Sustainable Living

World Oceans Day: Why Your Sunscreen Choices Matter

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Today is World Oceans Day! It has been celebrated each year by many countries on June 8th since inception in 1992. It is a day to consider what we might change in our lives to positively impact the oceans that are so essential to our wellbeing. And with summer coming it’s important to consider our sunscreen choices!

In this post I’m sharing about the impact that standard, chemical-based sunscreen has on the natural world, and how to make your own ocean-friendly sunscreen!

The Importance of Our Oceans

The National Ocean Service describes healthy coral reefs as “one of the most valuable ecosystems on Earth. They provide billions of dollars in economic and environmental services, such as food, coastal protection, and tourism. However, coral ecosystems around the world face serious threats from a number of sources, including climate change, unsustainable fishing, land-based pollution, coastal development, disease, and invasive species.”

We rely on our oceans in so many ways. Caroline at Enviroline blog has a great list of 8 Ways we Rely on the Ocean.

[Related: 50 Thoughts on Plastic]

Underwater sea creatures that are impacted by our sunscreen choices
Image by Marcelo Kato from Pixabay

The Impact of Sunscreen Choices

Many of our simple actions from daily life, like using suncreen have an effect on the oceans. We may think that diving into the sea with our sun protection in harmless, however several ingredients in standard sunscreens can impact sea life in significant ways.

These are a few ways our suncreen choices impact ocean life:

  • Green Algae: Can impair growth and photosynthesis.
  • Coral: Accumulates in tissues. Can induce bleaching, damage DNA, deform young, and even kill.
  • Mussels: Can induce defects in young.
  • Sea Urchins: Can damage immune and reproductive systems, and deform young.
  • Fish: Can decrease fertility and reproduction, and cause female characteristics in male fish.
  • Dolphins: Can accumulate in tissue and be transferred to young
Sea urchin that would be impacted by our sunscreen choices
Image by timvb1990 from Pixabay

We also need to consider the how our sunscreen choices can affect our bodies because standard sunscreens can also have negative impacts on us. According to WebMD:

“Studies have shown that oxybenzone may affect breast development, infant birth weight, and sperm function.”

Better Alternatives for your Sunscreen Choices

There are a number of ways we can protect our oceans. To start, protecting our oceans can be as simple as looking for better sunscreen choices when you’re heading to the beach. This can be done by buying a pre-made version with natural ingredients or by making your own sunscreen at home.

DIY Sunscreen Recipe

Switching up sunscreen to one without harmful ingredients can be as simple as making your own with the help of this recipe and instructions from Plastic Free Mermaid:


  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup beeswax
  • 2 tablespoons NON-NANO, UNCOATED Zinc Oxide (wear a mask when handling this ingredient)
  • 1 – 6 tablespoons cacao powder (add to your desired shade of tan or brown)


  • Up to 1 teaspoon Red Raspberry Seed Oil
  • Up to 1 teaspoon Carrot Seed Oil
  • 1-2 drops of aroma enhancing vanilla essence OR lavender essential oils (Do not use citrus essential oils as they increase sun sensitivity)

Find the instructions for completing this sunscreen recipe here: DIY Sunscreen Recipe.

I haven’t made and tested this recipe from the Plastic Free Mermaid yet, but plan to for the summer!

[Related: Make your own deodorant – DIY Deodorant Recipe]

Homemade sunscreen
Image by DanaTentis from Pixabay

Natural Sunscreen Options

A homemade, do-it-yourself sunscreen isn’t the most practical option for everyone. If you don’t have time to make your own, consider using Badger sunscreen. It’s what I use for my kids and find it works very well.

Badger sunscreen comes in a regular cream-style sunscreen as well as a stick that my kids love to apply on themselves – not sure if that’s a help or hindrance but it keeps them entertained while I apply sunscreen to their arms and legs!

Have you ever considered what ingredients are in your sunscreen? What ocean-friendly sunscreen choices do you make?

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    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      I wear sunscreen all year long too, so it’s one of those things that is both easy to forget about and so important to pay attention to. I’m glad this was informative πŸ™‚

  • Michelle (Boomer Eco Crusader)

    This was really informative. Personally, I mostly stay out of the sun so I use very little sunscreen. I am concerned about sunscreen ingredients because of the chemicals and always look for more natural options. I’m a bit leery of making my own from a safety point-of-view. Does homemade sunscreen really work? It’s one of the compromises I’m not willing to make.

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      I can understand being leery of making your own sunscreen. The SPF would be more unpredictable with a homemade recipe as it’s based on how much of each ingredient you put in. Plastic Free Mermaid has an interesting breakdown of SPF in various oils on her recipe’s page.

  • Stephanie

    How interesting! I’ve never heard of homemade sunscreen, but I’m definitely fascinated by the idea of this. Maybe one day I’ll make my own. I appreciate your insight in this post. I learned so much!

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      I find it so interesting what things can be done DIY. Sunscreen was not one that I’d have thought of previously either

  • Anika

    What an interesting concept! I never used to wear sunscreen but I’ve recently seen it’s importance and love the idea of making your own. A great way to save on the ridiculous prices too. Thanks for sharing!

  • Lisa's Notebook

    Wow, I had no idea that sunscreen has such a harmful impact on ocean life, that’s really shocking. I’m not sure about making my own sunscreen (who knew that was even a thing?!) but I love the sound of the Badger one. Thank you so much for sharing this, it’s been a real eye opener πŸ™‚

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Thanks Lisa! It is shocking isn’t is?! And the ocean is so important to our planet it’s good to do what we can to protect it πŸ™‚

  • Charity

    This is such great information! I did not know all this about sunscreens. I will be more conscious of what I chose to use now. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • The Healthcare Hustle

    Badger sunscreen is my family favorite. Thought I was the only one but glad to know you are a fan too!

  • Kelly Diane

    This is such an insightful post. I’ve never really thought about what ingredients go into suncream let alone how they can affect our oceans. Whilst I personally refuse to go in the sea, I can’t help but wonder what I’m actually putting on my skin.

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      It is good eye opening to consider the ingredients that are getting absorbed into our skin from products like sunscreen. If you’re a freshwater swimmer, it is also something to think about for lakes and rivers πŸ™‚

  • CristinaR

    This was such an interesting read! I had never heard or even though that you could make your own sunscreen! I never thought twice about what I was putting on my skin and leaving in the sea. Thank you for sharing x

      • GWT

        Who knew the ingredients in sunscreen could have such varied damaging effects on the ocean and life in the ocean? Another thought-provoking post! I’ll be especially looking out for non-nano in the ingredients list

        • GWT

          Who knew the ingredients in sunscreen could have such varied damaging effects on the ocean and life in the ocean? Another thought-provoking post! I’ll be especially looking out for non-nano in the ingredients list!

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!