This is why it’s so important you use ocean-friendly sunscreen this summer

24th May 19 | Beauty

Katie Wright asks the experts to explain why traditional SPF products are bad for the environment.

Happy couple snorkeling underwater over coral reef

In May last year, Hawaii started a trend by announcing a ban of sunscreens that contain chemicals believed to contribute to coral bleaching when they wash off into the sea.

The Republic of Palau announced the same ban six months later, and in February this year the city of Key West followed suit, in order to protect the barrier reef – one of the world’s largest – that is found six miles off the Florida Keys.

The bans are yet to come into effect, but sun cream manufacturers are already responding to the news, producing products that won’t harm reefs.

people running into the sea

“For my new suncare range, I didn’t want to compromise between protecting the skin and protecting nature,” says Mathilde Thomas, founder of Caudalie.

“Most brands on sale contains two filters that damage and cause the beaching of coral; oxybenzone and octinoxate.

“These ingredients are cheap and effective, but they have an impact in the marine ecosystem.”

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Green People has introduced a range that doesn’t contain the two main culprit ingredients, and eradicates an additional chemical that’s dangerous for marine life.

“It’s estimated that around 10,000 tons of UV filters are produced annually and, on average, about 25% of the sunscreen ingredients applied to skin are released in the water over the course of a 20-minute swim,” says Charlotte Vøhtz, founder and managing director for Green People.

“Another ingredient in sun creams that is raising concern is ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate.

“Studies have shown that this chemical ingredient is a hormone-disrupting chemical which mimics oestrogen and could genetically alter the gender of fish.”

Some elements of traditional sunblock can be potentially harmful for humans, too.

“After examining 25 molecules authorised in Europe, we have eliminated all chemical filters suspected of disrupting the endocrine system, such as octinoxate, octocrylene and nanoparticle filters,” Thomas explains.

Mathilde Thomas, founder of Caudalie
Mathilde Thomas, founder of Caudalie (Caudalie/PA)

“Caudalie has selected four filters, compared to the nine that brands usually use in suncare products.

“These filters, combined together to work in synergy, are formulated at a lower dosage than the market average and provide maximum SPF protection.”

Plus, the formula is 98% biodegradable in just 28 days, with the remainder degrading subsequently.

Greenpeople’s range, which contains a minimum of 80% organic ingredients, includes plant-derived green tea, rosemary and edelweiss.

“To provide effective protection against UVB radiation, we add titanium dioxide, a naturally occurring white mineral that acts as a reflective barrier,” Vøhtz says.

“We also add Isoamyl P-methoxycinnamate, which is derived from cinnamic acid found in the leaves of the cinnamon tree and provides natural protection against UVB radiation.”

No matter what sunscreen you use, it’s important to remember to apply liberally 20 minutes before sun exposure, and to reapply after swimming – reef damage has proven that no sun cream is truly waterproof.

Reef relief: 6 sunscreens that don’t contain oxybenzone or octinoxate

Caudalie Milky Sun Spray SPF30

Caudalie Milky Sun Spray SPF30, £20 for 150ml

Green People Scent Free Sun Lotion SPF30
(Green People/PA)

Green People Scent Free Sun Lotion SPF30, £22.50 for 200ml

Soleil Toujours Organic Sheer Sunscreen Mist SPF50
(Soleil Toujours/PA)

Soleil Toujours Organic Sheer Sunscreen Mist SPF50, £32 for 177ml, Space NK

Coola Mineral Cucumber Face SPF 30

Coola Mineral Cucumber Face SPF30, £36 for 50ml, Cult Beauty

Uriage Bariesun SPF50+ Spray

Uriage Bariesun SPF50+ Spray, £21.44 for 200ml, Look Fantastic

Dermalogica Prisma Protect SPF30

Dermalogica Prisma Protect SPF30, £58 for 50ml

© Press Association 2019