The scary truth – your sunscreen may be killing the ocean and it’s marine life.

We’ve all grown up knowing that we should “slip, slop, slap” whenever we’re exposed to the sun, but what often slips the mind is the fact that our traditional chemical sunscreens may not only be disrupting our delicate hormone balance, it may actually also be killing the ocean and it’s marine life. 

Research has shown that a staggering 4,000 to 6,000 tons of sunscreen enters reef areas annually! With this volume of chemicals entering the ocean, it’s no wonder why more than 60% of our coral reefs are being impacted. 

Other concerning research1 has found that Oxybenzone (a known endocrine disruptor) can be blamed for two-thirds of the male Hornyhead Turbot experiencing a ‘sex change’. The oestrogen mimicking chemical has been found to cause the growth of ovary tissue in the testes of the male fish. 

Oxybenzone, and the other various toxins found in traditional sunscreens have also been found to cause coral viruses, ultimately leading to coral bleaching and death.

While these findings are certainly worrying, there are steps you can take to ensure you are doing your part to protect our precious coral reefs – starting with a reef friendly sunscreen!

(Image via Pinterest)

The nasty sunscreen chemicals killing our oceans (and damaging your skin!)

When sunscreen is applied to the skin it may wash off when we swim, or enter the waterways when we shower. Some sunscreen chemicals are quickly absorbed by the skin and be passed through the body in urine, therefore entering the waterways through sewerage. 

The NOAA have found that sunscreen chemicals can affect different marine life in the following ways:

  • Green Algae: Can impair growth and photosynthesis.
  • Coral: Accumulates in tissues. Can induce bleaching, damage DNA, deform young, and even kill.
  • Mussels: Can induce defects in young.
  • Sea Urchins: Can damage immune and reproductive systems, and deform young.
  • Fish: Can decrease fertility and reproduction, and cause female characteristics in male fish.
  • Dolphins: Can accumulate in tissue and be transferred to young. 

Studies have shown that the chemical Oxybenzone can cause coral bleaching by lowering the temperature of at which corals will bleach when exposed to prolonged heat stress. It can also cause severe deformities in coral, ultimately killing it. Oxybenzone is also toxic to algae, sea urchin, fish and mammals, and can inhibit embryonic development, result in gender shifts, and acts as a potential mutagen in mammals. It has also been found that dolphins (and humans) can transfer oxybenzone to their babies through breastfeeding. 

(Image via Pinterest)

Not only is Oxybenzone toxic to reefs and marine life, it can also cause some serious concern for humans, such as allergic reactions, oestrogenic and anti-androgenic effects, as well as shorter pregnancies and lower birth weights.

Research by the National Centres for Coastal Ocean Science have found that Benzophenone-2 (BP-2), a common chemical used in sunscreens, soaps and cosmetics is highly toxic and lethal to coral. BP-2 can also cause coral bleaching and mutation.

Other chemicals commonly found in sunscreens that are harmful include Octinoxate, Homosalate, Avobenzone and Methylisothiazolinone.

To find out more about these chemicals and how they can harm humans skin and health, read our blog post here.

How to choose a reef friendly sunscreen

Opt for a natural, ‘physical’ sunscreen – Look for physical sunscreens containing Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide (that are labelled ‘non-nano’). These minerals have not been linked to coral bleaching, nor have they been shown to cause harm to other marine life. Zinc Oxide is a natural, physical sunscreen which creates a layer on top of skin that blocks ultraviolet rays like UVA1, UVA2 and UVB. As well as being reef friendly, it is stable in chlorine and will not degrade to cause harmful free radicals, skin irritation or hormone disruption in humans.

Look for ‘non-nano’ or micronised sunscreen – Non-nano and micronised zinc particles contain particles which are large enough to notbe ingested by corals.

Avoid the nasties – it is so important to carefully read the ingredients lists on your skincare, cosmetics and sunscreens. When looking for a sunscreen avoid the below chemicals:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Benzophenone-2
  • Octinoxate
  • Homosalate
  • Avobenzone
  • Methylisothiazolinone
  • Dimethicone
  • Parabens
  • BHT
  • Nanoparticles
  • Propylene glycol
  • Fragrances
  • Retinyl palmitate

Stick to creams – Sunscreens in the form of aerosols can leave residue on the sand and be washed back into the ocean. Applying a cream sunscreen and waiting 10-20 minutes for the cream to properly absorb into the skin can help protect reefs from chemical exposure.

Look for sustainable material – Look for a sunscreen tube made out of recycled and/or recyclable material.

Basking Beauty Natural Sunscreen

Our Basking Beauty Natural Sunscreen is 100% natural and reef safe! It contains non-nano Zinc Oxide to provide UVA + UVB protection, and botanical actives such as Camelia Seed, Vitamin E, Kakadu Plum, and Rosehip to naturally nourish and hydrate the skin.

This vegan formula is water resistant for up to 4 hours, is free from nasties, cruelty free and suitable for adults, children and babies!

Our new sunscreen packaging is also made of recycled / biodegradable material which means it will not contribute to landfill.

With so many of our precious reefs and oceans under threat from sunscreen chemicals, its so important we each do our part to ensuring the exposure is minimized. Educating yourself and others, as well as opting for a reef friendly sunscreen is the perfect place to start.




  1. Coronado, Michael & Haro, Hector & Deng, Xin & Rempel, Mary & Lavado, Ramon & Schlenk, Daniel. (2008). Estrogenic activity and reproductive effects of the UV-filter oxybenzone (2-hydroxy-4-methoxyphenyl-methanone) in fish. Aquatic toxicology (Amsterdam, Netherlands). 90. 182-7. 10.1016/j.aquatox.2008.08.018.

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Daisy Thompson

BComm&Media (MktgComm)

Daisy has a Bachelor in Communications and Media (Marketing) and brings a love for all things make-up and beauty to the Edible Beauty team. With qualifications in both Marketing along with Makeup Artistry, Daisy has a strong passion for natural beauty products and has spent many years experimenting with makeup and skincare. She believes that good, healthy skin is the ideal canvas for makeup, and to achieve this you must look after your skin from the inside – and out. Daisy has experimented with natural skin remedies throughout her teen years to improve skin conditions such as eczema and hormonal skin issues and has developed a strong belief in the power of botanical actives. 

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