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4000 Aurora Avenue North
Seattle, WA, 98103
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Sun Block Protects You, But What It Does to Coral Reefs Will Shock You

Sugar Plum Life Blog

Sun Block Protects You, But What It Does to Coral Reefs Will Shock You

Rachel Tassew

You know summer is coming to Seattle when a few key items start appearing in your vision. An increase of Birkenstocks here, tropical button downs are making appearances there, the multitudes of adults perched upon scooters merrily making their way down the sidewalks. These signs all indicate one thing---- the very welcome emergence of summer in the Pacific Northwest! As a state with primarily mild and drizzly weather, when it’s warm out many locals enthusiastically relish in it while it lasts. At times, essentially everyone in the city is outside all at once; ready to dose up on much needed Vitamin D. Popular parks like Greenlake and Alki Beach are packed to the brim and local festivals are raging on at full force, and in the downtown area you’ll see the crowds of people walking about in search of summer fun in the Emerald City.

When enjoying the summer and the great outdoors, protecting your skin is especially important. It’s a smart idea to use an SPF to avoid harmful UVA/UVB rays, prevents sunburns, and reduce the likelihood of developing skin cancers such as melanoma. Regular usage of sunblock also helps prevent premature aging of the skin, hurray to no wrinkles & sun spots! As sunscreen is a skincare essential, it’s hard to imagine there being any downsides to it! Unfortunately, the use of make-believe is not required to do so, for it’s a frightening fact that most sunscreens contribute to the destruction of coral reefs in our oceans. These reefs, being habitat to multitudes of sea life.

The majority of sunscreens and sunblocks on the market contain a chemical called oxybenzone.  Oxybenzone has been traditionally included in sunscreen because its chemical components absorb incoming UVA/UVB rays before they affect your skin. It literally “blocks” them, hence the fitting name sun-block. A very saddening experience is to learn that this chemical has the complete opposite effect on coral reefs.

The coral reef population all over the world have been dying off at an extremely alarming rate, and scientists have concluded that SPF products containing oxybenzone are one of the culprits causing this. In a very brief summary, when sunscreen products containing oxybenzone leach into the ocean it causes bleaching to occur to coral reefs, meaning corals are dying and whole ecosystems home to aquatic life are being destroyed. As more research is done on oxybenzone’s effects even more negative aspects are coming to light. There are also other dangerous ingredients commonly used in sunscreens; for example, parabens. They are not only toxic to reefs and the environment, but to you as well. You don’t have to swim in the ocean for your sunscreen usage to affect the environment. Quite simply, when the sunscreen you wear get washed off in the shower, at one point the water carrying toxic particles could end up draining into an ocean.

Reef Safe Sun-Blocks is what we all as a collective part of humanity, must start using for the sake of the ever-declining coral reef population and our planet. There can be challenges on determining what exactly classifies as a Reef Safe product, some SPF products may be categorized as being oxybenzone free, but will be chock full of other toxins that damage the aquatic life or are unhealthy for you to use on your skin. We recommend doing research, and checking out organizations who are making it their mission to bring awareness to this issue, such as The Oceanic Society https://www.oceanicsociety.org and The Safe Sunscreen Council http://safesunscreencouncil.org/; On these websites, there are lots of fantastic references to be found. From scientific articles going into depth on how sunscreen affects reefs, to listings of retail brands who are aligned with the eco-friendly mission of providing better sunscreen options.


Because both skin care and environmental awareness are matters that Sugar Plum as a company is passionate about, we found that the topic of Reef Safe sunscreens was necessary to both highlight and help bring attention to. And here’s a secret: Sugar Plum is in the works of a developing new addition to our skin care line, a Reef Safe sun-screen. Stay tuned for more details, we’re so excited to bring what will be next to the forefront, and to further aid the fight to save the coral reefs!