Today we are sharing the latest on selecting reef safe sunscreens that are best for you and for the environment.  Don’t get burned when going to your long-awaited tropical vacation destination with banned sunscreen!  Did you know your sunscreens may now be illegal in many areas you may be visiting?  More and more places around the world that are implementing more and more strict regulations on sunscreen.  Banning certain ingredients and only allowing certain formulations.

Sun protection is absolutely critical for your health and safety.  How do you navigate the changing rules while still protecting yourself?  We have dug in and reviewed all the latest regulations and also investigated what sunscreens are safe, effective, won’t break the bank, and you can use at that tropical paradise you are visiting!

Let’s go over each ingredient and are they reef safe or not:
  • Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA): This was an effective UV blocker, however there are some people that have allergic reactions to PABA, so most sunscreens have gone away from this ingredient.
  • Oxybenzone: Again, this was a safe and effective UV blocker, however this is the first ingredient identified in some reports to have possible reef issues.  Therefore, it’s the first ingredient been banned by some locations.  Most “Reef Safe” sunscreens label themselves that way by not using oxybenzone.
  • Octinoxate: This was the next chemical UV blocker used, but again, there were concerns raised this may also impact reefs, so this was the next ingredient banned by some locations.

Now most “Reef Safe” labeled sunscreens will not have these three ingredients: parabens, oxybenzone, or octinoxate.   Most will now use octocrylene.

Here is a list where certain sunscreens are banned, so you can prepare and purchase them in advance, where you can get the best price and availability.
  • Hawaii: Hawaii enacted a sunscreen ban on the over-the-counter sale of those containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. The state also has more legislation pending to broaden the list of banned sunscreen ingredients.  So check before you go to see the latest regulations.
  • S. Virgin Islands:  has outright banned sunscreens containing oxybenzone, octoerylene, and octinoxate. The island chain does not permit the sale or use of sunscreens containing any of those three ingredients. This basically dictates mineral sunscreens.
  • Aruba:  Aruba has outlawed sunscreens containing oxybenzone since July 2020 and are contiplanting additional bans.
  • Bonaire:  The island, which already charges steep environmental fees to divers in an effort to conserve its colorful reefs, now allows only reef-friendly sunscreen to be sold on the island. However, this is poorly defined and the guidance is that tourists only bring biodegradable sunscreens, which is best translated to mineral sunscreens.
  • Ecoparks in Mexico: Natural water parks like Xcaret, Xel-Ha and Cozumel’s Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park, require visitors to use only “biodegradable” sunscreens. Unfortunately, “biodegradable” is not well defined, however mineral sunscreens are approved.  When entering these parks they will check and if you have any chemical sunscreens they will be confiscated.
  • Palau: The sunscreen banapplies to the sale and use of sunscreens containing 10 chemicals, including oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, and certain parabens (or preservatives).  Again, only mineral sunscreens.
  • Key West: banned the sale and purchase of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. However, being a local jurisdiction, this has currently been blocked by the state of FL.
  • Australia, When you visit Australia it’s a whole different world when it comes to sunscreen.  The short version is: In Australia any sunscreen listed with an SPF over 15 is considered a medical product and regulated as such.  Therefore, all you find are SPF 15 or lower on the shelves. Since no manufacture wants have it regulated as medicine.  It would be WAY to costly.  Therefore, you have to actually compare ingredient concentrations to get an idea of what would be an SPF 50 everywhere else.   Our recommendation here is bring a good mineral sunscreen from home, so know what you are using.
Our #1 pick for a chemical sunscreen that don’t contain Oxybenzone and Octinoxate

Walmart Equate Ultra Sunscreens.  These are very affordable, highly available and are considered reef safe in most places

It’s important to note all these all still have Octocrylene which is soon being banned in many places.  That brings us to mineral sunscreens.

Our pick for mineral safe sunscreens

If you are looking to go the mineral route, which is considered the most reef safe and are not currently banned anywhere.  Here are our recommendations:

  • Coppertone Pure & Simple SPF 50 mineral sunscreen
    • This is nanoparticle zinc oxide based product that is water resistant to 80 minutes and goes on almost clear.
    • This is currently legal around the world
    • You can get this on amazon and some retailers
    • Here’s a link to the lotion which was about $10 for the 6 oz.
    • Here’s a link to the spray which was about $10 for the 5 oz.
    • Thinksport SPF 50

    We want all of you to have the best sunny vacations and we don’t want you getting burned.

    Here’s to living life during phase 2.  Make it a great day friends!

    Mike and Nancy