What is Protect Land + Sea?

Our SPF 40 Clear Zinc Tin was one of the first sunscreens ever to be certified Protect Land + Sea. While all Badger sunscreens are reef-friendly, this certification is an extra step we took to begin building awareness for reef safety—and we think it’s so important that we’re expanding the line, releasing a new squeeze-friendly tube!

Read on to learn more about the new certification and how YOU can make a difference for the world’s coral reefs.

Wait—why does sunscreen need a certification?

Over the last few years, discussion around ‘reef-safe sunscreens’ has been growing. Coral reefs are delicate ecosystems that are already under enormous stress from human activities, from pollution to tourism to climate change. And sunscreen is no exception. Between 6,000 and 14,000 tons of sunscreen washes off swimmers, scuba divers, and snorkelers into coral reef environments each year, and even more sunscreen can reach coastal areas via waste water discharges. Sadly, several of the chemicals found in the majority of sunscreens (the main offenders are Oxybenzone and Octinoxate) have been shown to bleach and kill coral when they wash off from swimmers. Today, up to 10% of the world’s coral reefs may be threatened by certain chemicals found in most sunscreens.

Not cool.

We’ve been researching this issue since 2008. That’s why all Badger sunscreens have always been ‘reef-friendly’ by nature of their simple ingredients—they contain ingredients like beeswax and sunflower oil, and do NOT contain any of the ingredients shown to harm coral reefs. However, the term ‘reef-friendly’ can be misleading. It isn’t regulated, meaning a product might be labeled with the phrase even if it contains reef-damaging ingredients. And even if a product contains zinc oxide or other natural ingredients, it still might contain ingredients that harm coral. Without any legal definition, consumers had no way to know whether their sunscreens were really safe for reefs.

Where does the PL+S certification come from?

A nonprofit scientific organization called the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory (HEL) had been researching the effects of sunscreen and personal care on coral reefs and wildlife ecosystems for years. They saw a huge need: an official certification that would give consumers a way to make an educated choice when it came to sunscreen. ⁠So they published the HEL List, a comprehensive list of known pollutants that threaten ecosystem health—not just oceans, but also freshwater streams and rivers.

Here’s what’s on the HEL List:

  • Any form of microplastic spheres or beads.
  • Nanoparticles like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
  • Octocrylene
  • Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
  • Methyl Paraben
  • Ethyl Paraben
  • Propyl Paraben
  • Butyl Paraben
  • Benzyl Paraben
  • Triclosan

Every product labeled with the “Protect Land + Sea” Certification Seal has been tested using analytical‐forensic techniques to verify that the product is free of all the chemicals above—meaning it DOES NOT contain any ingredients or contaminants considered harmful to coral reef environments, sea turtles, and other aquatic life.

What can I do to help?

Not to fear! There are two ways to make sure your sunscreen is truly reef-friendly.

  1. Check the ingredients list. There are many ingredients known to kill or bleach coral, even at extremely low concentrations. Read your sunscreen label and make sure it only contains ingredients that are natural and organic, ingredients that will biodegrade in the natural spaces you play in. Keep the HEL List within reach when you’re sunscreen shopping!
  2. Look for the Protect Land + Sea certification. When you see this seal on a product, there’s no more guesswork. Lucky for you, our new line of sunscreens passed this rigorous testing easy peasy. ⁠

The good news is, the tides are turning. Tropical coastal communities all over the world rely on healthy coral for tourism, fishing, ecosystem diversity, protection from storms, and more—and most of them are joining the fight for bans on reef-damaging sunscreens. For example:

  • Hawaii passed a state law banning sunscreens containing Oxybenzone and Octinoxate beginning in 2021! Read more.
  • The island nation of Palau in the Western Pacific passed a law restricting the sale and use of sunscreens and cosmetics containing ten ingredients of concern. Read more.
  • Key West, Florida has also taken action against sunscreen chemicals. Read more.

Sunscreen manufacturers have responded to the problem in different ways. Most of the large conventional sunscreen brands continue to use reef-harming ingredients, and either don’t discuss the issue or actively oppose community sunscreen bans. Some sunscreen manufacturers are changing their formulas to remove these toxic ingredients. And many ‘natural’ and ‘all-mineral’ sunscreen brands, including us here at Badger, have never used these types of ingredients and have been aware of our ‘reef-safe’ status for over a decade.

Thanks to this new Protect Land & Sea certification, consumers now have a way to purchase sunscreens that really, truly, absolutely won’t harm coral reefs. With this little seal, you can swim and play knowing your sunscreen is a step toward healthier oceans!

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