Is your sunscreen killing our corals?
Cai Subijano (The Philippine Star) - April 12, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The night before a recent trip to Coron, my boyfriend excitedly bought a bottle of tanning oil, despite my insistence that it would increase his chances of getting skin cancer. A compromise was made: he could use the tanning oil as long as he wore it over a layer of Nivea sunscreen. When he came back slightly browner than a coconut shell, I asked him if he actually had used the sunscreen. No, he said, and before I could become indignant, he explained that the place only allowed visitors to use organic sunblock. Luckily, his tita had some.

There was no apparent explanation for the ban and his travel agent didn’t seem to be aware of it. Upon closer research, I discovered that National Geographic released a study in 2008 naming four commonly used ingredients in popular sunscreen brands which activated an otherwise dormant virus in symbiotic algae, also known as zooxanthellae. Zooxanthellae is responsible for the vibrant hues of corals and play an important role in photosynthesis. Once infected with the virus, zooxanthellae explode, resulting in coral bleaching, while spreading the virus to nearby coral reefs.

According to the study’s leader, Roberto Danovaro of the Polytechnic University of Marche in Italy, these four harmful ingredients in sunscreen cause complete coral bleaching at low concentrations: parabens, cinnamate or octinoxate, benzophenone or oxybenzone and 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, a camphor derivative. Considering our waters are home to the most number of coral species in the world (we lay claim to 50 percent of all the species in the world) and our coral reef fisheries contribute almost $1 billion annually to our economy, according to Dr. Angel Alcala of Siliman University, these findings are a definite cause for alarm.

Danovaro’s recommendation is for beach-goers to use sunblock that contains physical blockers, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and reflects UVA and UVB rays (as opposed to sunscreen which absorb UV radiation). Here is a list of local, organic sunscreens, along with suncare products with natural ingredients that will keep you — and our coral reefs — safe and protected when you hit the waves this summer.

For your face:

Leyende Place In The Sun Face Sunblock SPF 30

The trouble with most sunblocks is that they tend to leave a whitish cast after application, then leave a greasy film on your face after — not so in the case of Place In The Sun by Leyende. Containing ECOCERT-certified physical block, Zinclear, this sunblock is non-greasy and safe enough to use, even for sensitive skin, thanks to ingredients like organic sweet almond oil and virgin coconut oil. It also protects skin immediately, unlike other sunblocks that recommend application 30 minutes before sun exposure. For complete protection, Leyende founder Neva Talladen recommends applying a teaspoon amount for your face, neck and ears.

Available at and for stockists and online retailers.

For your lips, nose and ears:

All Organics Sun Balm SPF30

For active types, use this water-proof sun balm by All Organics which is formulated to protect your skin from the sun, wind and cold water while moisturizing it with natural ingredients like virgin coconut oil, shea butter, beeswax and natural vitamin E. Natural micro-fine zinc provides broad-spectrum protection while spreading smoothly and evenly on skin and providing superior coverage. Zinc protects skin in two ways by creating an effective barrier against the sun’s rays  and boosting your skin’s antioxidant defenses at the same time. Like Leyende Place In The Sun, this product protects your skin from the moment of application. This product does not contain parabens and is PABA-free (may be listed as octyl-dimethyl or padimate-O) and petrolatum-free.

Available at Sesou.Visit for stockists and online retailers.

For your body:

Heaven’s Cure Zunshade SPF 30

Zunshade provides prolonged UVA and UVB protection with titanium dioxide, a micronized mineral that reflects, scatters, and blocks these rays. It also contains a generous amount of herbal extracts, abstinent attic oil, which is extracted from coconut kernel and is known to be prevent burning, and Apis cerana beeswax, a type of beeswax that rehydrates skin and is antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral. All these ingredients serve to nourish and moisturize your skin while protecting it from the sun.

Available at Echostore.

In between applications:

Messy Bessy Sports Spritzer

If your sunblock starts to feel heavy after your second or third application (because you need to reapply every three hours!), especially if it’s the water-proof kind, a facial mist will help you feel refreshed. Messy Bessy’s Sports Spritzer is made of deionized water, sugarcane alcohol, lactic acid, sodium lactate, herbal waters, a natural preservative and a naturally-derived scent, so it’s totally safe to spray on your face and body. Not only that, you can also use it to deodorize your gym bags, sweaty clothes, exercise equipment, running shoes. Shake well before use.

Available at Sesou. Visit for stockists and online retailers.


For your hair: Snoe Hair Heroes

Intense UV+ And Thermal Barrier Shield

From Snoe’s best-selling Hair Heroes line comes this ultimate product for healthy beach hair. It’s comprised of just two ingredients: argan oil, which is known to naturally protect hair from UV rays, and moringa extract. Not only do the two shield your tresses from UV rays and protect it from thermal damage and dryness, it creates a shielding barrier that prevents your hair color from fading, while keeping it hydrated. Spread on hair before exposure to chlorine, salt, sun or heat. Apply after swimming to detangle and condition. It can also be used on dry hair to refresh and revitalize. For tousled beach waves, try Hair Heroes Super Fresh Sage Tea Tree & Peppermint Texturizing Beach Waves with sea salt and moringa.

Visit for stockists and online retailers.


After-sun care:

All Organics Aloe Vera Gel

If you’re guilty of being too lazy to reapply sunblock, you will pay the price. For nasty, flaky sunburns, aloe vera is an age-old remedy. Unless you keep your own aloe vera plants at home, try All Organics’ ready-made solution. Made from 100-percent organically grown, pure, natural aloe vera leaves, it contains no chemicals or additives. Just leave the gel on and let it absorb — it’ll create a film that serves as a moisturizing barrier. Aloe vera also has a ton of uses apart from soothing burns, reducing scar formation and speeding up the healing process. You can use it as a makeup remover, after waxing, as lotion (when mixed with four to five drops of lemon juice), after-shave, even with shampoo (mix with two parts aloe vera) and as a conditioner.

Available at Sesou.Visit for stockists and online retailers.


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