We Love the Reef

While they only make up about one percent of the Earth’s surface, coral reefs are home to a quarter of all marine life. Unfortunately, the world’s reefs are dying. Over 50 percent of our reefs have died in the last 30 years.
Meet Oxybenzone
and Octinoxate

These two chemical sunscreen ingredients used by large sunscreen brands are thought to contribute to coral bleaching and death.

Living Rocks:
Delicate Coral Reefs
Coral grows slowly — the fastest grow only six inches per year. It can take decades for a new reef to establish.

The formation of a new coral reef begins when a coral larva attaches to a submerged rock. The larva then forms a hard outer skeleton to support it. Algae grows into the coral, building a symbiotic relationship. The algae gives the coral nutrients in exchange for a place to live.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the largest reef in the world, is thought to be nearly 8,000 years old!

Coral Bleaching and Death

Coral bleaching occurs when coral becomes so stressed that it rejects its algae. Without the algae, the coral loses its main source of food and retreats within its bony shell. The coral is left with a white exterior, hence the term “bleaching.”

Rising or falling ocean temperatures can cause stress to coral. A temperature change of even a few degrees outside of the average is enough to cause some coral to bleach. However, Oxybenzone and Octinoxate may also contribute to coral bleaching and death.

Oxybenzone and Octinoxate are chemical active ingredients found in nearly 65 percent of all non-mineral sunscreens. These chemicals can agitate the coral’s immune system, causing it to bleach.

A Sea of Sunscreen

It is estimated that 4,000 - 6,000 tons of sunscreen chemicals enter coral reefs each year. That’s more than 60 million bottles of sunscreen!

When you get into the ocean, some of the sunscreen you applied may wash off into the water, bringing whatever chemicals it contains with it. The sunscreen can also enter waterways when you wash off in the shower.

What is Reef-Safe Sunscreen

The waters around Hawaii contain staggering amounts of Oxybenzone—as much as
30 times greater than the level considered safe for coral. Many of Hawaii’s most popular tourist beaches are also home to prominent coral reefs. When beachgoers take a swim or even use showers near the beach, their sunscreens enter the water too.

Thankfully, in 2018 Hawaii passed S.B. 2571 (a.k.a. the “Reef-Safe Sunscreen” Law) to protect the delicate reef ecosystems. The law bans the sale of sunscreen products containing the chemicals Oxybenzone and Octinoxate in the state of Hawaii.

How We’re Helping Blue Lizard Sunscreen was born in Australia, home to one of the greatest coral reefs on the planet: the Great Barrier Reef.

Our “We Love the Reef” line of sunscreens was created to provide true broad spectrum protection with no Oxybenzone and no Octinoxate. We hope that by spreading awareness and creating products designed for your skin and for the environment, we can help the world’s coral reefs while staying sun safe.

Blue Lizard Sunscreen on the EWG’s Skin Deep Database Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources: DLNR Asks Ocean Users to Avoid Sunscreens with Oxybenzone National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Coral Reef EWG: Do the Chemicals in Your Sunscreen Damage Fragile Coral Reefs? Ecosystems
How You Can Help Don’t worry—there is time to help the reefs! It can take a few weeks for bleached coral to starve, so, if the source of the coral’s stress is removed quickly enough, the coral can take on algae again and fully recover.

Checking sunscreen labels before buying is a small step we can all take to promote reef health. Look at the Drug Facts panel, under “Active Ingredients.” If Oxybenzone or Octinoxate are there, you know the sunscreen isn’t “reef-safe”.

While there is currently no nationwide definition for "reef-safe" or "reef-friendly", Blue Lizard Sunscreens that have the "We Love the Reef" seal do not contain Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, making them reef-friendly as defined by Hawaiian legislation. All Blue Lizard Sunscreens contain dermatologist-recommended Zinc Oxide to provide broad spectrum sun protection.

Shop Our "We Love the Reef" Line