Reef-friendly sunscreen at Napili Kai Beach Resort
I grew up in an age when sunscreen wasn’t such a big deal. I may well be showing my age by admitting this, but when I was young we would spend hours at the beach with only minimal sun protection – if any at all. That’s all changed now, of course, and sunscreen has become an indispensable part of our everyday lives; and I never let the kids go on the beach without Factor 50 slathered all over them!
But although sunscreen protects us from the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays, it turns out that many contemporary sunscreens are not so good for our oceans. Oxybenzone is a common chemical found in all types of sunscreen, particularly the spray-on type. Unfortunately, however, researchers have found that this chemical literally poisons coral; it contributes to bleaching, disrupts reproduction and growth, and leaves young corals deformed. It doesn’t have to be present in large amounts, either, recent studies have shown that even the smallest amount of oxybenzone will damage coral.
Fortunately, however, there are people taking a stand. In Hawaii, lawmakers are proposing an outright ban on sunscreens containing oxybenzone. One Hawaiian hotel is going a step further and showing guests that there is an eco-friendly sunscreen alternative.
Napili Kai Beach Resort, located on one of Maui’s most beautiful reef-protected bays, has introduced an educational program to encourage visitors to use reef-safe sunscreens. Since December 2017, all guests arriving at Napili Kai Beach Resort receive a free sample packet of Raw Elements reef-safe sunscreen. They are also given a discount coupon to purchase more, and information about the damaging effects of chemical sunscreen on the reef ecosystem.
In addition, the resort’s beach recreation staff members regularly walk the beach, providing information to beachgoers on the importance of examining their sunscreen ingredients.
It’s a great initiative and one that would be wonderful to see adopted everywhere!
How to choose your sunscreen
Avoid sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and any of the following chemicals that can potentially harm the coral reef ecosystem:
When choosing a sunscreen, opt for a mineral-based product such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide in a fragrance-free natural base, rather than a chemical sunscreen or spray.
Apply sunscreen at least 15-30 minutes before entering the water, so it has a chance to soak in – otherwise, the majority of it will wash away almost immediately in the water.
Katja Gaskell is a travel writer recently returned to London, U.K. after 12 years of living abroad in Australia, India and Mexico. She's the co-founder of globetotting.com and is a firm believer that you can - and should! - take your kids everywhere. Katja has written across a range of titles for Lonely Planet guidebooks, tested luxury hotels for Mr & Mrs Smith and has contributed to publications including BBC Food, Hotelier International and The Australian.