The silent reef killer

In 2015, it was estimated that around 14,000 tons of sunscreen are ending up in the world’s coral reefs and causing irreparable damage.

This year for my summer vacation I headed to Croatia where my boyfriends family have a house so we can spend an extra few weeks there just relaxing and enjoying some of the most beautiful crystal clear waters in Europe. My family joined us this time, we spent 2 lovely weeks together with Adi's family learning about Croatia from the locals. My dad is always ready to find the next adventure, swim to an island, look for snakes and insects in the bushes or most importantly for him, snorkelling. Every new spot we go to he has his snorkel at the ready to see what life is hidden in these bays, often I go with him as I love that feeling of complete quiet under the waters and just watching a complete different world go by. This year however it was a very different experience.

The house is on an island just outside of Zadar, one of the larger cities in Croatia. It is very populated with around 100,000 people visiting this very little island during the summer. So you can imagine fishing, walking everywhere without thinking about what you are standing on and wearing lots and lots of sticky sunscreen is very high. Whilst snorkelling in what looked like a beautiful area, we saw around maybe 10 fish, maybe 1 or 2 nice looking pieces of coral and the odd hermit crab scurrying away. That was it. I cried fat tears and uncontrollable shaking as I realised that, what once was a beautiful marine life area, is now a grave yard for the odd fish to scavenge and a few sea enemies dotted around.

What type of a world do we live in where we care more about our enjoyment then the planet that we live in, who are we to ruin animals habitats because it isn't convenient for us to have it there or because we cant take 2 seconds to actually give a thought about what we are putting into their waters. I saw people drying out starfish (it was too late by the time I saw it) to what, hang in their houses? How do we explain to children that yes this was once a beautiful animal in our seas but you will probably never see one as they are all hanging on our walls. How are our children and their children meant to learn about fish and experience the beautiful things we have been able to experience because its all dead?

Its really time to start educating ourselves, it is everyones problem and its too late to now just shrug it off and leave it for someone else to fix. These problems are real and they will destroy our planet if we don't make changes now.

So on that note, here is what I have been learning about sunscreen and what we can look out for to make sure we are not the reason the coral is bleaching.

Oxybenzone and Octocrylene are the main ingredient culprits in sunscreen. Oxybenzone, for example, is toxic in four different ways: it causes damage to the DNA that may lead to cancer and developmental abnormalities, it is an endocrine disruptor (chemicals that interfere with our hormone system), it causes deformations in young corals, and finally, it leads to bleaching. Where as Octocrylene is found to be persistent and bioaccumulative (accumilation of pesticides or other chemicals in an organism) in wildlife, can cause liver issues and possibly cause cancer.

When going to local supermarkets and pharmacies I found it really really hard to find any sunscreens that didn't have Octocrylene in it. I tried multiple stores, even in multiple countries but didn't have a lot of luck. Here is a bottle of 'normal' sunscreen that I found in my cupboard, it will now only be used when i need sunscreen but will not be entering any body of water until it is empty and will not be purchased again, Octocrylene is often the second or third ingredient in sunscreens so super easy to spot.

However I did eventually find some sunscreens that were not made with the terrible oxy/oct chemicals, the first (and only) drug store sunscreen I found was the kids sunscreen by Nivea, now you have to be carful because some of the bottles which where with the big spray tops but otherwise looked the same as this kids sunscreen still had Octocrylene in it, which leads me to think that companies like Nivea just randomly add it into some sunscreens when they don't have a different ingredient or perhaps it just depends on the batch of sunscreens but regardless some shaped bottles had it in and others like this one didn't. I don't have enough of a scientific understanding as to why these chemicals are used instead of natural ones but I hope the information I am sharing now is a good enough start to understanding what changes we can make to help the oceans.

Next sunscreen was found when I went to one of Stockholms local eco stores, they offer lots of alternative products that reduce their plastic, are all natural and more fair trade. I went in expecting it to be easy to find lots of sunscreens that don't cause harm to the coral reefs and I did but boy was the prices on the very high side. The average price was around £30-£40 (300SEK-400SEK) which is insane for a small bottle of sunscreen. This was the cheapest one I could find that had the most natural ingredients and ended up also being very pleasant to use. Lovea Nature, a french company that produce mineral based skin care products that are all natural and eco certified. There was no stickiness to the sunscreen, it soaked into my skin and smelt really good so I was very happy with the outcome of this sunscreen.

I have extremely sensitive skin on my face that reacts to anything too strong or with lots of chemicals in so I often don't put sunscreen on my face as it causes a lot of irritation but that isn't safe for my skin or smart, so I was introduced to CicaMed by Vass PR and only used this sunscreen on my face and it made the world of difference. It was like putting on a face moisturiser, no stickiness, no greasy look after and it completely absorbed into my skin but I did not get a single burn on my face the entire holiday. This sunscreen is also natural and organic so made the world of difference for my skin and also then for our beautiful planet.

So these were the three sunscreens that loved my skin the entire holiday and caused no impact on the coral, ecosystem or beautiful animals below the water. It took me a lot of time to find sunscreens that didn't have the dangerous chemicals, but I am hoping if I spend my time doing the research then you guys just need to do the little checks before you purchase any sunscreen to do your part on saving our seas too! I cant wait for the day where this is realised as a more serious issue, the prices for natural sunscreen need to change and large companies that do the major selling of sunscreens need to get their act together and change the dangerous chemicals for something better. We should love our bodies and the world around us, by doing this we should choose a more natural and caring life.

For my lips also I used EOS sun-protector lip balm, It is so important to look after our lips in the heat as they are always on show so I loved this pocket sized protecter that nourished my lips and took good care of them all in a natural and vegan way.

I hope you found this post useful and informative, if you have anything extra to add please leave a comment below or message me as I would love to know your views, thoughts and ideas. I will put a link to a good website with information about the different harmful ingredients that can be found in sunscreen here and I hope you all have a wonderful time in this beautiful sunny summer.

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Comments

Aaron
Aaron,
Yes, on the Black Bear News, the guest from New Zealand described the same thing, he sailed the Great Barrier Reef and is heartbroken to see it dying, be strong Jasmin, I admire you for efforts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rss8IJMfERk
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