We have all been told to ‘Protect the skin you’re in’ by covering our bodies in sunscreen at least half an hour before going into the sun. While this is absolutely important, our need to protect ourselves is causing damage to our oceans. Between 6,000 and 14,000 tons –you read right, tons of sunscreen washes off into the ocean every year. Add to this body lotions, hair products, and for us divers, mask de-fogging products and it all adds up pretty quickly. Many of these products contain ingredients that could cause coral bleaching or that are toxic to some reef fish.
Products containing Benzophenone-3 (Oxybenzone), Butylparaben, Octinoxate (Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate) and Cylcopentasiloxane (Cyclomethicone) are most damaging to the aquatic environment. When choosing a body, hair or mask-defogging product, check the ingredients to make sure that it does not include any of these to help preserve the underwater world for future generations. You can also help by choosing water resistant and biodegradable sunscreens that does not wash off in the water and that breaks down quicker, limiting the amount of damage to the environment. Here is a list of reef-safe products to use on your next dive trip.
- Coconut oil
Natural is always better, and coconut oil is definitely a winner here. It has a natural SPF of between 4 and 5 and the antioxidants in it protects from radiation from the sun. While the SPF is low, it can be supplemented with red raspberry seed oil and other essential oils, or one of the sunscreens recommended below.
Coconut oil works wonderfully as a full body moisturiser- including your face- and can even be used as a leave-in conditioner to avoid messy post-dive hair.
- Stream to Sea
While stream to sea is against animal testing in cases where there are other alternatives, unfortunately, in order to ensure that their products are completely harmless to both humans and the aquatic environment they had to test their products on ‘purposely bred live fish and EcoConsciously and scientifically obtained coral larvae’. This testing process has enabled them to develop a wide range of body and hair products that are reef safe. Their range includes everything from sunscreen to hair conditioner, biodegradable shampoo to lip-balm and after sun products- everything you need to stay safe in the sun and protect the environment.
Yes, you read right, the most environmentally friendly mask defogger is good old spit. Ok, so it’s not technically a product – unless you want to purchase super powerful instructor spit from your favourite instructor! For best results avoid the watery spit that naturally accumulates in your mouth and go for the good thick stuff at the back of your throat! For those not comfortable with playing with their own spit take a look at our next suggestion.
- Reef Safe Sun
Reef Safe Sun products are not only approved by the Food & Drug Administration, they have also been tested and proven to be biodegradable and non-toxic to sea life. They use sustainable and renewable plant and vegetable raw materials with no animal testing or animal by-products. They offer a wide variety of products including sunscreen, baby products, and a reef-safe mask cleaning and defogging spray.
As ambassadors to the underwater world, diver can make a huge difference when it comes to protecting our underwater playground. By choosing to use products that are biodegradable and reef safe we can help lessen the impact that we have on our environment. Every little step counts!
*A version of this article first appeared at www.scubadiverlife.com
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