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Protecting the oceans with coral-friendly sunscreen

Protect the sea through your choice of sunscreen

I investigated why the protection of corals and our skin is more important than ever and should be thought of together. In addition to the bleaching and dying of coral reefs, it is also about appropriate skin protection, which is at best "coral-friendly" and is therefore not only good for your own skin, but also does not negatively affect aquatic life.

For the last six months I was in Asia for workation. In addition to the warm temperatures, I enjoyed swimming in the sea and, of course, snorkeling. While the underwater experience was consistently great, I was amazed at how much dead coral there was to see. Instead of a paradise of colors, mostly bleached, white, brown and green colored corals could be discovered. Not only are corals beautiful to look at, they are home to a significant variety of life forms, and are also responsible for coastal protection by breaking waves and ultimately preventing them from hitting the mainland with full force.

There should be no question that humankind should care deeply about protecting corals; It is therefore important to understand how each individual can influence this with their behavior, especially when choosing the right sunscreen.

dead coral

Coral deaths are caused by a number of reasons

On the one hand, the rising water temperature is responsible for the death of corals because it disturbs the coexistence of corals and algae. If the algae stay away due to the warming temperature, the corals lack the vital symbiosis with them, which can lead to the absence of polyp growth, which can lead to colorless coral polyps and ultimately to coral die-offCorals can recover from bleaching, but at the same time they have to hope that the bleaching they have just overcome will not be followed by the next. 

The experts at the International Coral Reef Symposium estimate that 40% of reefs are threatened and 30% are already lost. According to one IPCC report Coral reefs will shrink by an additional 1,5 to 70% with global warming of 90 degrees Celsius.

be added Residues of UV filters, which are found in many conventional sunscreens and which people use to get into the seas, which can stress the corals and trigger coral bleaching.

Snorkeling without coral die-off

Coral friendly sunscreens

It goes without saying that our cosmetics, including sun creams, should pollute the environment as little as possible. In the water in particular, corals and various sea creatures and microorganisms that need to be protected are important. 

The controversial UV filters are octinoxate (INCI: Ehylhexyl Methoxycinnamate), octocrylene (INCI: Octocrylene) and oxybenzone (INCI: Benzophenone-3). Oxybenzone and octinoxate have already been banned by law in Hawaii since January 1, 2021, Tourists receive information upon entry and the advice to only use approved sunscreen. 

Despite the lack of a general ban on the controversial UV filters, many manufacturers of sun protection products are reacting and using mineral particles instead of chemical UV filters. Zinc oxide (INCI: Zinc Oxide) and titanium dioxide (INCI: Titanium Dioxide) are used here, which reflect sunlight on the skin and form a protective barrier. In doing so, they leave behind a white film that some consider annoying. To counteract this, the particles are now often broken down into nanoparticles. 

Anyone who ignores a possible "whitening effect" can enjoy another advantage of mineral sunscreens: They protect the skin immediately after application without any exposure time and are hardly allergenic.

However, "coral-friendly" or "reef-friendly" are not protected terms, so it is even more important that consumers take a close look and choose sunscreens that are ideally biodegradable and do not contain the harmful UV filters mentioned above.

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Be careful when choosing the right sunscreen!

The following sun creams and companies have opted for mineral ingredients and designed sun protection products that you can apply without a guilty conscience when bathing in the sea.

1. Sun sun milk SPF 30 from Speick

Speick relies on 30% natural mineral sun protection based on zinc oxide for Sun Sun Milk LSF 100.
The waterproof formulation is free of aluminum and perfume and is very well tolerated by all skin types. The contained active skin barrier complex provides the skin with intensive care: intensively moisturizing with sugar beet extract, skin-soothing reed extract and essential fatty acids ((vitamin F). With the unique extract of the high alpine Speick plant from controlled organic wild collection. The sun milk is easily biodegradable, for Protection of the environment.


Speick sun milk

2. Sun spray SPF 50 from i+m

The nanoparticle-free Sun Protect sun spray provides mineral UV protection with an extra high SPF 50. For waterproof organic sun care without whitening. Vegetable vitamin E and the finest jojoba oil have an antioxidant and cell-protecting effect. Mild karanja oil supports the mineral UV protection. In addition to additional light protection, it offers the skin soothing care. At the same time, cold-pressed sunflower seed oil from controlled organic cultivation ensures silky smooth skin. It maintains the skin's own moisture and promotes regreasing. The fragrance-free Sun Protect sun spray is completely fragrance-free - ideal as sun protection for babies and children.

coral-friendly sun spray from i+m

3. Sunscreen Sensitive LSF 30 from boep

The mineral sunscreen is particularly suitable for sensitive skin. It protects with a purely mineral zinc oxide filter and complies with the Hawaii Reef Law. The certified natural cosmetic sun cream is vegan and dermatologically tested "very well tolerated by the skin". In the mineral sun protection, boep does without mineral oils, parabens, PEGs, microplastics, perfume and synthetic UV filters. It is very easy to apply and spread. The boep is a young family business from Mainz, founded by a mother of three and a doctor, Michaela. We develop natural cosmetics for the whole family: vegan, natural cosmetics-certified and produced in the Allgäu.

Coral-friendly sunscreen from boep

For the next trip and of course also for sun protection in Germany, it is worth not only thinking about yourself and your personal health, but also about the corals of this world and choosing a sun cream that protects nature and skin.

The increasing number of skin cancer cases in Europe should also be alarming and encourage even more precaution. The Netherlands are innovative and are choosing new ways to fight skin cancer: Disinfectant dispensers that existed from the time of the corona pandemic have been converted and now give out sunscreen free of charge at schools and bathing spots, among others. 

Coral friendly sun protection

© Photos: Pexels / Jess Loiterton / Joao Ricardo Januzzi, Unsplash / Bertolt Jensen, Diane Walton, Speick, i+m, boep

Cécile is a freelance author and sustainability strategist. She enjoys traveling to the fullest: getting to know different cultures, listening to other languages ​​and discovering new things either by the sea or in a (big) city always fascinates her. The stories and intentions of the Good Travel hosts are particularly important to her.


  • Viktoria

    What about Jean&Len sunscreen? It also advertises that it is coral-friendly, but is not mentioned in the list.

  • Nancy

    Ringana's sunscreen also falls into this category. We use and love them in the family. Very fresh ingredients And the great thing is that there is no kingfish effect.
    Very good article thanks for that.

    • Cecile Meier
      Cecile Meier

      Dear Nancy, thank you for the nice comment and the addition of the products!


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