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Why Reef-Safe Sunscreen is Important

By Sarah Rafferty

This right hurr is the good stuff.

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Planning a Hawaii vacation this year? You’ll definitely want sunscreen (unless you’re a fan of the lobster look). But what kind? By now, you’ve probably heard the news about sunscreen’s effects on coral reefs and Hawaii’s new sunscreen legislation.

Hawaii’s coral reefs face many threats, like rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, and plastic pollution. Recently, sunscreen has been added to the list. It has been reported that up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen end up on coral reefs every year!

There are essentially two main types of sunscreen: chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens work by soaking into the surface layers of your skin to absorb UV rays; physical sunscreens sit on top of the skin and reflect UV rays.

Most chemical sunscreens on the market today feature two suspect ingredients: oxybenzone and octinoxate. Some studies have shown these may possibly act as endocrine disruptors, soaking into our skin and potentially altering the way our body produces and processes hormones.

While further evidence is needed to substantiate the effects of these chemicals on humans, there is substantial data to show that they have powerful effects on coral – specifically in the polyp stage.

Coral reefs form when coral larvae attach themselves to hard surfaces, like our lava-rock substrate. The coral larvae develop into polyps that secrete skeletons, and it’s these skeletons that compile over years to form the large reef structures you’ve seen SCUBA diving or snorkeling. When exposed to endocrine disruptors (like oxybenzone or octinoxate), the polyps mutate and are unable to settle and continue their growth cycle. Different species grow at different rates; the slowest growing ½ to 1” per year, the fastest growing up to 8” each year. Reefs take decades to form, and their ecosystems support thousands of species of wildlife – they’re like the rainforests of the ocean.

Millions of visitors slather up on the beach, and that oxybenzone winds up on the reef, killing the very ecosystem many have traveled so very far to see. If you are a SCUBA diver, snorkeler, or just enjoy spending time near the ocean, this should concern you!

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to keep your skin sun-safe without harming coral. The most reef-friendly choice? Cover up! Grab a loose-fit rashguard with UV protective fabric to keep you cool. Use wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses to protect your face. And for those times when it’s got to be sunscreen, choose a physical sunscreen with zinc or titanium dioxide as the active ingredient. We have a wide variety from Stream2Sea and Raw Love in our shop. Other brands, like Raw Elements and All Good are great reef friendly options as well.

You may have heard that our state legislature recently passed a bill banning over-the-counter sales of products containing oxybenzone and octinoxate beginning in 2021, making Hawaii the first in the country to enact such a law. We’re optimistic that this will help bring more awareness to the health of our local reef ecosystems. To celebrate, we’re offering a 15% discount on all UV protection for the entire month of June- rashguards, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and more. Plus, bring in your old non-reef-safe sunscreen and get entered to win a FREE pair of Maui Jim sunglasses!

Aloha, and happy diving from your crew at BID 🙂

2019's #1 Dive Operator in Hawaii

with a 5 star reputation

Manta Ray Night Dive

What a truly amazing experience!! Nearly an hour of down time with dozens of large mantas putting on an incredible show. Jenna, and Captain Kevin made it a pleasant and safe trip. This is a must do while staying on the Big Island.

RichGiff on TripAdvisor

Big Island Divers
5.0
2019-05-07T11:32:39-10:00

RichGiff on TripAdvisor

What a truly amazing experience!! Nearly an hour of down time with dozens of large mantas putting on an incredible show. Jenna, and Captain Kevin made it a pleasant and safe trip. This is a must do while staying on the Big Island.

One of the Top 10 Dives in the World!

Believe It, it really is one of the most phenomenal dives we have ever done! Laying on our stomachs on the ocean floor around the "campfire" was unforgettable as the beautifully graceful Manta Rays soared directly above our heads, over and over. They performed ballet moves with each other, sometimes as many as 4 at a time feeding on the plankton.

Susan R on TripAdvisor

Big Island Divers
5.0
2019-05-07T11:33:00-10:00

Susan R on TripAdvisor

Believe It, it really is one of the most phenomenal dives we have ever done! Laying on our stomachs on the ocean floor around the "campfire" was unforgettable as the beautifully graceful Manta Rays soared directly above our heads, over and over. They performed ballet moves with each other, sometimes as many as 4 at a time feeding on the plankton.

Excellent

We have been diving the BID on multiple dives over multiple trips and we keep coming back to them because of the high quality service that they provide. Definitely a step above the usual dive shops.

Dreamer6739 on TripAdvisor

Big Island Divers
5.0
2019-05-07T11:37:50-10:00

Dreamer6739 on TripAdvisor

We have been diving the BID on multiple dives over multiple trips and we keep coming back to them because of the high quality service that they provide. Definitely a step above the usual dive shops.

Manta Night Dive Lives Up to the Hype

I recently went on the sunset reef dive & manta ray night dive. I was a little hesitant about my expectations because I heard so many great things and didn't want to be disappointed. Cannot say enough great things about the company, captain and DM - highly recommend and will dive with them again.

ulintza on TripAdvisor

Big Island Divers
5.0
2019-05-07T11:38:42-10:00

ulintza on TripAdvisor

I recently went on the sunset reef dive & manta ray night dive. I was a little hesitant about my expectations because I heard so many great things and didn't want to be disappointed. Cannot say enough great things about the company, captain and DM - highly recommend and will dive with them again.

Excellent Staff

We had a great two tank dive with BID last week! Our dive master Amy was excellent all the way around and our captain Rob was not only a great captain but very knowledgeable about Hawaii and even served hot chocolate on the way back to the Marina.

bridgetsheahan on TripAdvisor

Big Island Divers
5.0
2019-05-07T11:39:31-10:00

bridgetsheahan on TripAdvisor

We had a great two tank dive with BID last week! Our dive master Amy was excellent all the way around and our captain Rob was not only a great captain but very knowledgeable about Hawaii and even served hot chocolate on the way back to the Marina.

Incredible

It was so amazing that it made me feel like a kid again - this is coming from someone who has traveled a lot. I talked to other divers who described the Black Water Dive, and I wish I would have done that one instead of the twilight dive.

Steve9172

Big Island Divers
5.0
2019-05-07T11:40:19-10:00

Steve9172

It was so amazing that it made me feel like a kid again - this is coming from someone who has traveled a lot. I talked to other divers who described the Black Water Dive, and I wish I would have done that one instead of the twilight dive.

Great Dive Experience

Great dive experience underwater and while on the boat. Experienced staff gave all of the direction and assistance needed but did not "over-guide" the trip as is often the case.

Compass0726 on TripAdvisor

Big Island Divers
5.0
2019-05-07T11:40:52-10:00

Compass0726 on TripAdvisor

Great dive experience underwater and while on the boat. Experienced staff gave all of the direction and assistance needed but did not "over-guide" the trip as is often the case.

An Amazing Souvenir

I booked the night Manta Ray snorkeling tour. It was simply awesome. In addition of the amazing experience to observe the Manta rays in their natural environment, the crew was just perfect, always helpful and offers us a warm hospitality. I definitely recommend this tour.

tomlecube on TripAdvisor

Big Island Divers
5.0
2019-05-07T11:41:47-10:00

tomlecube on TripAdvisor

I booked the night Manta Ray snorkeling tour. It was simply awesome. In addition of the amazing experience to observe the Manta rays in their natural environment, the crew was just perfect, always helpful and offers us a warm hospitality. I definitely recommend this tour.

Two Tank Dive

This is the dive shop to go with for great service and knowledgeable staff. I went out for a refresher dive since it had been 9 years since my last dive. Becca was great and by the end of the second dive I felt comfortable being back in the water.

BryonB690

Big Island Divers
5.0
2019-05-07T11:42:13-10:00

BryonB690

This is the dive shop to go with for great service and knowledgeable staff. I went out for a refresher dive since it had been 9 years since my last dive. Becca was great and by the end of the second dive I felt comfortable being back in the water.
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