I don’t remember the last time I jumped into the ocean concerned about the type of sunscreen I applied that morning. But as it turns out, concerned is exactly what we need to be. After the FDA announced this spring that it was inquiring into the safety of chemical sunscreens, the conversation has evolved to how its active ingredients are also big threat to marine life — specifically, coral reefs.
According to MarineSafe, as many as 82,000 chemicals from personal care products have made their way into the ocean, and in 2015, it was estimated that 14,000 tons of sunscreen are ending up in coral reefs. This leads to irreparable damage as the sunscreen disrupts the coral’s growth cycles and reproduction, leading to coral bleaching — the main culprits: oxybenzone and octinoxate, main active ingredients in most chemical sunscreens. In fact, around 80 percent of corals in the Caribbean have been lost in the last 50 years.
So, what can we do? Wear reef-safe sunscreen when we hit the beach. And what constitutes as safe? Essentially, mineral sunscreens featuring zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and free of preservatives like parabens or phenoxyethanol. Shop our guide for some of the best options easily bought in drugstores.
This sunscreen spray is 94 percent certified organic and provides 40 minutes of water resistant protection. But remember spraying alone does not provide the coverage needed. The product comes on as a fairly thick white lotion, and you have to work it into the skin to make sure you are beach-ready.
Anything made in Australia is worth a try. This is a non-chemical sunscreen rich in vitamins and antioxidants from native Australian botanicals like kakadu plum. The lotion dries on the skin and leaves a powdery feel with a fruity smell, and is water resistant up to 80 minutes
For purists, Badger’s biodegradable and unscented sunscreen provides protection with no added essential oil fragrances or chemicals, though it still smells faintly of cocoa butter and beeswax. It can leave a bit of a natural residue, but it is the natural sunscreen can be used for the whole family — and it provides 40 minutes of water resistant sun protection.
Aveeno mineral sunscreen doesn’t let us down with its extra gentle formulation, making it a perfect choice for those with sensitive skin. It is also infused with 100 percent zinc oxide and nourishing oat, which helps add moisture back to the skin. It dries sheer with a matte finish and is water resistant up to 80 minutes.
The brand’s Dry-Touch sunscreen is one of its most popular products, and this one delivers the same results. The Zinc Dry-Touch sunscreen is a specially formulated water resistant lotion made with naturally sourced 100 percent zinc oxide. It is free of fragrances, and the Dry-Touch technology ensures it dries to a non-greasy finish.
There isn’t buzz around this French brand for no reason — its formula with exclusive Cell-OX Shield technology is trusted by derms worldwide. A little runny with a non-whitening texture, this sunscreen absorbs fast, wears well under makeup, and lasts 40 minutes after any exposure to water. Plus, it also features Senna Alata, an antioxidant complex that defends skin from environmental aggressors.
For those with more luxurious tastes, there is MDSolarScience’s mineral crème — a Walgreens top seller. Its formula is lightweight with a matte finish that comes out with a white cast but fades within minutes. It helps smooth fine lines and wrinkles, while preventing future signs of aging with its Eco-cert zinc oxide.