It is estimated that somewhere around 6,000 to 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen enters our waterways and oceans each year. When you compare that to the sheer size and volume of the oceans this amount is actually tiny in comparison… But the reality is that it’s not evenly spread out through our oceans and is mainly concentrated in the more popular swimming and recreational areas which impacts the immediate marine ecosystems.
The chemical ingredients and nanoparticles found in a lot of common sunscreens washes into the waterways and oceans when we are in the water or when washing off at the beach showers... or even back at home when we wash the sunscreen off in the shower it can end up in the drains that ultimately lead to our waterways. These nanoparticles and chemicals can be absorbed by the coral which ends up affecting their growth and reproduction which can eventually lead to bleaching.
It is estimated that up to 50% of the world's coral reefs have already died in the last 30 years due to rising ocean temperatures and human waste and pollution activity. What is also terrifying is that scientists are predicting up to 90% of the worlds coral will be gone by the beginning of the next century... It literally breaks my heart as I write and think about this.
Back in 2018, Hawaii passed a law to ban the sale sunscreens containing two common chemicals: Oxybenzone and Octinoxate (With the exception of those who have been medically prescribed). Fast forward to today and more states and areas around the world have begun passing laws to introduce bans on the sales of sunscreens containing those chemical ingredients. It should be noted that these chemicals can be found in an array of other household and cleaning products, so banning sunscreens alone won’t end these chemicals entering our waterways, but it is a great start and any small change is 100% better than no change at all.
I understand that something like sun protection impacting on marine life can be hard to take seriously when there is currently a nuclear power plant that’s still apparently leaking radioactive material into the Pacific Ocean each year.
But we need to keep in mind there are always going to be some situations that are outside of our control, but we can control what we decide to use and we have the ability to make small changes that can help reduce the amount of pollutants that we pump into the oceans ... which is the home of our beautiful coral reefs and the wonderful marine life that inhabits it.
Using your clothing as sun protection will help reduce the amount of sunscreen you will need to cover yourself and thus reduce the amount that will wash off into the water: Long sleeve shirts, rashies and wetsuits all provide awesome UV protection.
Enter natural sunscreens and surf-screens.
There is a massive range of natural sunscreen and surfscreen products on the market that are made from natural and mineral based ingredients. These natural alternatives have both skin health benefits as well as being reef safe while providing essential sun protection. Natural and non-nano zinc-based sunscreens can be a much healthier option for your skin than chemical based sunscreens.
There are ongoing studies, debates and arguments around sunscreens being carcinogenic and cancer causing - but at the end of the day the sun’s solar radiation is a known human carcinogen and those rays are 100% deadly and there is no arguing that so please always be sun smart and apply sunscreen - "Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek & Slide".
As surfers we expose ourselves more than most (depending on what you wear and when you surf) so it’s crucial to keep protected at all times.
Surfyogis is an zinc-based surfscreen made from natural ingredients that they claim you can eat (Though I think it’s probably best not to). Designed and tested in Bali, Surfyogis can hold up in the hottest conditions so it’s great for the hottest summer days.
The Surfyogis story started back in 2007 in Bali. What was originally created and used between friends, Surfyogis has now grown to being used all around the world for over 11 years.
Surfyogis consists of an organic and natural blend of cacao, coconut, beeswax, vanilla bean, coffee extract, castor oil and zinc oxide ingredients.
Designed and developed by surfers who care about the oceans. Their vision is for a cleaner environment with cleaner oceans to protect our coral reefs and our skin whilst living our lives.
Surfyogis is now retailed all over the world including Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, South Africa, USA and Japan.
Surfpaste is an all-natural Australian owned sunscreen. Created and developed in the beautiful and iconic Noosa region (seriously google Noosa if you have never been there it's amazing!) this zinc-based sunscreen has been formulated to have fantastic skin health benefits whilst being reef safe and providing the essential sun protection.
The Surfpaste sunscreen is crafted from the finest natural organic ingredients and uses responsible sustainable packaging for their products. If that wasn’t enough, they even go one step further by offering tin refills for those who want to reuse their Surfpaste tins to reduce waste ending up in landfill. On top of that this product is also vegan friendly and is good for your skin.
The Surfpaste team consciously reduces, reuses and recycles during their day to day operations. They are constantly taking measures to ensure they are reducing their impact on the environment as much as possible.
Surfpaste is one brand that is leading the way in sustainable, reef safe sunscreen products and innovation.
There are many more reef safe brands out there so if your concerned on the impact the chemicals in your sunscreen are having on the coral reefs or your skin then definitely do some research and have a look around at all the available products on the market to find the best natural and organic reef safe sun protection for you (make sure they are legitimately reef safe and not just greenwashing) … Or if you’re interested in the above mentioned sun protection products you can check out our online store.
And no, changing to reef-safe or natural sunscreen isn’t going to miraculously save the oceans - There is much bigger human pollution activity going on. But it’s a small change that we can easily make that helps contribute towards reducing the impact on our reefs.
It’s all the little “one percenters” that can add up and help make an impact.