What is reef-friendly sunscreen about?

What is reef-friendly sunscreen about?

Reef-friendly sunscreens

Protect yourself and the reef with eco-friendly sunscreens

As we become more aware of the impact our actions have on the environment, “reef-friendly” sunscreen has become a buzzword. But what does it really mean? And is it actually safe for our oceans? The answer is not so clear-cut. While some studies suggest that certain sunscreen ingredients can be harmful to coral reefs, and when they’re washed off our skin and into the ocean, they can damage these beautiful creatures.

Others argue that the impact is minimal. Michael Gonsior, PhD, an expert in the field, warns that the information we have now is contradictory and evolving.

Why you should use reef-safe sunscreens

It’s clear that more research is needed to understand the effects of sunscreen on our oceans, but in the meantime, it can’t hurt to opt for reef-friendly options. As consumers, we have the power to make informed choices and contribute to a healthier planet.

So what can you do to protect yourself and the reef? Read on for our guide to eco-friendly sunscreens!

What is coral bleaching

Coral bleaching is a significant concern as the largest living organism on Earth depends on the symbiotic relationship with algae. Without this partnership, the coral loses its color and can eventually die.

In a recent study, researchers from Stanford University found that the chemical oxybenzone, commonly found in sunscreen, can exacerbate coral bleaching by turning into a toxin when exposed to UV light.

Bleached corals
Starfish at the Caribbean in panama

What does reef-safe mean?

Unfortunately, there is no standard definition or regulation for this term. Some sunscreens with this claim omit oxybenzone and octinoxate, while others consist of entirely mineral ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Reef-safe sunscreen is supposed to be free of harmful chemicals that can damage coral reefs. It’s important to note that the definition of reef safe is constantly evolving as public awareness grows and research continues in this field.

Why is reef-safe sunscreen important?

Did you know that every time you apply sunscreen and jump into the ocean, you could be harming our precious coral reefs? It’s estimated that between 25 to 60 million bottles worth of sunscreen chemicals are washed off into coral reef areas each year! And the problem doesn’t end there – when we shower, these chemicals can wash off our skin and pollute wastewater that ultimately reaches the ocean as well. As someone who cares deeply about the environment, I urge you to switch to reef-friendly sunscreen.

Me by the beach in Lime Caye, Jamaica

Tips for choosing eco-friendly sunscreen

There are a few things you can look for when shopping for eco-friendly sunscreen.

Ariel view of blue hole in belize

1. Watch our for the following ingredients

These ingredients are associated with coral bleaching and other oceanic damage:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate,
  • PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid)
  • 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor
  • No Nano-particles: Sunscreens made with nano-particles are more easily absorbed into the skin, but can be toxic to aquatic life. Avoid sunscreens that contain nanoparticles or microbeads

2. Reef-safe all the way

Make sure to buy sunscreens that are biodegradable and have a recyclable container. You want to avoid any product that might end up polluting the ocean!

What kind of sunscreen is safe for the ocean?

Coral-friendly sunscreens are free of harmful chemicals that can damage coral reefs. Some eco-friendly sunscreens include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which provide natural sun protection without harming the reef. There are a few different types of eco-friendly sunscreens on the market.

Mineral sunscreen: These sunscreens use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to reflect UV rays away from your skin. They don’t contain any chemicals that could be harmful to you or the environment. The downside of most mineral sunscreens is the difficulty of applying them. It’s hard to rub them in without a thick white layer on your skin. However, some newer formulas are easier to apply and look more natural.

Organic sunscreen: Organic sunscreens are made with plant-based ingredients like aloe vera, green tea extract, and chamomile. They’re good for protecting your skin from both UVB and UVA rays. However, they may not provide enough protection on their own. So it’s important to use a combination of both mineral and organic sunscreens for maximum protection.

Me at Frenchman's Cove Beach in Portland, Jamaica
Isla Ometepe volcano view

Final thoughts on ocean-friendly sunscreen

We all want to protect our skin from harmful UV rays, but it’s just as important to make sure we’re protecting the environment too. By choosing reef-safe sunscreens, you can enjoy the sun without worrying about harming our precious coral reefs.

Every little bit helps when it comes to protecting our planet and its creatures.

Do you have any tips for choosing eco-friendly sunscreen? Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget to share this post with your friends to spread the word!

The best reef-friendly sunscreen

Luckily, there are plenty of options when it comes to reef-friendly sunscreens. And out of them all, we’ve found the best reef-friendly sunscreen that’s also skin-friendly. No more thick white cast or greasy texture -new formulas rub in easily and leave your skin feeling smooth and moisturized. 

Here are my tried and tested favorites

reef-friendly sunscreen


All-natural daily face lotion with SPF 30 hydrates, nourishes, and revitalizes skin while providing broad-spectrum protection against UVA/UVB rays. The sunscreen is completely reef-safe and does leave almost no white cast. I love that even when sweating, the lotion stays put and does not make my eyes water.

raw elements mineral sunscreen

Raw Elements

This brand offers the best reef-friendly sunscreen out there – and it packs a serious punch in terms of other benefits, too. First of all, it’s EWG top-rated, meaning you can trust that it’s effective. Plus, it’s gentle enough for all ages to use, so it’s a great choice for families. The natural and organic formula means it’s free of synthetic chemicals and stuffed with nourishing ingredients. And of course, it’s reef-safe and biodegradable. All in all, Raw Elements sunscreen is basically the superhero of sun protection.

Need practical packing tips?

Read more!

More on sustainable traveling

Exploring the Essence of Community Tourism

Exploring the Essence of Community Tourism

Community tourism offers a unique opportunity for travelers to experience the world through a different lens while providing economic and cultural benefits to local communities. n this article, we will delve into the concept of community tourism, exploring its major advantages and disadvantages from both the traveler and local perspectives.

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Six easy steps to travel responsibly

Six easy steps to travel responsibly

Six easy steps to travel responsibly

Responsible travel practices have become even more essential as traveling has become a mega-industry with more people packing their suitcases or backpacks to faraway places. Our vacations are a special treat to us. Depending on the type of traveler, we ache with wanderlust, a desire for adventure or relaxation, and sometimes forget the implications of our visit. We were often lucky to be taken to off-the-beaten-path destinations. Places that do not evolve solely around tourism. What we found there: Lovely people eager to share their homes and stories with us. But we also encountered an incredible amount of pollution.

Over the many journeys, our awareness of our footprint increased. So naturally, we were trying to reduce our harmful “travel habits” and replace them with more responsible practices.


Hopkins, Belize: Dani by the beach
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Sustainable tourism vs. responsible traveling – What’s the difference?

The terms “sustainable tourism” and “responsible traveling” are increasingly becoming buzzwords.

Sustainable tourism means causing as little negative impact as possible while fulfilling local economic needs. Ideally, sustainable tourism practices take a long-term perspective in developing and maintaining a destination’s landmark, culture, and heritage.

Contrary to that, responsible traveling refers to the personal level. Responsible travel is about leaving a positive impact as a visitor by respecting the environment, people, and cultures.

Being a responsible traveler doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up on comfort. Instead, it’s about cultural, social, and environmental awareness. Responsible travel is about understanding the effect on the places you travel to, whether in the environment or its people.

If you want to travel more responsibly, try our tips below. They should help to get you started!

Hopkins, Belize: Colorful house

1. Avoid unnecessary airfares – take the bus and make friends on the road

Admittedly, it’s hard to avoid airplanes entirely while satisfying our wanderlust. Nonetheless, you can reduce your carbon footprint by flying less frequently. Take local public transportation once you have reached your destination.

Traveling by bus rather than plane will reduce your travel emissions and give you an excellent opportunity to get in touch with the locals. It might take you a lot longer to get from A to B, but in our opinion, it’s almost always worth it!

2. Do your research first

Travel has become fast. We enter the plane, and when we exit after just a couple of hours, we find ourselves surrounded by a completely different culture and way of living. Being a responsible traveler means reading up on your destination’s practices and cultural values before you head there. Become aware of local customs, so you behave respectfully.

3. Immerse in local life

Traveling is more than just visiting a destination. It’s about immersing yourselves in foreign cultures and getting to know the people. Don’t be shy when somebody starts a conversation with you. We often heard phrases like “we can tell that people are worried or afraid of us.” Imagine how it must feel if tons of foreigners visited your hometown being afraid of you. Often we have made the experience that people are proud to show off their home country to foreign visitors. We found this especially true for developing countries. Learn a few essential words or phrases. This will be enough to break the ice.

With billions of people traveling each year, imagine if every single one of them would share one conversation, one exchange of words with somebody from a foreign culture. It would not just change our perspective but create understanding and change the world in a beautiful way.

4. Source locally and responsibly

Our tourist dollars may have a significant impact on the local economy. Stay in locally owned accommodations or places that give back to the local community. Visit locally owned restaurants or book your tour through sustainable family-operated companies. We feel like people should benefit from our visit. Therefore we make a point of choosing locally-owned alternatives.

5. Reduce your waste

Often we visit places that cannot provide sophisticated water and waste management systems. Microplastic and other ingredients steaming our cosmetics pollute water and the environment. Make a point of bringing sustainable zero-waste products such as:

  • shampoo bars
  • sunscreen free of toxic components (e.g., oxybenzone)
  • reusable cotton pad alternatives
  • reusable water bottles and water filters
  • a tote for shopping
  • sustainable cutlery
  • a set of warps to pack your food or leftovers

The list goes on and on… and as you can see, you only have to make small changes to reduce the footprint drastically you leave behind. Just think about all the plastic bottles you won’t have to use…

P.S: Check out our unique zero-waste packing list! Click here!

6. Take a second before taking pictures

Too often, we wander around with the camera glued to our hands, unaware of the people surrounding us. We start shooting away as soon as we enter a scene. Often we invade moments or disturb others without our knowledge. Take a second to access the scene you are coming from, and most importantly, ask for permission before taking pictures, especially of people. Keep in mind: it’s their home, they are real people, and this is not a photo set with paid models. We found that when you ask people to take a picture of them, you are likely to hear the story behind that person. Use your camera to create tangible memories with people rather than using them as attractions.

Border crossing from Nicaragua to El Salvador

Responsible Travel Tips: How to choose the right Airbnb

Responsible Travel Tips: How to choose the right Airbnb

Responsible Travel Tips: How to choose the right Airbnb

Airbnb and its implications on destinations are often mentioned in a sentence with over-tourism.

As with many things, the mass commercialization of Airbnb has made it a two-sided sword. We have talked extensively about the pros and cons of destinations on Airbnb before, but for us travelers, there is also a different dimension to it: comfort &safety.


tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches
tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches
magazine 18

So why not amplify the benefits of Airbnb by choosing it more responsibly?

Airbnb might have become the go-to App for many. It’s easy to use, provides excellent accommodations, and often lower prices. Reviews and customer service add to the appeal.

It’d be a shame to give up AirBnB altogether, considering the positive impacts it can have and the comfort it provides.

We often have sad that to be a more responsible traveler; you don’t need to give up on all comfort and camp in the woods. Small changes in how you go about the trip can make a big difference.

After all, it can provide significant local experiences, a tap into tourism dollars, and less tourism leakage!

Hopkins, Belize: Colorful house

4 easy steps to choose your Airbnb more responsibly :

1.  Avoid staying in Airbnb in places where over-tourism already has taken its toll.
People in big cities such as Berlin, Barcelona, and Paris are protesting against the uncontrolled Airbnbs. Entire towns and neighborhoods are changing because investors have bought up apartments are renting them to tourists.

2. Choose to rent a room instead of an entire apartment
By choosing a room over an apartment, you are likely to reduce the chances that this place solely exists for the purpose of tourists. And as a big plus: you’ll be able to get local insights from your host.

3. Read the description carefully
Often you’ll find hints as to who is owning and running this AirBnB. Make sure the listing is 100% owned by locals. With your decision, you make sure that your tourism dollars are likely to stay in the country and benefit it.

4. Wander off the beaten track
Did you find the most fantastic place but it seems too far off your original route? So often it’s worth to change your plans! Even or especially if your chosen property is the only one in the area. You’ll get the most authentic experience and be able to not just oversee but to participate in daily life. We’ve often made the experience that people in rarely visited neighborhoods or places react with friendly curiosity.

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Is it still ok to book an AirBnb?!

Is it still ok to book an AirBnb?!

Is it still ok to book an AirBnb?!

Overtourism has long become a buzzword. Cities, Islands, and entire countries are creaking under the weight of too many visitors. Locals’ lives change drastically as prices rise and an increasing amount of living space is allocated to accommodate tourists. Especially Airbnb has been the cause of uproar and anger for many locals suffering from over-tourism.

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches
tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches
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As we try to become more responsible travelers and leave a positive impact, we wondering if it is still ok to book with Airbnb?

Admittedly, we loved staying at Airbnbs for the comfort and the low price. On top of that, we often had the chance to get to know the locals. Today there are more than 4 million listings on Airbnb worldwide. What started as an example of the sharing economy quickly became commercialized, with new rooms everywhere. With the commercialization and tremendous growth, the character and use changed drastically. The evolution of Airbnb has even entirely changed neighborhoods and impacted the daily lives of many.

Hopkins, Belize: Colorful house

Problems with Airbnbs

However, in recent years, we often stumble upon empty apartments whose sole purpose seems to be accommodating tourists. The owners were often foreigners who had bought the property as an investment. Staying in an Airbnb like this would ensure that our tourist dollars leave the country quickly, which is exactly what we are trying to avoid.
Adding to that, in most countries, Airbnbs aren’t subject to regulation. Hence, there are no taxes and no planning restrictions. However, today’s world, especially in developing countries, needs both—an income from taxes and control over the development of tourism.

Tobacco Caye, Belize: Reefs end

The bright side of Airbnb:

Not everything is black or white. While we understand the issues arising from Airbnb, there are definitely some advantages and upsides.
For one, Airbnb has acknowledged the arising problems and has committed to improving the situation, especially in areas suffering from over-tourism.
According to Airbnb’s study (studies can be read a million different ways), 31%-96% of Airbnb experiences occur outside the main tourist areas. Of course, there are enormous implications where Airbnb gets too commercialized, but in many places, it offers an easy tap into tourism for locals.

By booking an AirBnB owned by a local, you provide a revenue stream because profits from AirBnBs go directly to the host.
On top of that, unlike tourists visiting hotels, Airbnb guests are more likely to spend money with local stores. Therefore minimizing the tourism leakages and directly impacting the local economy.

Getting to know the locals

The perfect Airbnb is an exciting place to stay and contact locals. Local hosts can provide insight and knowledge of hidden gems and stories. According to Airbnb, 61 percent of recommendations are by a single host. This makes up for an incredible number of 1 Million unique experiences local Airbnb hosts provide.

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Can we still use Airbnb as a responsible traveler?

We’d say: yes! Airbnb can be a great experience, not just for you but also for the host. However, as with many things, making conscious decisions is vital.
Make sure to check out our guide on how to choose an Airbnb responsibly.

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