Sunscreen is an everyday essential, especially in Australia’s incredibly hot climate. Are you struggling to find a zero waste sunscreen that is free from nasty chemicals that are harmful your skin and the ocean?
In this blog we’ll talk about the difference between SPF30 and SPF50, what reef-safe sunscreen means, and why and how to avoid ones that contain nano particles, as well as suggesting our favourite zero waste sunscreens that are good for you and the Earth!
First up... SPF30 vs SPF50 | What’s the difference?
The Sun Protection Factor is the ability in which sunscreen blocks out UVB radiation. To sum it up, the difference between SPF30 and SPF50 is very, very small. Around 1.3% difference.
SPF30 filters 96.7% of UVB rays while SPF50+filters out 98% of UVB radiation. UVB Rays are the main cause of sunburn,however, purchasing a Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen protects you from both UVB and UVA rays.It is the UVA which ages you and can have more of a significant long-term impact on your skin. Eeeeek!
You can read more about both UVB and UVA Rays in a post we did here.
So, if you are fairer or burn easy, it's best to go for the SPF50+ otherwise the minimum sun protection everyone should be wearing is SPF30.
Either way, sunscreen needs to be applied liberally, with around a teaspoon worth for each body part. That means you should be applying around 7 teaspoons worth of sunscreen to your whole body, depending on the spreadability of the cream.
Now that you know the difference between the two sun protection factors (the numbers sound dramatic, but are quite minimally different), let’s move onto a different factor of sunscreen that is super important to us and the health of our reef!
What is Reef Safe Sunscreen?
Most people wear sunscreen to the beach, and because of this an estimate of 14,000 tonnes of chemical sunscreen washes off swimmers into the environment each year. This becomes concentrated on popular tourist areas and exposes sea life and underwater ecosystem to the chemicals of sunscreen.
Sunscreen is classified by companies as ‘reef safe’ when the ingredients list doesn’t contain Octinoxate Oxybenzone, Cinnamates, Petrolatum or Parabens. These are chemicals that have been studied and proven to be harmful to the reef, causing coral bleaching, and disturbing sea life.
However, sunscreens labelled as ‘natural’ or ‘Reef Friendly’ do not automatically mean that it is the right option to choose. These terms are not regulated and do not account for the harmful aspect of Nano Particles in sunscreens and its impact on coral and sea creatures.
Did you know the lovely Jade from Sunslayer while on holiday was about to go on the diving trip of a lifetime and was actually denied to enter the water due to her sunscreen not being reef-safe!? That sparked a fire in her belly to get out there and make it possible... More about Sunslayer to come!
What are Nano Particles in Sunscreen?
To avoid the white (not rubbed in) look on your face after applying natural sunscreen, companies sometimes break down chemicals to form Nano Particles, achieving sun protection without a white film.
However, not only does it create a less effective sunscreen due to the chemicals being broken down to Nano Particles, it makes ingredients of a mineral sunscreen now dangerous to the marine ecosystem. Generally, Zinc Oxide and Titanium Oxide are fine in water, however, it is when they are fragmented to Nano Particles in sunscreens that they are no longer reef friendly.
What to Look For When Buying Sunscreen:
Though we don’t have an entire list of every sunscreen that follows the rules and can protect you from the sun without harming the marine life, we can tell you what to be on the lookout for when purchasing sunscreen:
If it contains Octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate), Oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), Cinnamates, Petrolatum or Parabens then don’t use it!
Find mineral sunscreens that say ‘Non-Nano’, ‘Water Resistant’and are made from Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide
Cream sunscreen over aerosol sunscreen is the way to go. When the spray does not hit your body and lands on the sand, it will inevitably end up in the ocean. We want to overall reduce the amount of sunscreen in the sea, no matter the ingredients!
Broad-Spectrum sunscreen!Always buy sunscreen that is labelled as broad spectrum as it protects you from both UVA and UVB rays
Caring for both yourselfand the environment means finding sunscreens that tick all the boxes above as well as being non-toxic and vegan (We don’t want any nasty chemicals just sitting on our skin for hours!).
This reef-friendly sunscreen contains Non-Nano particle Zinc Oxide as well Coconut Oil to keep skin cleanand hydratedand Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E)to promote skin cell production and reduce irritation. Sunbutter also have a zinc formula for bolder protection around sunburn prone areas (hello red-nose friends)