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Reef Safe Sunscreen Australia - What and why

After decades of knowing that slipping on a T-shirt, slopping on some sunscreen and slapping on a hat is vital to any safe summer holiday in Australia, you too might have been wandering what all the fuss is about with Reef Safe Sunscreen...

Why use Reef Safe Sunscreen?

In 2004 I visited the Great Barrier Reef for the first time and was met with an abundance of colourful see life and coral. I had never seen anything like it, leaving ever lasting visual imagery etched into my mind. In 2018 I re-visited the same reef whilst traveling the Australian East Coast. I was so excited to see the underwater vibrance of the Great Barrier Reef again, only to be left deflated after finding it had turned mostly to a dull grey. With a little research into coral bleaching I discovered what it was as well as the three primary causes behind it:

  1. Chemicals - Octinoxate and oxybenzone (found in chemical based sunscreens) cause adverse affects to coral at ~60 parts per trillion
  2. Global Warming - Rising see temperatures are stressful to Coral
  3. Plastic Pollution - Plastic eventually breaks down over time into nanometer sized micro plastics. These plastics are small enough to be ingested by baby coral which are then choked on.

Chemicals in sunscreen that come off while swimming or showering are “bigger than climate change,” in causing coral reef damage, according to Craig Downs, the executive director of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, which has and continues to study the effects of sunscreen on coral reefs. Hawaii first figured this out in 2018 and quickly banned chemical based sunscreens. Costa Rica and Palau have followed suit with a host of American states also looking at passing legislation to protect their marine ecosystems.

Reef Safe Sunscreens offer reef safe UV protection while not harming the reef and ocean life you're so eager to visit; keeping it in pristine condition.

What is a Reef Safe Sunscreen?

The term 'Reef Safe' is thrown around very loosely and unfortunately, there is no actual policing of this term. I regularly see well-known brands claiming that their product is reef safe when it clearly lists toxic ingredients on the back of the container. When Hawaii first made the distinction, all sunscreens not containing octinoxate and oxybenzone were considered reef safe. With a race against time to save the reefs, further current studies have identified numerous other chemicals that should be prevented from reaching our waterways. The HEL (Haereticus Environmental Laboratory) continues to test chemicals found in sunscreens for the effects they have on coral and keeps an updated list on those harmful to reef life. The current HEL List includes:

  • Any form of micro plastic spheres or beads.
  • Any nanoparticles like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide
  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
  • Octocrylene
  • Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
  • Methyl Paraben
  • Ethyl Paraben
  • Propyl Paraben
  • Butyl Paraben
  • Benzyl Paraben
  • Triclosan

If the sunscreen you own contains any of the chemicals listed above - it is NOT reef safe.

Where to buy reef safe sunscreen?

When Slick Daddy first learned of the crisis we were drawn to take action. There's clearly a need to be filled and work to be done in this space. That's why we got right to work on Slick Daddy Sunblock and Slick Daddy Surf Zinc, with the ongoing goal to have the best reef safe sunscreen.


Suitable for hiking, working, days at the beach or any outdoor activity, Slick Daddy Sunblock is our attempt at giving customers an industry leading 100ml UV blocker that is better for them and their families as well as the earth. Slick Daddy Sunblock is handmade in Byron Bay from locally sourced organic and natural ingredients. It features non nano grade zinc oxide as the primary UV blocker and is primed with locally sourced organic beeswax and carrier oils - this makes it heavier than conventional chemical based sunscreen but it also beads off water. It contains locally sourced essential oils for fragrance as well as cacao powder for a natural tint. If you can see it on your skin - it's working. It's packaged in a matte black tin, topped off with biodegradable labels and tested on people instead of animals. Like all our products, profits go towards the cleaning of the ocean.

Slick Daddy Surf Zinc is a heavy duty 50ml UV blocking option. It is completely organic and contains a higher content of non nano zinc oxide as well as beeswax for extra hold and staying power. It's most suited for use on your face when spending extended time in the ocean, such as surfing. Packaged sustainably with biodegradable labels, tested on people instead of animals, profits go towards cleaning the ocean.

Our Reef Safe Sun Protection Pack is a great way to get both revolutionary products at a discount.

Want to learn more? Contact us

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