Yes, some sunscreens are harming our reefs, so here's what you need to look out for.

Thanks to our brand partner, NIVEA

As a surfer and diver I’m pretty much in the ocean daily.

I’ve chased waves all over the world and snorkelled at pristine coral reefs here in Australia and throughout the South Pacific.

I’ve always educated friends and family to do their best when it comes to ocean protection and even volunteered my time to help out the Surfrider Foundation with various ocean conservation campaigns.

It’s fair to say that I care a lot about whether my sun protection is safe for the sea and therefore my salty marine creature companions. It is, after all their real-life aquarium.

Nowadays it’s (alarmingly) well known that coral reefs throughout the world are suffering as a result of global warming – fact. The spike in ocean temperatures has caused significant stress to the marine life that inhabits our seas and caused mass coral bleaching in sensitive areas.

Yes, I’m lucky to have surfed at some the most visually stunning locations on the planet but it’s truly heartbreaking to witness the impacts of global warming firsthand.

hawaii reef bill
When I'm in the ocean, I want to know I'm not harming it. Image: Supplied.

On a positive and proactive note, I recently learned of the Hawaii Reef Bill - a commendable initiative that will see Hawaii ban the use of two of the most harmful UV filters that are currently used in the majority of sunscreens.

Studies have shown that both Oxybenzone and Octinoxate have potentially negative impacts on coral reefs, and these are the two main culprits set to be banned from products in the US state from January 2021.

The Pacific island nation of Palau and the US Virgin Islands have since followed Hawaii's lead with their own bans on "reef-toxic" sunscreens.

This a huge win for the planet's reef eco-systems and for the marine life that inhabits them - and it's put the world on notice. A recent study found that the worst damage happens in places close to human concentration - although it needs to be noted that there's still more studies to be done.

The message is clear: we need to protect our oceans globally in order for their delicate marine eco-systems to survive and thrive.

As an individual there’s many things you can do to ensure the seas remain healthy and one of the simplest ways to assist is to ensure that your sun protection creams are non-toxic to reefs.


Sunscreen brands around the world are starting to pay attention to what's happening in our oceans, coming up with new formulas that still protect you from harmful UV rays without the need for these reef-affecting ingredients.

Nivea Sun's SPF50 sunscreen range is a good example of that. Their entire range is compliant with the Hawaii Reef Bill, including the Sun Sensitive Protect SPF50 for sensitive skin.

It also feels hydrating, particularly on my face, which is super important to me given that I often surf and dive for hours at a time. So, yes, I’m exposed to the sun’s harshness for a decent part of the day.

It also offers four hours of water-resistant protection - essential for me coming into a hot Aussie summer. I apply sunscreen generously and regularly (it's recommended every two hours if you’re swimming or sweating it up) in order to maintain the best coverage throughout the day. On me, not the reefs.

hawaii reef bill
Nivea Sun Sensitive Protect sunscreen, and the 'Compliant with Hawaii Reef Bill' sticker to look for. Image: Supplied.

For me, as a committed underwater adventurer, surfer and diver that means no more guilt like I used to experience if I spied a slick of sunscreen floating across the surface while waiting patiently in the line-up for my next wave.

It's practical advice for everyone to heed - simply care for your skin and the environment at the same time, right?

Sure, the Hawaii Reef Bill has ushered in more global awareness about potential ocean pollutants and effectively actioned a sustainable resolution, but it's on brands to follow suit and look into new practices that can help make a difference. And for us as consumers to look out for those names: Oxybenzone and Octinoxate (also known as Octyl Methoxycinnamate).

If you've ever visited The Great Barrier Reef, the outer atolls of Fiji or even seen the azure wonders of life under the sea on TV, you will understand precisely what I mean. Why wouldn’t you actively participate in ocean preservation at the same time as protecting your skin?

The globe’s intricate reefs that teem with tropical fish, sea turtles, manta rays, dolphins, whales and a multitude of colourful coral species will thank you.


Launched in 1911, NIVEA is one of the world's largest and most successful skin care brands. Over 100 years ago, we invented modern skin care with NIVEA Creme. Today, millions of people all over the world, all with different types of skin, rely on the NIVEA brand. That is why our researchers work extensively with different skin types and the different care requirements brought about by culture, gender and age. Thanks to this approach, we have developed numerous innovative skin care products over the past few decades to cleanse, nourish and protect all skin types. The brand includes several specialist ranges, including Bath Care, Body Care, Deodorant, Face Care, Lip Balm, NIVEA Creme, NIVEA SOFT and Sunscreen.