Chemicals in many sunscreen products can harm coral reefs, including corals in ocean parks of the National Park System. In order to protect park resources and to encourage visitors to be sun-safe, the National Park Service encourages the use sun protection that includes mineral-based sunscreen with only titanium dioxide or zinc oxide and protective clothing.
What you can do
Share information with people about what they can do when visiting parks to protect the reef:
Check the labels: While no sunscreen has been proven to be completely ‘reef-friendly,’ those with only the active ingredient titanium oxide or zinc oxide, which are natural mineral ingredients, have not been found harmful to corals. Sunscreens sold for children or for those with sensitive skin may contain these gentler compounds as the active ingredients.
Chemicals in some sunscreens that can harm marine life include: Oxybenzone, Benzophenone-1, Benzophenone-8, OD-PABA, 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor, 3-Benzylidene camphor, nano-Titanium dioxide, nano-Zinc oxide, Octinoxate, Octocrylene (link to NOAA's information about Skincare Chemicals and Coral Reefs).
Cover up: You can protect yourself as well as the reef by covering-up before you enter the water. On the water, wear hats, sunglasses and light, long-sleeved clothing to protect you. In the water, a long-sleeved shirt or rash guard will help prevent sunburn.
Protect yourself and the reef: Protecting ourselves and our coral reefs are equally important. As a visitor to national parks, you can reduce your risk of skin cancer and the risk of harming corals with a “reef-friendly” approach to sun protection.
Sunscreen harms coral reefs: Sunscreens that include certain chemicals, can harm corals reefs and other plants and animals that live in the ocean.
The National Park Service protects coral reefs: The National Park Service protects oceans and the plants and animals that live there, including coral reefs, for this and future generations.
Download the campaign artwork. Use these graphics to help remind visitors about how to make reef-friendly sun protection choices. These graphics can only be used with items that are include only titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
Campaign Wallet Card
Print the wallet card for people to take so that they know what reef-friendly ingredients to look for in sunscreen products.
Last updated: August 11, 2022