Common Sunscreen Ingredient Harmful to Coral Reefs

Researchers have found that oxybenzone, a common chemical sunscreen ingredient, is causing significant damage and death to the ocean’s coral reefs. Though sun protection is extremely important, choosing your sunscreen carefully is the key to protecting yourself, as well as delicate marine life. Cloud Vitamin Cream’s Vitamin A Cream is the responsible alternative for sun damage prevention, as it guards against the sun’s UV rays without harming fragile coral reefs.

Coral is found in many parts of the world, such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Israel, Jordan, Hawaii, The Grand Caymans, Mexico and Japan. In the October 2015 issue of “Time” magazine, author Justin Worland states, “Beyond their impressive appearance, coral reefs play an important role for local communities and the world at large.” Mr. Worland goes on to add that, “Reefs also protect the global environment by serving as carbon sinks, absorbing carbon monoxide that would otherwise contribute global warming.” Most important, though, coral reefs are rich ecosystems and are home to many different species of fish, invertebrates and other marine life. They provide a unique habitat, protection and food to creatures large and small. Starfish, jellyfish, anemones, sea turtles and sea urchins are just some of the animals that call coral reefs their home. Damage to the reefs doesn’t just harm the coral itself, but has a significant impact to the sea life that depends on the coral reef for survival. 

Take a moment now to check to see if your sunscreen contains oxybenzone. There is a good chance that it might. Oxybenzone is a common active ingredient in many sunscreens and other personal care products that feature SPF protection. Thankfully, there are alternative ingredients that give the same or better UV protection without killing coral reefs. Retinyl Palmitate, a vitamin A derivative, is an excellent alternative to oxybenzone. Retinyl Palmitate is a form of vitamin A found naturally in the epidermis of your skin. Once applied topically, it is virtually waterproof and protects against the full UV spectrum. 

Unfortunately, even small amounts of oxybenzone are toxic to coral. Dr. Omri Bronstein, a researcher part of a recent study published in the October 2015 issue of journal, “Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology”, stated that, “We found the lowest concentration to see toxicity effect was 62 parts per trillion – equivalent to a drop of water in six and a half Olympic-sized pools.” This is striking, as it illustrates that it takes only a tiny amount of oxybenzone to cause extensive damage to coral reefs. 

In a report for the “UK Daily Mail” titled “Is your sunscreen killing coral reefs?” by Rachel Reilly, Ms. Reilly explores research that describes how oxybenzone is harmful to corals. The author states that researchers, “found that oxybenzone damaged the DNA of the corals, neutering their ability to reproduce and setting of a widespread decline in coral populations.” Sadly, effects on the coral’s health doesn’t stop there. A study published in the October 2015 journal “Archival Environmental Contaminates and Toxicology” illustrated that, “Whether in darkness or light, oxybenzone transformed planulae from a motile state to a deformed, sessile condition. Planulae exhibited an increasing rate of coral bleaching in response to increasing concentrations of oxybenzone.” The study also found that, “Oxybenzone is a skeletal endocrine disruptor; it induced ossification of the planula, encasing the entire planula in its own skeleton”. Planula are the larval form of the coral. When the planula encase themselves in a skeleton, they die, which has a detrimental effect on the reef as a whole.

We all want to protect our skin from the sun’s damaging rays without harming fragile aquatic ecosystems, such as coral reefs. Fortunately, setting aside oxybenzone in favor of Cloud’s Vitamin A Cream allows us to protect the skin and prevent sun damage while also preventing the destruction of delicate coral and the sea life that depends on it for survival. 



  • “How Sunscreen May be Destroying Coral Reefs”, by Justin Worland, Time Magazine, October 21, 2015.
  • “Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter, Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), on Coral Planulae and Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands”, by C. A. Downs, Esti Kramarsky-Winter, Roee Segal, John Fauth, Sean Knutson, Omri Bronstein, Frederic R. Ciner, Rina Jeger, Yona Lichtenfeld, Cheryl M. Woodley, Paul Pennington, Kelli Cadenas, Ariel Kushmaro and Yossi Loya, Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, October 20, 2015.
  • “Is Your Sunscreen Killing Off Coral Reefs?”, by Rachel Reilly, U.K. Daily Mail, October 21, 2015.


December 03, 2015 by Cathy Mohr