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Thought you knew everything about your sunscreen? Think again.

Posted by Allison Kelly on

Everyone heading to the beach knows they always need to wear sunscreen to keep their skin healthy and protected from the sun's damaging rays. Do yourself a favor and check the labels on your sunscreen. Odds are, you've been using chemical sunscreen. Chemical sunscreen is far more widely available than mineral sunscreens, so typically, that's the type that consumers buy.

But are you aware of the disastrous consequences this could have for the world's ocean? More than 14,000 tons of chemical sunscreen end up in the ocean each year after washing off of swimmers, divers, and snorkelers. This has been directly linked to harming marine life and significantly contributes to the death of coral reefs. 

Making the the switch to biodegradable sunscreen is more important than ever before.

Biodegradable Sunscreen

The truth is, coral reefs around the world are in the worst condition they have ever been. Not only are coral reefs beautiful to witness in person, but they are also one of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems in the world, giving shelter to thousands of marine animal species. However, 50% of the world’s reefs have already died in the last 30 years and it is estimated that up to 90% could die within the next century. This decline in reef population and health is due to a number of factors, from rising ocean temperatures to human pollution. Most of the reasons for coral reef decline are due to human activity in one way or another. Some factors might be out of our individual control, but there are still ways you can make a meaningful difference.

Craig Downs of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory conducted a study that found that the sunscreens divers, snorkelers, and beach-goers wear when entering the ocean near a reef are dangerous to the coral. He found that the ingredient oxybenzone, which is what soaks into the skin to block UVA and UVB rays, both bleaches and kills the polyps.

Biodegradable SunscreenThere does not have to be a large amount of oxybenzone in the water for these dangers to take effect. Just one drop of the chemical in six and a half Olympic swimming pools of ocean water is enough to harmfully affect coral. In several areas near popular beaches that have been tested, the levels were much higher than this. Compounded with the other stresses, there is little chance the coral reefs will be able to survive much longer. 

There are two types of sunscreen that you can buy. The most common? Chemical-based sunscreen. The active ingredient, oxybenzone, soaks into the skin and chemically keeps the UVA and UVB rays from being absorbed. While it does it’s job of protecting the skin, the harmful consequences for the environment are tremendous. The other type of sunscreen is physical biodegradable sunscreen; the ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide combine to physically sit on top of the skin and reflect back the sun’s UVA and UVB rays similar to how a mirror would.




Mexitan's collection of biodegradable sunscreen and sun care products is carefully formulated to not harm the coral reefs. As one of the premier reef safe sunscreen brands, Coral Safe is perfect for people staying at an eco-friendly resort that requires reef safe sunscreen, and for the environmentally conscious consumer who cares about marine animals and ecosystems that the products could disrupt. There are no harsh chemicals that can cause allergic reactions, and there is even green tea extract included with powerful antioxidant properties. Mexitan is safe to wear in the the ocean and is also healthy for the skin!

Biodegradable Sunscreen

These physical biodegradable formulas in reef friendly sunscreen brands do not pose the same danger to coral reefs because the harmful chemicals are not present. Many tropical resorts have witnessed the damage that sunscreen has been causing and has completely banned visitors from using it. The threat has become so severe that State Senator Will Espero of Hawai’i proposed a bill to ban the sale of oxybenzone-based sunscreens in his state. It is not sure yet whether the rule will be adopted, but some version of it will likely be passed in locations with lots of coastal resources once they start seeing the deadly effects. The economy in many locations in and around the island, depends on the ocean and the health of its marine life and coral reefs. Coastal resources including reefs add an estimated $800 million per year to the state of Hawaii's economy alone.

You can view some of our reef-safe, biodegradable sunscreen and related products selected from our full reef safe sunscreen list below: 

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