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Choosing Reef Safe Sunscreen

Choosing Reef Safe Sunscreen


We all know that sunscreen protects us from harmful UV rays and prevents sunburn. But what ingredients are used and is it safe to use?


We all know that sunscreen protects us from harmful UV rays and prevents sunburn. But what ingredients are used and is it safe to use?

The majority of sunscreens are made from certain chemicals to absorb the UV rays and protect us from skin cancer. Which is great!

Unfortunately, these chemicals are having a damaging effect on our marine environment and contributing to coral bleaching.

Furthermore, it is affecting our waterways, marine life and our health. So, what is Reef Safe and what is not? Here we will explain it all..

A woman's arm with her hand rubbing sunscreen on at the beach.

What is Chemical Sunscreen?

The majority of sunscreen products are made from a variety of chemicals such as Homoslate, Oxybenzone and Octocrylene.

Companies use these chemicals as they are cheap to manufacture and protect our skin from harmful UV rays, and therefore making an effective sunscreen.

Chemical sunscreens work by penetrating the skin and absorbing UV rays.

However, studies have shown, once these chemicals are absorbed into your skin they also enter your bloodstream and are now known to cause hormone imbalance, significant testosterone levels, increased risk of breast cancer and endometriosis.

Natural sunscreen is a much safer alternative for our health and environment."
Female scuba diver in the ocean looking at corals in the great barrier reef in cairns and waving at the camera.

How Does Sunscreen Damage The Reef?

The Great Barrier Reef is one of 7 wonders of the world, and the largest reef site in the world and is therefore a very popular place to visit!

When tourists swim, snorkel or scuba dive here (and many other beautiful reefs around the world) they are unknowingly damaging the coral reefs by simply wearing sunscreen.

Once the chemicals seep into the water, they are toxic to our marine life, accumulate in the tissues of the coral, damage DNA and can induce bleaching. The algae living inside the corals can also be  affected by impairing growth and photosynthesis.

What Chemicals Should I Avoid?

Chemical sunscreen has already been banned in Hawaii, Key West, Bonaire, Thailand, Aruba, Palau and the US Virgin Islands."
Brunette male with a black jumper standing on the gassy hilltop with the ocean in the background. He is holding a tin of sunscreen over his right eye.

What is Reef Safe Sunscreen?

Many sunscreens are now labelled as ‘reef safe’ or ‘reef friendly’ but in reality, most of them use the same ingredients as regular sunscreen brands.

There are no laws in place to regulate this labelling, so it’s up to us, as consumers, to check the labels before purchasing any sunscreen products.

Reef Safe Sunscreen should only contain UV blocking ingredients such as Zinc Oxide or Titanium Oxide rather than a chemical compound.

This is usually labelled under ‘Active Ingredient’

What is Zinc Oxide?

Zinc Oxide is a naturally-occurring mineral, which has the lowest known impact of a sunscreen ingredient on the marine environment. It protects our skin against both UVA and UVB rays of the sun.

It’s also important to note, there are two different types of Zinc; nano and non-nano.

Nano particles are smaller than 100mm meaning they are small enough to penetrate the skin.

Non-nano means the zinc oxide particles are larger than 100nm and therefore aren’t small enough to absorb into the skin, making it safe to use.

A metal tin of sunscreen with a blue band and a round orange label in the middle is sat on the white sandy beach with long strands of grass behind. The ocean is in the distance

What’s The Best Reef Safe Sunscreen?

The best natural sunscreen in Australia (if not the world) is SunButter Sunscreen.

A wonderful, natural, reef safe sunscreen made with non-nano zinc oxide, coconut oil, candelilla oil and castor oil.

Furthermore, it’s founded by two marine biologists in Australia, it’s vegan friendly, cruelty free, plastic free and is the World’s 1st Certified Palm Oil Free Sunscreen!

Sunbutter SPF50 Sunscreen

Sunbutter SPF50 Sunscreen is a a new generation of sun protection that is skin and earth conscious. A broad spectrum, zinc sunscreen that rubs in clear. Suitable for sensitive skin including; babies & pets.

With 4 hours of moisturising, water-resistant protection it’s an absolute winner!

Wellness Awards 2022: People’s Choice Winner for Best Sunscreen!

Sunbutter Tinted SPF50 Sunscreen.

Sunbutter Tinted Sunscreen is great for a range of skin tones to offer a wonderful bronze glow or a better shade match. If white mineral sunscreens make you look washed out, this is our answer!

A broad spectrum SPF50 zinc sunscreen with a beautiful Cocoa aroma. It also helps to lock in the skin’s natural moisture and leave skin feeling smooth and soft.

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