Why your favourite SPF is ruining our Coral Reefs & how you can help.

It's something that we all should be using. We all know the dangers of the UV rays but have we ever thought of the damage our sunscreens are doing to the ocean and our reefs? Those chemicals can't be good, right? Right.

Let's think about it, the sun is blazing, you're on the beach and you need an extra layer of sunscreen, you ask your friend to put on a layer on your back, but then we read the bottle and they all say. Re-apply after swimming.

I used to live in Sydney, and I honestly could not comprehend how everyone could stay on the beach all day. I needed an umbrella and to be submerged in the ocean for at least an hour or two. (Skin Cancer kills more than sharks do, FYI, and looks like we are killing way more marine life) So I took my chances. It was SO hot. I love nothing more than an ocean swim.

I am the kind of woman who lathers up in SPF 50 & spray tans before my holiday and takes a bottle of Tanning moose with me. Why do you ask? Because I can't justify the damage to my skin for a few hours Sun-kind-of- kissed look. ( & I am a British/Scottish bred woman with more chance of flying to the moon than getting that of a "Maldives" glow, ahem... naturally).

We all know by know the dangers of the sun, but it's only until recently I have become aware of the damage we are causing to our already greatly in danger Coral Reefs. 

According to a study by marinesafe.org, the biggest cause of pollution to our ocean is our trusty defence from the sun. The chemicals in the creams are causing controversy amongst our marine life, causing damage we can no-longer reverse.

'85% of the Caribbean coral reefs died before 2000". Dr. Craig A. Downs, PhD. It must be global warming? Wrong, it was down to pollution from products such as SPF. This is a problem we have been unaware of for years before we had a choice of alternatives that can put a stop to any more damage. 

Ever year, 14 TONNES of sunscreen enter our oceans EACH year and what's even scarier is most of these products contain the chemicals that are causing so many problems for our marine life.

So, what are the main chemicals that causing such catastrophic damage?

    1. Oxybenzone
    2. Octinoxate

Scientists explain in this video below. 

This video is quite frankly a kick up the bum we all need, to help us save our oceans. Plastic isn't the only thing that is a severe problem. We need to make changes now.

Bleaching is killing our coral and we are struggling to help restore it. For over 30 years, the coral reef has been diminishing, around the time Oxybenzone products were introduced.

What is bleaching?

"Corals bleach when stressors like unusually hot water short-circuit the symbiotic algae inside corals’ tissues, rendering them toxic. Corals then expel these colourful algae from their flesh, revealing the corals’ white skeletons. This short-term bid for survival poses grave risks. In exchange for corals’ protection, the algae help feed the corals. Without them, corals can starve to death—and often do." - National Geographic. Study here

Hawaii is currently trying to ban all SPF that include oxybenzone & Octinoxate.

How do we help?

  • Stop using aerosol sunscreens
  • Look for Oxybenzone in your sunscreens? Is it there? Don't use.
  • Check your hair products, your moisturisers, your foundations for the chemicals.
  • Spread the message and educate others on the risk of their sunscreens.
  • ignore marketing words such as ECO, Natural, Mineral, Organic. All words are used as a marketing tool to deem as better for you and the environment. But PLEASE do not be fooled and check the ingredients list only.

& Saunter recommends - Reef safe sunscreen

IT Cosmetics- Your skin but better

I wear this every day, it's my go-to "foundation". It's supernatural, SPF 50 and reef friendly. It's won SO many awards, and if you need a flawless complexion with added benefits. This is for you. I can guarantee this will not be a one time purchase.


IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream with SPF 50+

Beauty by Earth - Natural Mineral Body Sunscreen 

"Greet the sun with our natural mineral sunscreen and without slathering yourself with toxic chemicals"

Shop here


Alba Botanica Aloe Vera Sunscreen SPF30

£8.98 & FREE UK Delivery

"Big island protection this botanically moisturizing sunscreen provides broad-spectrum protection. Made with preferred sunscreen ingredients, this revitalizing lotion is non-greasy, quick-absorbing, water resistant and perfect for daily wear. Aloe vera, sunflower oil and tropical fruit extracts absorb quickly and effectively to nourish sun-exposed skin. Free of oxybenzone, octinoxate, PABA, nano-sunscreens and Vitamin a. Broad spectrum protection water resistant (80 minutes) skin cancer foundation recommendation"

Shop here

Alba Botanica Natural Hawaiian Aloe Vera SPF30 Sunscreen 118ml


Badger Natural Mineral Sunscreen 

£16.75 + Free Delivery

Don't let the packaging fool you, this is a well-recommended sunscreen by some of the biggest publications around. Such as Environmental Working group, Cosmopolitan & Travel + Leisure.


unscented sunscreen water resistant zinc oxide


Babo Botanicals SPF 30 Clear Zinc Lotion 

£16.29 + Free Shipping

"Oxybenzone or Cctinoxate Free! Reef Safe, mineral-based sunscreen! Our unique, clear formula is non-nano and contains high UVB/UVA protection. Safe enough for babies or kids. "



Green People Organic Sun Lotion - Reef Friendly

High factor fragrance-free SPF30 sun lotion suitable for sensitive skin supporting the marine conservation.

£14.48 & Free Delivery


Scent Free Sun Lotion - SPF30 200ml

ThinkSport Sunscreen 50 SPF 

£19.32 + Free Delivery 

"Sun protection for all types of sport, including marathon and ultra running, surfing, skiing, Ironman, Triathlon, Cycling, all watersports and other outdoor activities - FREE OF TOXIC CHEMICALS "


ThinkSport Sunscreen 50 SPF 177ml (6oz) - Safer Zinc Oxide Mineral Formulation - Ideal for all Sport and Outdoor Pursuits - Non-Toxic Ingredients

Sun Bum Sun Bum Lotion SPF30


Probably the coolest packaging and branding of them all. But Reef Friendly sun bum. "

This moisturizing sunscreen formula will protect your skin from harmful UVA/UVB rays while enriching your skin with Vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps to neutralize free radicals, which are the main cause of premature skin aging."



Surprisingly, a lot of the bigger suncream companies we grab at the airport don't have a reef-friendly formula. I didn't even think when I was younger the impact of my sunscreen choices had such the reefs had such an impact on the coral reefs. 

Hopefully, this guide & Information makes it a little easier finding the choices that will help the ocean this summer. 

Gemma x ( Founder of & Saunter)


*affiliated links used.