With so many options available on the market today it can be quite daunting to choose a sunscreen that will *hopefully* do the job of protecting your loved ones in the sun; but with so many different ingredients, differing factors and often-discussed concerns over the chemicals a sunscreen may contain, the process can be a bit daunting. 

You may wonder: what is the often-discussed ‘evil’ of oxybenzone? What is the difference between zinc oxide and titanium dioxide? And which sunscreens are harmful to marine life?

To clear up any questions please find some explanations as follows: 

  • What is Oxybenzone?

    Oxybenzone is a chemical filter found commonly in 80% of commercial sun screens; its primary function is to absorb UV light. Oxybenzone is also used in nail polish and hair spray. This synthetic chemical can upset the endocrine system and pose a risk to reproductive systems; it is said to cause endometriosis in females, lower sperm count in males, and increase the risk of hormone-related cancers.

  • What is considered ‘reef safe’?

    Products that are generally free of oxybenzone and octinoxate are considered ‘reef-safe’ – both ingredients are banned for use in Hawaii and Key West due to the impact they cause on coral reefs, and for their contribution to coral bleaching.

  • Zinc oxide vs titanium dioxide.

    Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are mineral based and are not absorbed into the skin, unlike oxybenzone. Both ingredients are naturally-occuring and are considered ‘reef-safe’ as they are not linked to coral bleaching. Zinc oxide’s UV absorption rate has a broader spectrum across both ultraviolet A (UVA) long-wave and ultraviolet B (UVB) short-wave rays.  Titanium Dioxide has been classed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as being ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’, so wherever possible please choose a zinc-based sunscreen.

What do we recommend looking for when choosing a sunscreen?

The ethos behind Tribe Tropical is sun-safety and we choose to protect our family with our high-quality UPF50+ fabrics whenever we venture out in the sun – however when choosing which sunscreen to buy (to cover any exposed parts of skin) we always look for sunscreen that is: 

  • Free of oxybenzone
  • Reef-safe
  • Zinc-based wherever possible, and ideally free of artificial preservatives
  • Not tested on animals
  • Australian-made wherever possible


Images © Tribe Tropical

Some of our favourite Australian sunscreen brands that we choose to use are:

By covering as much skin as possible with high-quality UPF50+ fabrics the need for sunscreen is lessened thereby minimising risks to delicate marine environments. 

We always recommend covering sun-exposed skin with high-quality, reef-safe sunscreen. 

Tribe Tropical’s range of premium UPF50+ swimsuits and hats can help to protect skin from sun damage. 

Tribe Tropical's swimsuits and hats provide premium sun protection. Image © Rachel Fraser.

** Please note – none of the links in this post are sponsored links and are recommended purely based on the opinion of the author.

March 10, 2022 — Tribe Tropical Aus Admin