Green December Day 14 - Sunscreen

I’ve stopped… Using chemical sunscreen

Since getting a little more educated on the harmful effects of chemical sunscreen on coral reefs, I’ve switched to using only physical sunscreens like this one made by Australian Gold found at Shopper Drug Mart or Amazon. (EDIT: Since using this sunscreen on a trip to Mexico recently, I noticed that it was not sufficient in preventing burns on our vacation. I have previously used the SPF 50 version which worked well to prevent sunburns but I found it too thick and left too much of a white cast. If you have tried any other reef safe sunscreens and have a better recommendation, please leave a comment.)

The downside is that zinc based sunscreen tends to leave a cast on the skin, but it’s a small inconvenience for a big pay off by keeping our coral reefs safe.

When I’m snorkeling, no amount of sunscreen will save my back from burning so wearing a rash guard is a great alternative.



Most chemical sunscreens contain the chemicals such as octinoxate, oxybenzone, octisalate. All of these chemicals leech off of your skin and ultimately gets absorbed by the sensitive living corals. They have the ability to affect reproduction and growth, resulting in coral bleaching. Did you know that coral reefs occupy less than 1% of the ocean floor, but is home to over 25% of all marine life?


It doesn’t only come off when you’re swimming, but it also ends up in the oceans through the drains. It’s even worse when you use the aerosol cans of sunscreen because the majority of the product ends up in the air and into the ocean. So the next time you’re heading to the beach, try to be mindful of making eco-conscious purchases when it comes to sunscreen. Just take a look at the ingredients list and if has any of the above mentioned chemicals, pass it up for a zinc alternative.

Carmen Szeto