Key West Bans Reef Killing Sunscreens!

Some awesome news came out of Key West last night! The Key West City Commission voted 6-1 to pass a ban on all sunscreens containing the reef killing ingredients octinoxate and oxybenzone found in chemical sunscreens. Key West is the first mainland ban on these chemicals. Hawaii banned them this past summer. This is a huge win for our struggling reef tract! The rest of the Keys need to get on board!

The ban takes effect on January 1st, 2021. I wish it was sooner but this is a step in the right direction.

Physical barrier sunscreens will be available for purchase on the island.

Like most Keys residents we take sun safety very seriously down here. We always joke that you can spot a tourist a mile away because they’re in a tiny bikini or just swim trunks basking in the sun. Locals don’t do this! We cover up with highly rated SPF clothes, hats, buffs, and leggings.

What’s being banned & why?

Most popular sunscreens are chemical sunscreens and there are two ingredients that are in most of them that are being banned: oxybenzone and octinoxate. In sunscreen, these chemicals convert UV rays into heat on your skin, preventing you from getting a sunburn. In the ocean, these same chemicals are impacting corals by disrupting their DNA and lowering their defenses against stressors which leads to bleaching and ultimately death.

This ban applies to chemical sunscreens favoring physical barrier sunscreens instead which are those with a main ingredient of zinc or titanium oxide.

Alternative Products

There are tons of alternative sunscreens out there. We use Stream2Sea when we use sunscreen. I say “when” because we use very little these days. That’s right, even though we live in the land of endless sunshine we use very little and that’s because we rely on SPF clothing more than sunscreens for protection. Which brings me to my next point…

Cover up!

Covering up might just be the best way to protect your skin. The coverage clothing provides doesn’t deteriorate when it gets wet whereas both physical and chemical sunscreens do. And you don’t need to remember to reapply it since you’re wearing it 🙂 For me, the winning combination is clothing with a small amount of physical barrier sunscreen. Here’s what I wear for a day on the water:

  • Leggings. I love my pelagic 50+ UPF rated leggings. It’s hot as hell here in the summer and these are lightweight and provide me with full leg protection. I dive in them too since I’m allergic to everything that stings and they dry extremely fast. They’re pricey at around $70 but they last forever. I have one pair that I just rinse with fresh water and hang to dry.
  • A visor or hat. I’m a visor fan, I have very thick hair and hats make my head hot. I use sunscreen on my neck and ears when I paddle because I don’t like wearing a buff. I find them hot.
  • Long sleeves. I wear a long sleeve rash guard all summer here and so do all of our friends. Again, full coverage that doesn’t change whether it’s wet or dry.

Getting ready for a day on the water!

Sunscreen is expensive too so the less you use the less you spend.

No matter where you live, please consider switching to a physical barrier sunscreen. Chemical based sunscreens wash off your skin when you shower, make it into the sewage system, and will eventually meet a body of water.

Stay safe out there!

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