Getting ready for summer and thinking about what you need to stock-up on? More than likely, sunscreen is on that list. I was planning a trip to Aruba, and looking over the items to bring list, and there it was. Something that I had never heard of, 'Reef Safe" sunscreen.

What is that? Is it any different than the stuff I already had in the cupboard? As a person who is very fair skinned, I think that I know my way around sun protection. Here is what I found out about reef safe sunscreen, and how challenging it is to get it here in the Hudson Valley, for now.

Why should we care about the "Reef?"

Photo by Ashraful Pranto on Unsplash
Photo by Ashraful Pranto on Unsplash
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According to Smithsonian magazine, the world has lost more than half its coral reefs since 1950. Why? Pollution of the waters from things like chemicals, plastics, and the warming of ocean waters. Why should we care about these reefs, it's not like they are floating in the Hudson. The reefs are part of vital marine habitats as creatures and organisms live in them. In addition to those reasons, coastlines would degrade, fishing would be impacted, and of course tourism.

What is 'Reef Safe' sunscreen? And how does it help?

Photo by Byeonghoon Jeon on Unsplash
Photo by Byeonghoon Jeon on Unsplash
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Reef safe sunscreen is one that is made with smaller particles of the things that help keep us from getting burned. They also contain a mineral base as opposed to a chemical base. There are certain ingredients to look for on the label which would alert you to that sunscreen not being safe. There is also a logo that reef safe sunscreens have on them. The easiest way to separate the 'good' from the 'safe' is to look for that logo.

What are the chemicals to avoid in sunscreens?

Photo by Stanley Dai on Unsplash
Photo by Stanley Dai on Unsplash
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The chemicals you want to avoid in your sunscreen, from savethereef.org, include:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • Octocrylene
  • Homosalate
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
  • PABA
  • Parabens
  • Triclosan
  • Any nanoparticles or “nano-sized” zinc or titanium (if it doesn’t explicitly say “micro-sized” or “non-nano” and it can rub in, it’s probably nano-sized)
  • Any form of microplastic, such as “exfoliating beads”

Are these 'reef safe' sunscreens hard to find in the Hudson Valley?

Bhunter/tsm
Bhunter/tsm
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Yes and no. When I went on my trip in 2021, I was able to find one at a specialty outdoor store. As I was looking at the last minute I didn't have the luxury of being able to order online and have it shipped, which opens up more places to get them. Since then, I have been seeing more reef safe options on drug store shelves, like Walgreens and Rite Aid. Enjoy your vacation, feel free to share some pictures. Like the one above of my trip to Aruba.

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