Part of enjoying summer is exploring the world around you. As Kiwis, we are lucky enough to live in a place with some of the most beautiful marine environments. From the clear blue water to the coral reefs within them. While we all want to protect our skin from harmful sun exposure, we also want to preserve the fabulous features of our waters. This is why Reef ensures its products are reef-friendly. What do we mean? Find out below!

What does reef-friendly mean?

Wearing sunscreen is one of those things in life that you must keep doing – like laundry! When frolicking in the seas around New Zealand’s beaches, sunscreen can be washed off, or can end up in wastewater from your shower that eventually makes its way to the ocean.

Scientists have found sunscreen ingredients in our oceans, particularly in gorgeous beach hotspots where there are lots of people swimming or spending time at the beach near the water. While the exact amount of these ingredients that enter the ocean is not known, educated guesses suggest that a whopping 4000 to 14,000 tons of sunscreen washes off people into the ocean every year – and while that means great sun protection (go team!), there are concerns that it’s not so great for our coral reefs.

So, a reef-friendly sunscreen is one that looks after your skin and your watery playground at the same time!

How to know if a sunscreen is reef-friendly

The first thing to know is what is in the sunscreen you are looking at. The active ingredients in sunscreens that protect your skin from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation are called UV filters. These UV filters are classified as chemical or mineral filters based on how they work to protect your skin. Chemical UV filters actively absorb UV radiation, while mineral UV filters can also reflect and scatter UV radiation. To check if your sunscreen contains chemical or mineral UV filters, take a peek at the ingredients list.

Certain chemical UV filters have been banned from use under the Hawaii Reef Bill (more on that below). If you’re looking for a reef-friendly option, choose a sunscreen that is free from these chemicals, and is compliant with the current Hawaii Reef Bill.

Of course, you’re not only going to use sunscreen – for maximum fun in the sun, remember to also cover larger areas of your exposed skin with clothing or swimwear that contains UV protection and to stay in the shade during the times when UV radiation is at its greatest. These measures are 100% reef-friendly!

What is Oxybenzone?

Oxybenzone is a widely-used UV filter known as a chemical filter. It absorbs UV rays, stopping them from penetrating your skin, where they can get up to all sorts of mischief. The other chemical mentioned in the Hawaii Reef Bill is octinoxate, sometimes called octyl methoxycinnamate. Scientists have been looking into the impact of these chemicals on marine life, finding that at high concentrations in a laboratory setting, they can have toxic effects on both coral and fish.

Based on this, certain countries have banned the sale and use of some sunscreen products that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate). This ban was first introduced in Hawaii in 2018 and came into effect in January 2021, with other countries around the world also having discussions about these ingredients.

The Reef range of products all comply with the Hawaii Reef bill, so you can apply the delicious coconut scented products and know you are not harming the watery wonderland that is Australian beaches.

Frequently asked questions about reef-friendly sunscreen


Here in New Zealand, all sunscreens offer good levels of SPF and broad spectrum protection when applied correctly. The entire Reef range is free from the ingredients banned by the Hawaii Reef Bill. All Reef products are reef-friendly to help look after our coral reefs and other ocean-dwelling friends!


The ban on certain ingredients was first introduced in Hawaii in 2018 and came into effect in January 2021, with other countries around the world also having discussions about what ingredients may be harmful to coral reefs.