Sunscreen – simple right? We use it daily all over the world. We slather our children in it to protect their precious little skin against the perils of the sun. We use it as lotion, and even use make-up with SPF to combat aging and wrinkles caused by the big ball of fire in the sky. Going out for a day on the boat? Bring the sunscreen. Going fishing? Do not forget the sunscreen. Beach day? Tubing? Waterpark? Yup! Bring the sunscreen. It’s part of our daily routine and has become a standard for skin protection in all areas of our lives. It is important. It is necessary.
But what if you found out the sunscreen you are using is actually TERRIBLE for you? What if you learn that the ingredients in that bottle are harmful to you, your family, and the environment? And when I say harmful, I mean cancer causing, endocrine disrupting, coral killing harmful. I am willing to bet the farm that most sensible people would look for a new sunscreen to use.
Unfortunately, the majority of sunscreens in fact do contain these types of ingredients (click here for a list of harmful ingredients to avoid!). The tricky issue we face is regulations for packaging and descriptions are little to none so companies are able to sneak one past you with words like “natural,” and even “reef safe,” when in fact they are the opposite – containing small amounts of an ingredient that might be okay for us. Come on sheeple! Time to get past the enticing logo and read the ingredients! Chances are if the bottle has an image of a boat, smells like a tropical drink, or is clear going on, the sunscreen is harmful to you and the reefs. I will not mention brand names, but I will drop hints. Banana*cough *cough*
You ever heard of oxybenzone? Avobenzone? Unfortunately, your blood stream probably has. These are extremely common ingredients found in sunscreen, and approximately 97% of Americans already have oxybenzone in their blood. Common sunscreens use these ingredients (and many more) to increase absorption in the human skin.
Have you ever gone swimming after applying sunscreen and looked at the water? Notice that lovely sheen you see on the surface from the sunscreen washing off your body? Gross right? Especially if there are others in the water with you. Now imagine that exact image in the ocean. Where do you think that nasty film of chemicals is going? You got it – right into the fish (still hungry?), sharks, corals, crabs, rays, etc. This happens all over the world. Oxybenzone causes coral bleaching and interferes with coral reproduction (Gentlemen and corals unite!).
Here in the Keys we have more dive shops than gas stations. Some companies are running dive/snorkel trips twice daily with multiple boats, dumping hundreds of eager divers and snorkelers into the beautiful sea to explore, learn, and support conservation. Luckily, most of the dive shops are now aware that their customers, their bread and butter, were ruining our reefs as they took that giant stride off the swim platform on the back of the boat, all greased up smelling like a pina colada. These shops are now providing reef safe sunscreen and education. This is huge! but is it enough? Let us remember that all water eventually runs to the sea - I’m talkin’ rivers, lakes, streams, and even your shower. There are phenomenal coral restoration efforts being made by some innovative and brave organizations (https://mote.org/research/program/coral-reef-restoration, https://www.coralrestoration.org/), but if we don’t support them globally, will it be enough?
Where can you find the good stuff you ask? We sell it (https://dpmmr.mybigcommerce.com/body-care/)!
The best brand for safety is Stream2Sea and guess what guys – It is awesome! It is free of oxybenzone, avobenzone, and every other terrible ingredient. They took the time, effort, and coughed up the dough to get the testing (https://stream2sea.com/product-testing/). It’s great stuff! It is mineral based – this means it does not absorb into your skin like the coconut smelling poison type. Stream2Sea sits on top of your skin and reflects UV rays away. It is also biodegradable (that is a whole other Blog topic) and comes in cute sugar resin tubes. Also, the founder of Stream2Sea is a fantastic human being who has like 7 dogs and 50 chickens. So, if the wellbeing of yourself, your family, the ocean, and the world doesn’t sell you on the importance of changing to a safe sunscreen, the love of doggies and chickies should.
We ask and strongly encourage our guests to use ocean safe sunscreen. We make it super easy for you! You can pre-purchase a bottle when you make your reservation both by phone and online! No excuses folks! Our visitors are getting directly in ocean water with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. You can bet if it burns your eyes, it probably will burn their eyes too! And don’t even try to bring aerosol sunscreen. That went out of style with Aqua Net in the early 90’s. We will ask you to put it away while shaming you with our eyes. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others and be kind to the environment. It’s simple.
Author’s Note: If you are frantically reading labels and chucking your current sunscreen in the trash (pro tip – the proper way to dispose of sunscreens containing harmful materials is to take it to a hazardous waste disposal. I’m actually not joking. It’s true), and you feel inspired and ready to support making the easiest shift to ocean safe sunscreen, you may also want to get involved with supporting the ban on toxic sunscreen. Hawaii, Palau, British Virgin Islands, and Key West have already made the leap. Here’s some information to keep you riled up!