Reef Safe Sunscreen
Coral reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet and their survival is inextricably linked to our own. In addition to providing nesting grounds and homes for thousands of species, they also help stabilize the ocean floor, prevent coastal erosion, minimize storm surge damage, contribute to the mitigation of climate change, filter and clean seawater, and support tourism.
In the last fifteen years, scientific research has made it clear that the chemical sunscreens humans have been using are having serious negative consequences on the world’s coral reef, and the damage is especially pronounced where reefs are frequently visited, such as in Hawaii.
In a 2016 study by authors from NOAA and other institutions, it was shown that baby coral exposed to oxybenzone and octinoxate (two of the most common chemical sunscreen compounds) exhibited signs of distress, including coral bleaching—a condition that leaves coral vulnerable to infection and prevents it from getting the nutrients it needs to survive—as well as DNA damage, and abnormalities in their growth and skeleton.
This bolstered the findings of a 2008 study by Italian scientists and published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, which found that commonly used sunscreen ingredients, including (but not limited to) oxybenzone, caused coral bleaching in reefs across the globe, including in the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean—even at low concentrations.
Other studies have found chemical sunscreen ingredients to be harmful to other marine life including fish, shrimp, and sea urchins and, not surprisingly, to humans ourselves.
These consequences were never intended, nevertheless, they couldn’t be ignored. In July 2018, Hawaii became the first U.S. state to ban the sale of sunscreens containing those two common chemicals, oxybenzone, and octinoxate. Yay for Hawaii! It was a step in the right direction but unfortunately, those two chemicals aren’t the only offenders, and the law doesn’t apply (pun intended) to sunscreens that our visitors bring with them from out of state.
Because we’re committed to taking care of the natural resources that, you know, make our entire business possible, and because we know that education is the first step in changing people’s behaviors, we decided to stock all of our Holo Holo Kauai boat tours and Niihau boat tours with a truly reef-safe sunscreen, for our customers and employees alike.
We got to researching for a product that’s gentle on humans and gentle on reefs and found Raw Elements, a mineral sunscreen brand created by an ocean lifeguard. The active ingredient in Raw Elements is non-nano zinc oxide (easy to pronounce!) and it contains other skin-conditioning all-natural ingredients like vitamins and extracts. It’s super water-resistant (it can even be applied underwater!), 100% made in the USA, and packaged using recycled and recyclable materials.
As people that spend our lives in the sun and on the water, we need something that doesn’t just sound good on paper but is effective in real life and we can tell you that Raw Elements WORKS! A little goes a long way, too!
If you find yourself on a Holo Holo boat tour (and we hope you do!) please take the opportunity to try out Raw Elements reef-safe sunscreen—it’s there to use if you choose! If you love it as much as we do, purchase some in our retail area to take home so that you too can spread the good word about reef-safe sunscreen and why it matters!