Sunscreen that saves the ocean

Sunscreen that saves the ocean

The Gold Coast is famous for it’s beaches, attracting many locals and travellers from near and far to enjoy the sunshine, sand and ocean.

Along with a beach towel and bathers, the next most important thing to pack when visiting the Gold Coast’s beaches is sunscreen.

But is your sunscreen truly ocean and reef friendly?

Faced with a number of threats, coral reefs have been deteriorating for decades from pollution, climate change, storms, disease, overfishing and predators. Now a chemical found in most commercial sunscreens is on environmental scientist’s radars for its threats to populated reefs around the world.

Wearing sunscreen is one of the most promoted methods for sun protection. Our love for swimming means we slather on sunscreen to avoid sunburn, but the chemical remnants floating in the ocean are concerning scientists and environmentalists. Each time we take a dip, around 25 percent of the sunscreen we apply is washed off within 20 minutes, contributing to the estimated 6,000 to 14,000 tons circulating coral reefs globally each year.

Scientific research completed by Craig Downs, forensic ecotoxicologist from Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, has discovered oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), an ingredient used in most commercial sunscreens is changing the chemical composition of seawater and harming populated reefs. Its UV-absorbing properties are contributing to coral bleaching, and further effecting reproduction and cell growth causing deformities in young coral.

Research has found even small quantities of the chemical causes harm with toxicity occurring at a concentration of 62 parts per trillion – equivalent to one drop in six and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools. Samples taken from populated reefs around Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands have discovered current concentrations 12 times the advised toxicity rate, leading Hawaiian authorities to propose a ban on sunscreens containing this chemical.

Researchers still advocate full sun protection to reduce the risk of skin cancer, but advise consumers to be aware of the ingredients in the products they purchase. As additional research emerges, brands are starting to market their sunscreen products as ‘reef friendly’. While there are no current regulations governing this term, researchers warn consumers to not use this as sole verification. Checking the ingredients is the only way to know if a sunscreen won’t harm coral reefs.

So how can you be reef friendly? Avoid sunscreens containing oxybenzone, butylparaben, octinoxate and 4MBC; use reef safe sunscreens containing titanium oxide or zinc oxide; and wear appropriate swim and sun safe apparel.

Then there is also these great ocean friendly sunscreens thanks to Biome.


Wotnot palm oil free natural sunscreen SPF 30 150g

Wotnot SPF 30 palm oil free natural sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection against UV-A and UV-B rays with a gentle, easy to apply formula suitable for all ages (including babies). Enriched with certified organic aloe-vera and gmo-free vitamin E, free from titanium dioxide and chemical UV absorbers. 150g squeeze tube.

RRP $31.85



Surfpaste SPF30 Tinted Paste 55g

A natural and organic tinted sunscreen for face & lips. Made in Noosa, Queensland on a base of avocado, jojoba and shea butter with beneficial plant nutrients. Helps protect skin and reduce premature aging caused by sun exposure. Vegan and cruelty free. 55g.

RRP $31.95




Sun & Earth Natural Zinc – Sunny Tan

A completely natural, biodegradable tinted all-day cream, that protects the skin with a zinc sun barrier with SPF 30+. Colour is a medium “Sunny Tan”. Comes in a 50g tin.

RRP $20.00




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Kate Webster

About Kate Webster

Kate Webster is travel journalist who travels the globe, capturing the essence of the places she visits. Born out of a life-long love of travel and fascination with the world around her, is Kate’s inspiration behind her writing and photography. When she’s not bouncing around the world on ramshackle buses, overcrowded trains, or on the back of a rickshaw, you can find her based in the Gold Coast, Australia eagerly planning her next adventure.