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Green Is The New Black

Sunscreen: The Silent Killer of Coral Reefs

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Millions of people around the world rely on coral reefs, and they are dying. While increasing temperatures is one of the leading causes, your sunscreen isn’t far behind.


Coral reef tourism has been dubbed the “poster child” of nature-based tourism and is estimated to rake in around US$36 billion each year. From the Maldives to Fiji and across the world to Belizethe well-being of more than 70 economies worldwide significantly depend on local reefs.


However, our reefs are in desperate need of preservation. According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the longest and most widespread coral bleaching event on record is currently underway. Due to coral reefs being a precious source of medicine, food, and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people around the world (some estimate 1 billion in Asia alone!), this issue is particularly dire. Experts say that if coral reefs were to vanish that hunger, poverty and political instability would result. Amongst other things, marine biodiversity is reliant on coral reefs and their death would consequence in a complete collapse of the surrounding marine ecosystem.


What is Coral Bleaching?

Source: Coral Reef Watch


Healthy coral has a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellaea microscopic algae which lives in coral tissue and acts as the coral’s primary food source. This relationship is also what gives coral its vibrant colours. 

When coral becomes stressed, this vital algae leaves the coral tissue. Due to the coral losing its major food source, the color begins to turn white, or “bleached”, making the coral more susceptible to disease. Although it is possible for coral to recover from a stressed state, it is highly unlikely, which ultimately leads to the coral’s death.


Sunscreen; the silent killer 

It is estimated that 19% of the world’s coral reefs today have disappeared. If this trend continues, all coral reefs could be extinct within the next 100 years. Although environmental stress and the increase in ocean water temperature is the main reasoning behind this rapid decline, human activities have been found to be a contributing factor. Through ways such as pollution, coastal development, heavy tourism, and overfishing.

One of the largest human pollutants responsible for this bleaching epidemic is sunscreen. Octinoxate and Oxybenzone are two heavily toxic chemicals found in more than 3,500 of the world’s most popular sun protecting products. Including, Banana Boat, Coppertone, and Hawaiian Tropic.

To put this into perspective… just one drop of oxybenzone has the ability to create a toxic effect on six and a half Olympic sized swimming pools. Yet, it is estimated that between 6,000-14,000 tonnes of excess sunscreen is washed off into coral reef environments each year. Not to mention that these chemicals have been found to induce feminisation in male fish, cause neurological behavioural changes in marine animals, and increase reproductive diseases in various sea mammals and creatures.


Conscious Sunscreens that won’t kill the reefs

How cruelly ironic that a product intended to protect our skin from sun damage causes detrimental effects on our coral reefs and sea life with each application. Choosing an all-natural, reef-safe sunscreen is one of the #LittleGreenSteps that you can take to #LiveMoreConsciously and preserve the exotic beauty of sea life on your next beachside getaway.

Check out these tried and trusted brands below!

Beauty by Earth

Shop here | SGD 20-40 or HKD 118-228

Sunscreen that provides all over protection; ditching the phthalates, parabens, sulfates and any other dangerous, toxic ingredients commonly found in popular brands. Their advanced all-natural formula is reef safe and biodegradable, so users don’t have to worry about environmental aggressors whilst protecting their skin from sun damage.


The Honest Co.

Shop here | SGD 10-19 or HKD 55-110

The name says it all! Honest uses pure, hypoallergenic, mineral-based ingredients in their all-natural spray. In addition, proceeds from each purchase go back to supporting science and research to advocate for better family protection laws, and time and resources for communities of children and families in need.



Shop here | SGD 14-62 or HKD 78-360

This California-based brand ensures that their sunscreen is not only healthy for your skin, but for the environment too by only using natural, organic and sustainable ingredients. Coola’s sunscreen offers high SPF protection whilst holding up through sweat, swimming and sports.


If you’re looking for even more brands to green up your lifestyle, why don’t you check out our Conscious Brands directory and see how you can implement an organic skincare routine into your life today?

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A self-proclaimed "Eco-Nomad", Jaclyn Yost has lived in various parts of the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and has journeyed to 41 countries (so far)! She is passionate about spreading awareness on sustainable tourism and how to be a more responsible tourist. When she is not working or traveling, you can usually find her in a yoga studio or whipping up a tasty meal in the kitchen.