• Seaside Sustainability

The Sunscreen We Use is Harming Our Oceans

Written by: Eveline Mol

Wearing sunscreen is a daily part of many people’s skincare routines. It is well known that it protects our skin from developing cancer and keeps your skin protected from the aging effects of the sun. However, a thought that often slips people’s minds is: what impact does the sunscreen we wear have on the world around us? Researchers have recently found that chemicals in common sunscreens pose a threat to marine life.


The most prominent one is the threat to coral reefs. Chemicals such as Oxybenzone, Benzophenone-1,nano-Titanium dioxide, nano-Zinc oxide, Octinoxate, Octocrylene, and more pose this threat. These chemicals accumulate in the tissue of the coral. They can cause coral bleaching, damage their DNA, deform young coral, and can even be fatal for this marine creature. Corals are keystone species, meaning they provide an essential function to other species within their ecosystems. Fish and invertebrates live, seek protection, and spawn within coral structures. Coral’s crucial role in marine ecosystems means damage to the reefs, especially at the rate it is currently occurring, is not to be taken lightly.


However, the harm sunscreens cause goes beyond distant coral reefs. It affects us right here, in Massachusetts. These chemicals can decrease fertility and reproduction in fish, induce defects in young mussels, damage immune systems in sea urchins, and so much more. New research from the University of Alberta even shows that these chemicals can prove ‘lethal’ to organisms living in freshwater ecosystems. These chemicals enter our waterways when we swim in our local waters, but they can even enter when we take a shower, rinse our face, or use the toilet. Even when we are not wearing it to the beach in the summer, it is still causing significant harm. 


In order to protect our aquatic environments, Seaside Sustainability is actively working to tackle this issue on a legislative scale. While the Legislation Team works on this problem from a higher level, there are some things our community can do to help. At the bottom of this page, you will find a table we have compiled to help guide you in your choice to use reef-safe sunscreens. Please consider making the switch, as we all play a part in healing our oceans!


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