Biodegradable Sunscreen

Murrye Bernard
Use sunscreen that is environmentally friendly

You know that you should wear sunscreen when you go to the beach, but if you are swimming in the ocean near a coral reef you should wear biodegradable sunscreen. Even though regular sunscreen protects your skin, it can be very damaging for the acquatic environment.

What Is Biodegradable Sunscreen

Biodegradable sunscreens don't contain chemicals that can damage coral reefs and ocean life. Instead, they contain natural, eco-friendly ingredients that break down in a way that is not harmful.

Like traditional sunscreens, biodegradable sunscreen is available in a variety of SPF levels and formulas appropriate for your face or body. It is, of course waterproof. Most biodegradable formulas use the active ingredients titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which protect against UVA and UVB rays. Because these natural minerals sit on the surface of your skin rather than absorb like other sunscreens, they may leave you with a white cast, but some formulas claim that this disappears within minutes. These sunscreens are just as efficient as other types, and may even be better for your skin because they only contain natural ingredients.

How Other Sunscreen Is Dangerous to the Environment

Sunscreens, blocks and oils wash off your skin when you are in the water. They settle on marine life and coral reefs, promoting viral infections, suffocating them and causing a bleaching effect. In fact, according to the Environmental Heath Perspectives Journal, 4,000 to 6,000 tons of sunscreen melt off of swimmers' bodies annually and settle on the reefs. Avoid wearing sunscreens, lotions or any other products in the ocean that contain these harmful ingredients:

  • PABA
  • octinoxate
  • oxybenzone
  • 4-methylbenzylidene
  • camphor
  • butylparaben

Destinations that Require Biodegradable Sunscreen

While you should wear biodegradable sunscreen at any beach near coral reefs, many popular beach destinations in Mexico have instituted laws that require swimmers and scuba divers to wear it. Always check before you embark on your vacation, but some of these beaches include:

  • Xcaret
  • Xel-Ha
  • Garrafon Park
  • Chankanaab Park
  • Cozumel's protected marine park

Biodegradable Sun Protection Tips

As with other sunscreens, you should take precautions so that you protect yourself as well as the environment:

  • Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes prior to exposure to the sun
  • Use a liberal amount of the product; don't skimp
  • If you are snorkeling or diving, consider wearing a UVA/UVB proof wetsuit to cut down on the need for suncreens
  • Don't rub the sunscreen too hard into your skin. Allow it to set on the surface for maximum protection
  • Reapply sunscreen after prolonged periods in the water or every hour or so
  • Purchase sunscreen before you leave on your trip to save money, as resorts often raise prices

Where to Buy

It may be difficult to locate biodegradable sunscreen at your local drugstore, but you can buy it online from several reputable companies:

Biodegradable Sunscreen