What you need to know about Reef Safe sunscreen

Here’s something that might shock you…seawater contains thousands of chemicals from personal care products, and one of the most damaging of these pollutants is sunscreen. In fact, one 2015 study estimated that up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen infiltrate the planet’s coral reefs every year and cause irreversible damage.

Terms like “reef-safe” or “reef-friendly” are typically used to identify sunscreens that do not contain the two most common ingredients known to cause Reef bleaching; oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Both oxybenzone and octinoxate have been linked to increased coral bleaching and marine degradation, and they’re also two of the most common ingredients found in chemical sunscreen.

When coral bleaches it’s still alive, but it’s under severe stress, which leaves it susceptible to disease and death. 

The Noosa Naturals Sunscreens range are completely Reef Safe and do not use any chemical ingredients that will potentially harm the coral and marine life.

Why are zinc oxide sunscreens safer for us and the environment?

The active ingredients in physical (mineral) sunscreens are zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, both of which sit on the surface of the skin and create a “physical” barrier between skin and the sun. Both zinc and titanium dioxide are proven to be less damaging than chemical formulas on coral reefs.

Zinc oxide provides broad spectrum protection from UVB all the way through to UV-A1, meaning skin is getting the best sun protection possible. It is classified as a stable sunscreen ingredient that is much less likely than chemical ingredients to break down in the bottle or on your skin.

Zinc oxide gives broader UV protection than titanium dioxide and is cosmetically more user-friendly (invisible on the skin) and is not absorbed through the skin and into the blood stream.


How do I know if a sunscreen is Reef Safe?

Unfortunately, the term “reef safe” is not regulated in Australia so it’s important to check the “active ingredients” label on the back of your sunscreen or personal care product to ensure that reef-harming chemicals are not included.

Be sure to check the label on your sunscreen and make sure it does not contain the following harmful substances on the “HEL” list:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • Octocrylene
  • Homosalate
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
  • PABA
  • Parabens
  • Triclosan
  • Nanoparticles or “nano-sized” zinc or titanium
  • Any form of microplastic, such as “exfoliating beads”

The size of minerals contained in some products can also have an impact on marine life. Be sure to use micro-sized (or non-nano) mineral sunscreens such as the Noosa Naturals Organic and Natural Sunscreen range to avoid nanoparticles, as these smaller particles can be toxic in high concentrations.


It’s also safest to stick with lotions and creams and avoid spray or misting sunscreens, especially those that contain titanium dioxide as they can be potentially harmful if inhaled.

Things to look for when purchasing a Reef Safe Sunscreen:

  • Zinc oxide and/or Titanium dioxide sunscreens are mineral sunscreens. These physically block the sun’s rays and have not been shown harmful to the reefs. They are biodegradable and hypo-allergenic.
  • “Non-nano” refers to particles larger than 100 nanometres and is considered safe for us and the reef.
  • Water-resistant sunscreen helps keep the product on your skin and not wash off in the water.
  • Wait at least 15 minutes after applying your sunscreen before entering the water so that your skin can absorb it and it won’t wash right off.

All Noosa Naturals Sunscreens are made of natural botanicals, minerals and scientifically proven ingredients. Noosa Naturals are proud to be 100% Reef Safe and eco-friendly to help ensure the protection of our precious reefs and natural marine habitats.