I consider myself super fortunate to spend half the year living in Rincón, Puerto Rico alongside pristine turquoise water and colorful coral reefs. In addition to surfing the many waves that break over these reefs, on it’s super fun on flat days to paddle out and literally view all of the coral, fish, and sea turtles from above.
Similar to snorkeling, the water is so clear here that even paddling on a SUP gives you a great view of what’s below the surface.
Recently there was a trend on social media of posting pics from 10 years ago and showing how you have aged. This one stood out for me:
The reality is, we are not just aging ourselves, but we are also aging the climate at an alarming rate. Climate change is not just about the atmosphere, it's also about our water systems, particularly the ocean which is paramount in regulating temperatures for the entire planet.
As an advocate for an eco-conscious living (and organic skincare!) I always would preach the importance of using a sunscreen that has environmentally-conscious ingredients. I believe that these ingredients are better for your skin and internal body. I also believe they are a more sustainable option for the environment, since everything you put on your body goes down a drain or, in this case, washed directly into a living water source.
Sadly, after a busy weekend here in Puerto Rico you can literally see the oil marks on the surface of the water from all the sunscreen washing off. As the waves move and crash on the shore these oils and chemicals get pulled down below the surface – coating the reefs and contributing to the bleaching of the reef. It is heartbreaking to see vibrant colors slowly fade to white.
But there is some good news!
While we can not regenerate the reef that has been killed, we can support and educate ourselves about the eco-conscious and reef safe sunscreens and body products that are out there. It starts with reading all ingredients on the labels of ANYTHING that you put on your body. If you are not sure what something is, look it up on one of the many chemical research databases online. My favorite is Skin Deep Cosmetic Database.
In this day and age of mass consumption and marketing, we must stay educated about what we put in our waterways and on our skin. There are millions of products out there, and not every product is good for our bodies or for our planet. With regards to reef-friendly sunscreen here are some things to note:
- Look for a sunscreen that has a primary ingredient of Non-Nano Particulate Zinc or Titanium Dioxide to protect your skin. Both Zinc and Titanium Dioxide are non harming to the reef and your body on a topical level.
- Nano Particles are extremely dangerous to the body in any form and can penetrate the pores of your skin being absorbed internally on a cellular level, try to avoid these. Some great, organic, reef-friendly sunscreens to check out are: Raw Elements or Joshua Tree Organics.
- Avoid anything with Oxybenzone or any other chemicals that are petroleum derivatives (paraffin and perfumes included). These chemicals are extremely toxic to your skin and the reef especially when in the spray-on form which is intended to be easily “absorbed” and feel light on your skin. These oils grease off of you into the water and leave oil slicks on the water’s which stay in the water indefinitely affecting the ecosystems below the surface, including the reefs.
With a little awareness and research, it is possible to make a sunscreen choice that is not only good for your body but also good for the environment. Hopefully, as awareness spreads, retailers in locations that are close to the ocean, rivers, and lakes used for public recreation will make the choice to exclusively carry environmentally friendly sunscreens, to help preserve the natural habitats of the waters we all love to paddle, swim, and surf in.
So keep your head up, take the time to research what you put on yourself and support the products that are going to great lengths to be eco-conscious and sustainable. Happy paddling y’alls!
Post written by Hala team rider Adi Carter.