Does sunscreen harm marine life is easily answered once you have done a quick online search for what is coral bleaching? As a scuba diver, you should be finding the best reef-safe sunscreen and know how to apply it properly to protect the health of the ocean and its biodiversity.
With so many different types of reef safe sunscreen now on the market, we really don’t have any excuse not to use them. In the following post, we will discuss different ways scuba divers can avoid using harmful sunscreens but still be able to protect their skin.
How to Use Sunscreen When Scuba Diving
Protecting our oceans and corals is so important. Read on to learn how you can protect your skin from the sun during a scuba dive without causing damage to corals.
Also, find out the best practices for sunscreen use when your options are limited in this ultimate guide to using sunscreen for scuba divers.
Even when you are diving in warm waters where you don’t need a scuba suit, it is worth it to cover up. Swimming gear with built-in UV radiation protection creates a physical barrier between your skin and the sun so there is no need to apply sunscreen those specific areas.
There are many different kinds available so pay attention to the design, material, and rating. The most important factors in choosing the right UV swimwear is the material, construction and any potential chemicals used.
Sun-protective swim shirts are a popular option because they cover up the arms, shoulders, and back which are often exposed to sunlight during shallow dives or snorkeling. They are also easy to wear and don’t feel as restrictive as a full bodysuit.
Another example of UV swimwear are long pants. These are thinner and made of a different fabric than scuba diving wears so again, feel less restrictive. Besides being more kind to the oceans, swimwear with sun protection also has the edge when it comes to consistency. Many people do not apply enough sunscreen or do not re-apply on time so that they are still exposed to the sun – this is not an issue with the clothing option.
Buy Reef Safe Sunscreen
Reef safe sunscreen is biodegradable and free from chemicals that are harmful to coral and other marine wildlife. Though they are less widely available, more and more brands are coming on the market and it is easy to order them online, as well.
When shopping for a new sunscreen, check the ingredients list for the most common culprits; oxybenzone, BP numbers nano-particles. You don’t have to remember each complicated name as long as you know to avoid ingredients with some form of benzine, BP or nano-particles.
Looking for some reef-safe sunscreen? Here are our 3 most popular reef-safe sunscreen picks:
- Ideal for Everyday Use
- Recommended by SCF
- Oxybenzone Free
- All Natural Ingredients
- Easy to Apply
- Chemical Free
Zinc and titanium are a popular alternative but even these are not completely safe for corals. These are only a better choice when there are no nano-particles which can clog up between the tissues of corals.
Another reason to stock up on coral safe sunscreen is new regulation. Hawaii is the first area to ban unsafe sunscreens so it might not be long for other scuba diving spots to follow suit.
How to Apply Reef Safe Sunscreen
Even when you are using environmentally friendly sunscreen, be aware of where, when and how you apply it. Below are a few simple steps that you can take to minimize your impact on the ocean.
1. Take Cover During the Hottest Hours
The sun is at its fiercest between 10 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. During summer or in tropical areas, avoid sun exposure for an extended period of time.
This includes sitting under the covered parts of the dive boat or even staying ashore and scheduling your dive for earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon. When ashore, find a shady spot.
2. Apply Before Getting Under the Sun
Sunscreen needs some time to be properly absorbed by your skin and offering the best protection. The rule of thumb is applying sunscreen about 10 – 15 minutes before you go outside and into the sun.
This is especially important for when you are going underwater. If it is not yet absorbed it will wash off your body and remain in the ocean water, instead.
Just a little bit of sunscreen floating into the ocean may not seem like a lot but think about how many divers concentrate on just a few coral reefs. So many people being nonchalant about how their sun protection affects the oceans quickly builds up to a significant effect.
3. Apply Enough But Not Excessively
Make sure that the most vulnerable exposed areas of your skin are covered but don’t go mad with the lather for the same reasons as #2. It is better to choose a high SPF solution that offers longer protection than a low SPF that you have to continuously re-apply.
4. Wear a Rash Guard
Wearing a rash guard or UV swimwear under your scuba suit is preferable to wearing a bikini or only swim shorts. It offers you sun protection on the dive boat in between dives without having to apply sunscreen.