Biodegradable sunscreen is the
only type of sunscreen that is allowed on
any snorkeling tour, scuba diving trip, or other
water activity inside Cozumel's protected marine
park, or at the major parks like Chankanaab, Xcaret,
Xel Ha, and Garrafon. This is not our rule,
it is federal regulation, and it is enforced.
Make sure you plan for this when coming to Cozumel.
Sands (formerly MexiTan), because it is specifically engineered
for use on the coral reefs of Mexico. It also
says "Biodegradable" in big huge red letters on
the front of the bottle, so it is easy to prove
to the parks that it is in fact biodegradable -
no hassles with trying to prove it to them.
However, there are several other kinds available
that are good as well. See the boxes in the
right column for ideas.
Q: What is biodegradable sunscreen?
A: Biodegradable sunblock is environmentally
friendly sunscreen that lacks the harmful ingredients
that are destroying the world's coral reefs.
These sunscreens are biodegradable, meaning they
break down naturally in the environment, and eco-friendly,
meaning that they minimize damage to the environment.
We strongly encourage using only biodegradable sunscreen
anytime you are going to be in the water.
Q: How do I know if my sunscreen
A: If it doesn't say it is on the package
then it isn't. None of the major brands are
biodegradable - such as Coppertone, Banana Boat,
Q: Are there certain
ingredients to watch out for?
A: Some of the most harmful
ingredients that many sunscreens contain,
including some that are actually biodegradable
such as those made by Nature's Gate, are PABA,
octinoxate, oxybenzone, 4-methylbenzylidene
camphor and the preservative butylparaben.
If your sunscreen has any of these ingredients,
it is not safe for use on the reefs.
Q: What kind of damage does
sunscreen do to the marine ecosystem?
A: One of the most harmful things to
the natural underwater environment of Mexico and
elsewhere is the sunscreens, oils, and sunblocks
worn by tourists. We don't think of it, but
when we swim in the water, these oils come off and
settle on the coral reefs and other marine life,
and in volume can almost act like an oil slick in
the water, creating damage to the delicate ecosystems.
The reefs are suffocated, and sunscreens are one
of the biggest causes of bleaching to our reefs,
and the death of much of the world's coral.
In addition, they promote viral growth and
sunscreens containing oxybenzone have been shown
to actually feminize fish!
Q: Why does coral get
bleached? Is coral bleaching really a problem?
A: The ingredients in normal sunscreens
promote viral infection in the coral, as well as
covering it with oils and goo. Between 4,000
and 6,000 tons of sunscreen wash off swimmers every
year on their vacations. As much as 25% of the world's
coral reefs are in imminent danger of collapse due
to human pressures, and another 25% is in longer
Q: I've never heard of this
before. Are you making this stuff up?
A: See the links below for the latest information.
Swimmer's Suncreen Killing Off Corals
Tourist Sunscreen Killing Off Coral Reefs
Indian Ocean Sea Turtles:
Sunscreen May Be Killing Corals
University of California:
Sunscreens Feminizing Fish
The Biology of Sunscreens
Q: Where can I buy
A: We've provided some resources
for you in the right hand column. Just
click on the images to read more about the
products. You may also find some brands at
your local health food store, or at select shops
in Cozumel (though it is still not widely
carried and the brands that carry it usually
carry brands that are not recommended by Cozumel