Is Your Sun Protection Harming the Sea?

Sunscreen is one of the most essential skin care items you need to have with you on your Batangas beach resort getaway. It does more than help you avoid nasty sunburns that can dampen your holiday; it also helps keep you safe from the long term effects of sun exposure, such as skin aging and higher risk of skin cancer. Putting on a liberal amount of sunscreen, even if you’re just stepping out of your house to grab coffee or to run an errand, is a must for everyone. But did you know that applying this product not only impacts your skin and health but also the environment?

Umbrella

 

While sunscreen works to protect the skin, many sunscreens also contain substances that can harm marine life. Even small amounts of oxybenzone, a common ingredient that blocks UV rays, can quickly deform and kill young corals, as well as damage their DNA and make them more prone to bleaching. In addition, the compound can also cause deformities in young mussels and sea urchins, reduce fish fertility, and impair the growth of green algae. Another common sunscreen ingredient, octinoxate, can accumulate in corals and make them more susceptible to bleaching. Even if you’re not swimming in the sea, these chemicals can still seep into the water when you shower. The problem is widespread enough that many tourist destinations ban the use of sunscreens with these two ingredients.

As an eco-conscious consumer who loves the sea, what can you do to help lessen the amount of these chemicals in your favorite Batangas beach or diving resorts? What other options do you have so that you can take care of your skin and protect marine creatures at the same time?

Are there “reef-friendly” options?

Fortunately, there are options other than oxybenzone and octinoxate, and there are many sunscreen brands that are doing away with these compounds in favor of effective yet reef-friendly alternatives. Take note, though, that the term reef-friendly is unregulated—brands can use this term in their products without changing anything in their sunscreen formulation.

scuba diving reef

To find out if your sunscreen won’t harm coral reefs and other marine life, look for these ingredients before you buy a product: non-nanotized zinc oxide and non-nanotized titanium dioxide. The term non-nanotized refers to the size of these ingredients, which means that the substances are at least 100 nanometers in diameter. This size sufficiently prevents the substances from being absorbed into the bloodstream or ingested by corals. Zinc oxide and titanium oxide are sunscreens that are not known to cause defects or health problems for corals and other marine creatures.

Another alternative to sunscreens are sun-protective clothing such as rash guards, wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and UV-protective clothing. Many clothing companies are now investing in clothes with UPF or Ultraviolet Protection Factor. This label indicates the level of radiation that can penetrate the cloth and reach your skin. A rash guard with a UPF of 50, for example, will only allow 1/50th of the sun’s UV radiation through, effectively reducing your skin’s exposure to UV rays. This means clothes that have higher UPF can protect your skin more effectively.

It’s a relief that there are plenty of more reef-friendly sunscreen options available in the Philippines these days. Looking for an ideal product shouldn’t be that much of a challenge for local beach bums. If trying out new skin products is not for you, you can also invest in UPF clothing that can offer you long-term protection. Caring for your skin and the ocean might require a bit of change on your part, but it’s all worth it. After all, knowing that your sunscreen isn’t harming the sea and the creatures that live within it will make you feel better about your holiday.

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