Unveiling the Secrets of Coral-Friendly Sunscreen

Interest in coral-friendly sunscreens have risen, after Thailand has implemented a ban on sunscreen containing harmful chemicals for coral reefs within the country’s national parks. The Royal Gazette declared the prohibition of sunscreen utilizing four chemicals, namely oxybenzone, Octinoxate, 4MBC, and Butylparaben, effective from August 4th, 2021. These chemicals have been recognized as detrimental to coral reefs, leading to their exclusion from use within national parks.

Harmful sunscreens to the reef banned in Thailand

The ban stems from the observed damage caused by these chemicals to corals annually, disrupting their reproduction systems and contributing to coral bleaching, as outlined in academic studies. The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation identified approximately 3,500 sunscreen brands containing at least one of these harmful chemicals. Violators of the ban face charges under section 20 of the National Park Act B.E. 2522 and can be fined up to 100,000 baht.

Choose Mineral-based ingredients

To promote environmentally friendly practices, tourists are strongly advised to opt for water-resistant sunscreen or products with mineral-based ingredients like zinc oxide when visiting national parks in Thailand. This initiative aligns with a broader commitment to preserving coral reefs and fostering responsible tourism practices.

In recent years, the beauty and skincare industry has undergone a significant transformation, with consumers becoming increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of their choices. One area where this awareness has gained momentum is in the realm of sunscreen, particularly coral-friendly sunscreen. In this article, we will explore the importance of choosing sunscreen that not only protects our skin from harmful UV rays but also safeguards our precious coral reefs.

The Coral Conundrum

Coral reefs, often referred to as the rainforests of the sea, are teeming with diverse marine life and play a crucial role in maintaining the health of our oceans. However, these delicate ecosystems are facing unprecedented threats, and one surprising culprit is the sunscreen we use. Chemicals commonly found in conventional sunscreens, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, have been identified as major contributors to coral bleaching – a phenomenon that weakens and ultimately kills coral reefs.

Understanding Coral-Friendly Sunscreen

Coral-friendly sunscreen, also known as reef-safe sunscreen, is formulated with ingredients that do not harm marine life. These sunscreens omit chemicals known to be harmful to coral reefs while still providing effective protection against the sun’s harmful rays. The two primary types of sunscreen ingredients to look for are mineral (physical) blockers like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which sit on the skin’s surface and reflect UV rays, and organic (chemical) filters that are biodegradable and less harmful to marine life.

Key Features of Coral-Friendly Sunscreen

Mineral-Based Formulas:

Coral-friendly sunscreens often feature mineral-based formulations, with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide being the star ingredients. These minerals create a physical barrier on the skin, reflecting UV rays rather than absorbing them.

Biodegradable Ingredients:

Opt for sunscreens containing biodegradable organic filters, such as avobenzone, octocrylene, or octocrylene, which are less harmful to marine ecosystems. These ingredients break down naturally, reducing the impact on aquatic environments.

Broad-Spectrum Protection:

Coral-friendly sunscreens are designed to provide broad-spectrum protection, shielding your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. This ensures comprehensive coverage against sun damage.

Water-Resistant Formulas:

Look for water-resistant formulations to ensure the sunscreen remains effective even during water-based activities. This not only protects your skin but also prevents the sunscreen from washing off and potentially harming marine life.

The Impact of Coral-Friendly Choices

By opting for coral-friendly sunscreen, you actively contribute to the preservation of coral reefs and marine ecosystems. Beyond the immediate benefits for the environment, making sustainable choices in your skincare routine also fosters a sense of responsibility and environmental stewardship. It’s a small yet impactful step towards a healthier planet.

How to Choose the Right Coral-Friendly Sunscreen

Read the Ingredients List:

Take a moment to scrutinize the ingredients list on the sunscreen packaging. Look for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as primary active ingredients and avoid oxybenzone, octinoxate, and other harmful chemicals.

Check for Certifications:

Look for certifications like the “Reef Safe” label or endorsements from environmental organizations. These certifications indicate that the sunscreen meets specific criteria for environmental safety.

Consider Packaging:

Opt for sunscreens that come in eco-friendly packaging. Minimalist and recyclable packaging contribute to reducing the overall environmental impact of the product.

Trial and Error:

Finding the perfect sunscreen for your skin type involves a bit of trial and error. Test different coral-friendly options to see which one suits your skin’s needs while also aligning with your environmental values.


In conclusion, making the switch to coral-friendly sunscreen is a positive and responsible choice for both your skin and the environment. By being mindful of the ingredients in your skincare products and opting for sustainable options, you contribute to the conservation of our precious coral reefs. Let’s embrace a skincare routine that not only protects our skin but also fosters a healthier planet for generations to come.
Photo: savethereef.org