Is Sunscreen Actually KILLING Our Reef?

Unbeknownst to myself until a few months ago I had NO IDEA that sunscreen could be so harmful! That was until it was brought it to my attention by a friend of mine, yaaaass team work!

Most sunscreens contain a chemical called oxybenzone (oxy-ben-zone – you’re welcome, don’t worry, I usually skip words starting with “oxy-something” too) anyways, oxybenzone is a more broadly used name for benzophenone-3 (ben-zo-phe-none) a white solid that has the ability to absorb UV light. Sunscreens that contain oxybenzone are know as ‘broad-spectrum’ creams able to absorb not only UVB light but also UVA light rays. This is a synthetic substance produced by a chemical reaction.


Once in the water these chemicals actually decrease corals’ defenses against bleaching, damaging their DNA and hindering their development.

A 2015 study by Haereticus Environmental Lab showed that oxybenzone starts causing serious damage to corals at concentrations as low as the equivalent of one drop of water in six-and-a-half Olympic-sized swimming pools.


Well, coral reefs hold many benefits for both the aquatic and terrestrial environments AND humans. Reefs provide habits and breeding grounds for a vast array of marine life with 25% of species depending solely on the reef for their entire lifespan. Reefs also act as a buffer that protect the shoreline from erosion by reducing wave damage. On the human side, they also generate tourist revenue, with the Great Barrier Reef generating approximately A$6.4 billion per year. Thus, it is important to maintain the biodiversity of the Earth as living organisms provide us with new medicines. (Researchers have found chemicals within corals which may help in treating human diseases).



Purchase a sunscreen that DOESN’T contain these harmful chemicals! “WAIT THOSE EXIST?” *screams internally*

Well yes, one that has come to my attention is this lovely product here (see below)

This bad boy here, yay!

by We Are Feel Good Inc who have developed a sunscreen that is *drum roll please* yep that’s right! Harmful chemical free!

Unfortunately, the packaging is plastic… but I know this can at least be recycled once I am finished with the product.

Besides the packaging it is on the pricey side. Coming in at $27.95 AUD for 200 ml of the Sensitive Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+ and slightly cheaper for 200ml of the Signature Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+ at $24.95. If it makes you feel any better they do offer AfterPay!

Now, I know, a ZeroWaste lifestyle, or an eco low waste lifestyle is not cheap, take it from me, a struggling Uni student. This product may not be in your price range nor sustainable if you use large quantities of sunscreen very quickly. However, for me, this product is great, I use a little bit on my face every morning and take it with me when I go to the beach re-applying about 3-4 times in one beach sesh AND it hasn’t run out yet. (I’ve had it since the begging of February and no I didn’t get burnt)

So, I say to you, do what you can WITHIN your budget, do not blow the bank trying to fit into a mould or a stereotype portrayed on social media. A quote that sums this concept up pretty well is one by Anne-Marie Bonneau or @zerowastechef a Zero Waste Instagram influencer is “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” What I am trying to get across is going zero waste or eco isn’t perfect there will be failures and challenges, HOWEVER, if you are able to change something, ANYTHING, like switching to a reusable coffee cup or finally eliminated single use plastic within your household you are doing more than most.