The Importance of Reef Safe Sunscreen

Updated: Jun 19, 2019

Let’s talk sunscreen. Did you know that some of the ingredients in popular, FDA approved, name brand sunscreens are destroying our reefs…and aren’t good for humans either? Many ingredients are actually skin irritants, as well as bleach coral reefs, are toxic to aquatic organisms, hormone disrupters, and can accumulate in humans over time. So why are these ingredients so widely used still? Well, many of the toxic and harmful ingredients that are used in many sunscreens and other lotions or bug sprays do serve a purpose…just at another cost.


How bad are some products actually for our reefs? So bad that Hawaii has actually banned the sales and distribution of any that contain oxybenzone or octinoxate. Other areas, like Key West, are on their way to pass similar bills. It’s because these chemicals prevent a growing relationship with algae and coral, which means coral will stop growing in areas. It also means coral is being bleached, taking away all the beautiful colors and exposing to more stress.


Prior to our trip to Bali and Miami, and after reading about the dangers that many sunscreens are causing to our reefs and oceans, The Travelogue knew we wanted to take along some products that were safe for us and our ocean friends. Deter was kind enough to send us both sunscreen and bug spray samples, and we’re so happy to talk about their company today.




Deter Outdoor Skin Protection Products are awesome because they’re 100% hypoallergenic and nonirritating, reef safe and biodegradable, their bug spray is completely DEET free, 100% natural (which smells AMAZING, unlike most yucky chemical sprays) and lasts up to 6 hours, and safe for everyone. Good for the environment and good for our skin? Sign us up.


It was awesome to receive the Deter products with informational pamphlets. They compared themselves to other brands with toxic ingredients as well as the quality and longevity of their products. It’s great to see some transparency from companies! Their website also has an awesome story on how they got started and why they’re passionate about their products. Check it out.


Now, we know that there’s a lot going on when it comes to ingredients in products. The names are long, and some companies even try to hide them under other names. So, for your quick reference, we’d love for you to bookmark this page – and next time before you lather up, be sure to check out this guide for many widely use sunscreen ingredients!


Benzophenone-3, or Oxybenzone: While it does prevent UV exposure, it is an eye irritant and slightly hazardous for direct skin contact. Also the lead ingredient that causes coral bleaching.


Avobenzone: Similar to bezophenone, but can also increase free radicals in the body which can increase your chance of getting skin cancer. Isn’t that what sunscreen is supposed to prevent? Cylcopentasiloxane / Cyclomethicone: Toxic for aquatic organism, and also reproductive toxins. Formaldehyde, Diazolidinyl urea, Quaternium-15, DMDM Hydantoin and Hydroxymethylglycinate: Often a replacement for parabens, as well as a human carcinogen and exotoxin. Homosalate: Accumulates in the body more quickly than it can leave and is a hormone disrupter.

Methylisothiazolinone: Neurotoxin and ecotoxin.


Parabens: This ingredient has been known to mimic the hormone estrogen and is linked to breast cancer. Phthalates: Interferes with the male reproductive system.

Octinoxate: Huge cause of bleaching in coral reefs.


What should you look for instead? Look for mineral based sunscreens made up of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These ingredients aren’t absorbed by your skin, but rather sit on top – and still definitely protect you from harmful UV rays!



We hope this has given you insight on how to better protect our oceans and yourself – because everyone loves healthy people and a healthy planet! We can all help make small changes that will better the environment together.


Pssst, are you looking for some cute swim suits to go with your sunscreen and tropical vacation? Some of our favorites include Watercolors by Kenny Flowers (use code TRAVELOGUE for 15% off) and BOLD swim, where all of their bikinis are made from sustainably sourced materials! (20% off with code TRAVELOGUE).


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©2018 by The Travelogue.