Is your sunscreen truly reef safe?
As a scuba diver you’re automatically an ocean enthusiast and possibly even an advocate. And unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that most sunscreens on the market contain chemicals that are damaging to that ocean environment that you love so much. But you also don’t want to end your dive trip with a funky mask tan or even worse, a mask-shaped burn – those hurt and aren’t very stylish.
To make matters worse, there are about a gazillion different sunscreen options on the shelf with half of them now claiming to be “reef-friendly”. But what does that even mean? And how do you know which one to choose?
It’s a dilemma we constantly see people facing at our dive center and have even been faced with ourselves. Which is why we’re bringing Sea2Stream suncare products to our customers and have developed this helpful resource guide for how to determine if your sunscreen is truly reef safe.
Introducing the HEL-List
According to the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, the HEL LIST is a list of chemicals that are known pollutants in many different environments (freshwater streams, river, beaches, and ocean systems) or wildlife (e.g., corals, fish, birds, marine mammals, sea turtles). All of them pose a threat to ecosystem health.
It’s a great list to google next time you’re at the store stocking up on sunscreens or to audit what you have in your cupboards right now.
The HEL LIST includes:
- Any form of microplastic sphere or beads.
- Any nanoparticles like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
- 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
- Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
- Methyl Paraben
- Ethyl Paraben
- Propyl Paraben
- Butyl Paraben
- Benzyl Paraben
HEL has developed a certification for reef-friendly sunscreen called the Protect Land + Sea certification, that we like because they independently test products for ingredients on its HEL-List. And the list gets updated each certification period as more research uncovers which chemicals pose a threat to wildlife. When this happens, companies must resubmit their products for certification. See which companies are willing to make this investment to protect our fragile ecosystems (spoiler, it’s a short list!).
If you want a great explainer on WHY you should avoid these ingredients, check out Stream2Sea’s Ingredients to Avoid guide.
Your Health Matters Too
It’s great to make a more eco-conscious selection of sunscreens because you want to make a difference for our planet. But what’s better for the enviroment is also better for you when it comes to sunscreens. Your skin is your largest organ and it absorbs anything you put on it, both synthetic and natural. The FDA has only found two common suncreen ingredients that could be classified as safe and effective: Zinc Oxide and Titanium Oxide. But while these might be safe for use on our skin, these nanoparticles can cause development disorders in sealife.
A great rule of thumb is if you can’t pronounce it, you might not want to put it in or on your body. If you’d rather play it safe, look for UV protective clothing, wear a heat and seek the shade!
Why We Love Stream2Sea
After our own wild chase to track down reef-safe sunscreen here on Roatan, we decided to reach out to Stream2Sea to see if they’d partner with us to provide our customers with a better sunscreen option. And they said yes! This is why we’re thrilled about this partnership:
- We Share Values! Like Sun Divers, Stream2Sea is a business that believes that you can be good at business while also doing good, by prioritizing purpose as much as profits.
- It’s Protect Land + Sea Certified! Their SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen, which is available at our dive center, has undergone the rigorous, independent testing to determine that it is truly reef-friendly.
- No Zinc or Titanium nanoparticles! The EcoSafe Zinc™ used by Stream2Sea is naturally-coated, USP grade and Cosmos certified.
- Lotsa antioxidants! Too much exposure to the sun can release free radicals that rage on the collagen and elasten fibers in your skin. This leads to more wrinkles, dark skin spots and saggy skin, which no one wants. The good news is that antioxidants can halt free radicals from wreaking havoc on your good looks. And Stream2Sea is packed with them from ingredients like green tea, holy basil, olive leaf and aloe.
Sun Divers is now carrying Sea2Stream SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen and Hydrating Lip Balm, as well as using their mask defog on our boats. Every little step counts and we hope you’ll join our movement!