Every year between 4,000 and 6,000 tons of sunscreen washes off of tourists during their vacations. This sunscreen contains chemicals and oils that are harmful to the marine ecosystem, particularly coral reefs. All over Mexico, the use of biodegradable sunblock and sunscreen is starting to be required for entry to water activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling tours, or even just for swimming.

At such famous locales such as Xcaret, Xel-Ha, Garrafon Park, Chankanaab Park, and the protected marine park in Cozumel, use of biodegradable sunscreen is mandatory, and any other type of sun products are confiscated upon entry to their facilities. Puerto Vallarta has not yet instituted these strict requirements, but we encourage everyone to use them.


Q: What is biodegradable sunscreen?
A: Biodegradable sunblock is an environmentally friendly sunscreen that lacks the harmful ingredients that are destroying the world's coral reefs. These sunscreens are biodegradable, meaning they break down naturally in the environment, and eco-friendly, meaning that they minimize damage to the environment. We strongly encourage using only biodegradable sunscreen anytime you're in the water.

Q: What kind of damage does sunscreen do to the marine ecosystem?
A: One of the most harmful things to the natural underwater environment of Mexico and elsewhere is the sunscreens, oils, and sunblocks worn by tourists. We don't think of it, but when we swim in the water, these oils come off and settle on the coral reefs and other marine life, and in volume can almost act like an oil slick in the water, creating damage to the delicate ecosystems. The reefs are suffocated, and sunscreens are one of the biggest causes of bleaching to our reefs, and the death of much of the world's coral. Oxybenzone, a common ingredient in sunscreens, has even been shown to feminize fish.

Q: I've never heard of this before. Are you making this stuff up?
A: See the links below for the latest information.

ABC News: Sunscreen Accelerating Demise of Coral Reefs
NPR: Chemichals in Sunblock harm Coral Reef
Coral Reef Alliance: Sunscreen and Corals
National Geographic: Sunscreen is Destroying Coral Reefs
The Ocean Foundation: Your Sunscreen is Killing Coral Reef

Q: Why does coral get bleached? Is coral bleaching really a problem?
A: The ingredients in normal sunscreens promote viral infection in the coral, as well as covering it with oils and goo. Between 4,000 and 6,000 tons of sunscreen wash off swimmers every year on their vacations. As much as 25% of the world's coral reefs are in imminent danger of collapse due to human pressures, and another 25% is in longer term danger.

Q: Where can I buy Biodegradable Sunscreen?
A: Our preferred brand is Stream 2 Sea, you can see the banner at the top of the page. However, there are other good options as well. There are eco-friendly products made by Mexitan, Beauty by Earth, Headhunter Surf, and Laguna Herbals. Some health food stores carry these items, but they are few and far between. Your local drug store will normally not stock these brands. Sometimes you can find these brands in Mexico, but they are not widely carried at the tourist shops or drugstores in Puerto Vallarta. Your best bet is to buy them online before your trip.

Q: Are there certain ingredients to watch out for?
A: Some of the most harmful ingredients that many sunscreens contain, including some that are actually biodegradable such as those made by Nature's Gate and Australian Gold, are PABA, octinoxate, oxybenzone, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, oils, chemicals or the preservative butylparaben. If your sunscreen has any of these ingredients, it is not safe for use on the reefs.


Stream 2 Sea Biodegradable Sunscreen
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Biodegradable Sunscreen Cora Safe Mexitan
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Mineral Face and Body Sun Protection Beauty by Earth
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Mexitan Biodegradable Sunscreen Lotion
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Headhunter Surf 50 SPF Sunblock Cream
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Laguna Herbals Biodegradable Sunscreen Stick
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