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Reef safe sunscreen: false claims and certifications explained

Woman swimming underwater in the islands

How To Know if Your Sunscreen Is Truly Reef Safe

Even if a sunscreen is labeled as "reef safe" there's no guarantee that it actually won't harm the corals, fish and other marine life. This is because there is no regulation when it comes to marketing a product as reef safe. More research and tighter regulations are much needed but thankfully, the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory (HEL) is already doing some great work in this space.

Reef Safe Sunscreen Certification

 bright pink coral on rock and fish underwater

HEL is a non-profit, scientific organisation on a mission to conserve wildlife and ecosystems, just like us! Products labeled with HEL’s Protect Land + Sea Certification means that the product has been laboratory‐tested using analytical‐forensic techniques to verify that the product is free of the chemicals that are known pollutants in many different environments (freshwater streams, river, beaches, and ocean systems) or harmful to wildlife such as corals, fish, birds, marine mammals, sea turtles.

These chemicals aren't just bad for coral reefs; they can also be harmful to your body. One of the most common toxic ingredients in sunscreen is oxybenzone, an emerging human and environmental contaminant often used in conventional sunscreens (DiNardo & Downs, 2018).

Damaging Sunscreen Chemicals

Pollutants HEL checks for when certifying a product include:

  • Any form of microplastic sphere or beads.
  • Any nanoparticles like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
  • Octocrylene
  • Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
  • Methyl Paraben
  • Ethyl Paraben
  • Propyl Paraben
  • Butyl Paraben
  • Benzyl Paraben
  • Triclosan

Our products do not contain any of these ingredients AND our sunscreen is also plastic free. Packaging is often forgotten about when it comes to reef safe claims and certification yet most sunscreen packaging is difficult if not impossible to recycle and the impact of plastic pollution on marine life is well known.

Read more about our safe sunscreen ingredients.


Seasick Sunscreen Co plastic free sunscreen nz


We are aiming to become Protect Land and Sea Certified in the next few years. What’s the hold up? The certification process costs around $10,000 USD so we are currently applying for grants and trying to increase our sales so we can cover the cost. You can help by purchasing our products, leaving a good review and sharing our business with your friends and family.

two tins of Seasick Sunscreen on the sand next to a log with wave in background

Like what you see? Shop Seasick Sunscreen now

DiNardo J. C., Downs C. A., 2018. Dermatological and environmental toxicological impact of the sunscreen ingredient oxybenzone/benzophenone-3. J Cosmet Dermatol, 17(1):15-19. DOI: 10.1111/jocd.12449

Haereticus Lab. Protect Land and Sea Certification. Retrieved 17 August 2022, available from https://haereticus-lab.org/protect-land-sea-certification-3/


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