. state to ban their sale, making residents purchase mineral-based alternatives instead. In doing so, they hope to restore and improve the resiliency of Hawaiian reefs. Beyond the states, countries like Mexico have made moves to combat harsh main brand formulations. While there isn’t an official ban in place, you’ll find that popular ecotourist spots such as Xel Ha ask its visitors to opt for natural alternatives.

via NOAA

Reef-Friendly Sunscreens

Mineral sunscreens use two active ingredients—zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—as opposed to the number of chemicals used by mainstream companies. These non-nano minerals sit on top of the skin, protecting you without entering your system. What’s more, they’re biodegradable and compatible with reef life. Beauty By Earth just so happens to offer 2 wonderful mineral-based sunscreens for both the face and body. You’ll get the protection you need without compromising the world’s most integral ecosystems.

How You Can Help

1: Use Reef-Friendly, Mineral-Based Sunscreens

Obviously, one direct change you can make is making the switch to a mineral-based sunscreen. It’s simple—just swap out your products and apply as you would normally!

Looking to skip an extra step in the morning? BBE also offers tinted sunscreen to even out the complexion. (Meaning you can also avoid some gnarly ingredients found in certain makeup formulations. Woohoo!)

2: Grow Awareness of the Crisis

Social media can be a truly powerful medium. What’s trending can quickly spread across the globe, making it the perfect means of disseminating the message of ocean conservation. Following organizations such as 4ocean on Twitter can help encourage greater public awareness of their existence. Sharing their posts and videos may also educate others on the current state of the big blue on a platform they utilize daily.

3: Support an Organization That’s Helping Save the Reefs

Infographic on 10 ways to protect coral reefs

Save The Reef

Save the Reef logo

Save The Reef is a rather extensive organization, encompassing 6 lesser ocean-based charities, including:

Their goal is to reduce the world’s abusive dependence on oil & fossil fuels, single-use plastics, GMOs, pesticides, and non-reef safe sunscreen.

Wondering where you can find a sunscreen that’s reef SAFE? BBE has you covered! Our sunscreen is not only super effective against the sun’s brutal rays, but it’s also ocean-friendly.

Turtle swimming in open ocean

OCEANA

OCEANA logo

OCEANA was founded in 2001 and sits as the largest international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation. Through their casework, they’ve managed to win more than 200 victories*, defending 4.5 million square miles of ocean and counting. In particular, OCEANA seeks to promote science-based fishery management as a model of ocean restoration.

*Victories: Concrete policies made to protect marine life and habitats

You can donate to the organization in a number of ways, like a flat donation, planned gift, corporate partnership, etc.

Coral Gardeners

Coral gardeners planting coral fragments

Coral Gardeners encourage the regeneration of dying coral by planting healthy coral fragments back onto the reef. Beyond the tides, they offer conferences that educate the public about the importance of coral reefs and the threats they face.

Not sure how you’d contribute? This cool organization lets you buy and name your own coral for them to plant—similar to purchasing a star.

A colorful coral reef

The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL)

Coral Reef Alliance logo

Founded in 1994, CORAL is now celebrating 25 years of actively expanding the scientific understanding of how coral adapts to climate change. The research they’ve done so far is being applied to give coral reefs the best chance to thrive for generations to come. For instance, their innovative conservation blueprint aids adaptation with diverse, connected, and large networks of healthy reefs called Adaptive Reefscapes.

Accordingly, CORAL would like to expand their reach to a global scale, which they may achieve through contributions from conscious individuals like you.

Ocean Conservancy

Ocean Conservancy logo

Ocean Conservancy advocates for the protection of habitats, restoration of sustainable fisheries, reduction of human impact, and management of U.S. ocean resources. Above all, their highlight battle is against ocean acidification, which happens when carbon pollution is absorbed thus making the water more acidic. Indeed, this drastically affects the way animals grow and survive—hurting both the animals as well as the humans who consume or interact with them.

If you’re feeling empowered to lend a hand, you can pledge many different missions and even become a Trash Free Seas volunteer.

An ocean tide crashing

I hope these awesome organizations inspire you to make a change to save and protect our reefs! I’m SHORE (😄) that you can help make a big impact on reviving and sustaining them.

We LOVE seeing your pics! Share your act of ocean kindness with us by using the hashtag #beautybyearth or tagging us on Facebook or Instagram (@beautybyearth).

Hugs and a Boatload of love,

Camille

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