CHOOSING THE RIGHT SUNSCREEN
Protecting your skin, and the ocean.
At Sail Maui it’s our business to be in the sun. When you’re on the water every day, it’s important to wear sunscreen. We’re all increasingly aware of the dangers of too much sun exposure and the importance of lathering up, but it’s also our business to take care of the ocean, so we really watch the ingredients. According to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, scientists have found that common ingredients in sunscreens can actually do more harm than good. Most sunscreens on the market use chemicals to filter out or absorb skin damaging UV rays. The issue is that these chemicals have been shown to pose a threat to our fragile reef systems.
Coral reefs are among the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. They are often referred to as the “rainforests of the oceans” and are actually living creatures themselves. Unfortunately, new studies show that 60% of coral reefs are threatened and that they are disappearing at twice the rate of tropical rainforests! Pretty scary stuff. Of course there are a lot of factors to consider here, but sunscreen is a fairly easy one to address. A study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives estimated that about 25% of sunscreen ingredients wash off into the ocean after swimming for just 20 minutes. Bad news for the reef when those ingredients have been shown to kill juvenile coral, promote bleaching, and induce mutations. Not only that, the same chemicals once applied to your skin absorb and can damage your health.
More than just a pretty face
Coral Reefs are certainly beautiful, but they’re good for lots of other things besides our viewing pleasure! Our reefs are rich in biodiversity and provide homes for thousands of sea creatures. They also provide valuable protection against shoreline erosion and are a much needed buffer against waves, storms, and floods. They give us food and medicine, and directly sustain half a billion people. According to a peer- reviewed study by NOAA, it is estimated that Hawaii’s reefs are worth $33.57 billion annually. That’s definitely an investment worth protecting!
Tips for staying sun safe & reef safe
•Read the Label
Check for questionable ingredients. The best sun protection is non-nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Sunscreens with only these elements will likely be found in health food stores and will often have “Reef Safe” on the bottle. These act as physical barriers and are a much safer way to block out harmful rays. A word of caution- they are generally much thicker and a little goes a long way! An excellent resource for finding a good brand is EWG.org. The website breaks down ingredients and gives products ratings on safety. Oh, and whatever you do, ditch the spray can. You’re not doing yourself or the environment any favors with spray on sunscreen.
In addition to using reef safe sunscreen, you can wear protective clothing to minimize over-exposure. Wearing a rash guard while snorkeling can protect your back, and alleviate the need to apply sunscreen right before jumping in. Having a hat while on the boat or at the beach is also a great idea, particularly one with a wide brim. Although if you’ll be sailing with us on Paragon, be prepared to hang on to your hat! Also, a lot of manufactures now make clothing with high performance fabrics that provide extra protection, in fact all of our crew wear shirts that are UPF 30.
•Limit time in the sun
Give yourself a break from sun bathing. Here in Hawaii it’s easy to lounge by the ocean all day in your swim suit, but you pay the price especially if your skin isn’t used to being in the sun. Take time to find some shade, especially between the hours of 10-2 when the sun is at its strongest. If you plan to spend all day at the beach or out on the boat with us, make sure you cover up and use appropriate sunscreen, and definitelyreapply. You may even want to hide from the sun the next day under a jungle canopy in Hana.
•Nourish your skin
Now that you’ve got a glowing tan, or sunburn… make sure to replenish your skin after any damage. Fresh Aloe is best, but if you’re buying product, make sure to read the ingredients here too! Chemicals in personal care items are often not removed at wastewater facilities and can also make their way into oceans and harm our reefs. A good bet is to go as natural as possible.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and refers to the measure of UVB rays your sunscreen protects you from. Experts recommend using a minimum of SPF 15, a full ounce for entire body coverage, and reapplying every 2 hours. Make sure whatever sunscreen you are using is “full spectrum”, meaning there is ample UVA protection as well, and look for water resistance. No sunscreen is fully waterproof, but you’ll have more luck with it staying on while swimming and sweating.