Reef Safe Sunscreen

An estimated 4,000 – 6,000 tons of sunscreen enter our worldwide oceans every single year. The majority of these sunscreens contain a chemical called oxybenzone.


Here is the simple breakdown to explain why this is a problem and why you should care.

UVB Rays: cause “burns” and skin cancer. When you see that SPF label it is referring to these rays.

UVA Rays: these rays penetrate the skin and give the “tan”, but also cause premature aging, wrinkles, and skin cancer. The term “broad spectrum” on a sunscreen label is for blocking both UVB and UVA rays.

OXYBENZONE is a chemical blocker for UV rays and is found in over 3,500 different sunscreens around the world.


Oxybenzone kills coral by causing DNA damage in adults and deforms the DNA in coral while it is in the larval stage.


The toxicity of oxybenzone is 62 parts per trillion. That equates to about one drop of water in an olympic sized swimming pool. The highest concentration of oxybenzone is in high tourist areas like Hawaii and the Caribbean. In the Caribbean about 80% of the coral reefs are already dead.

Some other active ingredients to avoid are:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Octixonate
  • Oxtocrylene
  • Butylparaben
  • Octinoxate
  • 4-Methylbenzylidine Camphor

Nano versus Non-Nano

This refers to the size of particles within the various ingredients. Some studies have shown that ingredients with a particle size of 100 nanometers or more can be ingested by coral.

High concentration of tourists = High concentration of oxybenzone = High amounts of dead or damaged coral reefs


Coral Reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet and they are dying at an alarming rate.

Globally 30% of coral reefs have already died. It is predicted that 75% of the world’s coral reefs will be dead by 2050. The good news is that you can help in so many easy ways!

How You Can Help:


While On Vacation:

  • ALWAYS buy and use reef safe sunscreens – Dolphin Project approved sunscreens
  • Support reef and ocean friendly businesses
  •  Dispose of your trash properly when at beaches and parks
  • Snorkel responsibly – do not touch or swim above coral reefs
  • Spread the word! Talk to fellow tourists and educate them about how to conserve the oceans and beaches we all love so much
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and REFUSE

While at Home:

  • Continue using only reef safe sunscreens
  • Conserve water because that means less pollution runoff
  • Don’t use chemicals such as Roundup on your yard – think about where these products end up
  • Plan and attend beach and shore cleanups
  • Ask your Government representatives what they are doing locally to help the oceans and shorelines
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and REFUSE


“Healthy coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse and economically valuable ecosystems on Earth, providing valuable and vital ecosystem services” – U.S NOAA

Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and all donations are tax-deductible as authorized by law. IRS 990s: 2022 2021 2020

© 2024 Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project. All Rights Reserved.

171 Pier Ave. #234
Santa Monica, CA 90405