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Is Elta MD Sunscreen Reef Safe?

Sunscreen protects our skin from damaging UVA and UVB rays, but we must consider the impact on coral reefs, even if we don't live near the ocean. Elta MD is a renowned sunscreen brand. This article explores the question: Is Elta MD sunscreen reef safe, considering its ingredients and potential environmental impact?


Find Reef Safe Sunscreen

Finding a genuinely reef-safe sunscreen can be challenging amidst the myriad of available options. Consumers are becoming aware of the damaging effects of toxic sunscreens and are increasingly seeking products that prioritize environmental safety.

However, deciphering which sunscreens are reef-safe requires carefully scrutinizing the ingredients list. The key ingredient to look for is non-nano zinc oxide, which provides effective UV protection without harming coral reefs.

Despite this, many sunscreen brands employ misleading marketing messages on their packaging, boasting of "natural," "eco-friendly," or "reef-safe" formulations without providing clear information about their active ingredients.

Therefore, relying solely on the marketing messages displayed on the front of the bottle can be misleading and may not accurately reflect the sunscreen's environmental impact. It is essential for consumers to educate themselves on the specific ingredients to look for, such as non-nano zinc oxide, to make informed choices and protect fragile marine ecosystems effectively.

Let's look at Elta MD and answer, "Is Elta MD sunscreen reef safe?"


Elta MD: A Brief History and Overview

Founded in 1988, the company initially focused on developing physician-dispensed skincare solutions to address various skin concerns, including sun damage and aging. In 2013, Elta MD was acquired by Swiss skincare giant Galderma, a leading dermatology company committed to advancing skincare innovation.


Analyzing Elta MD Sunscreen Ingredients

Elta MD sunscreen formulations often contain chemical UV filters like octocrylene and avobenzone, which cause coral reef damage. While zinc oxide, a mineral sunscreen agent, is also present in some Elta MD products, formulations with chemical filters may pose risks to marine life.

Let's specifically look at Elta MD's top three-selling sunscreens.


Elta MD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

(It is not reef-safe because it uses octinoxate as well as nano-sized zinc oxide.)

  • Active Ingredients: 9.0% Zinc Oxide, 7.5% Octinoxate
  • Inactive Ingredients: Purified Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Niacinamide, Octyldodecyl Neopentanoate, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Polyisobutene, PEG-7 Trimethylolpropane Coconut Ether, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Lactic Acid, Oleth-3 Phosphate, Phenoxyethanol, Butylene Glycol, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Triethoxycaprylylsilane


Elta MD UV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41

(It could be reef-safe but we do not know if this product uses nano or non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Only non-nano is reef safe.)

  • Active Ingredients: 9.0% Zinc Oxide, 7.0% Titanium Dioxide
  • Inactive Ingredients: Aluminum Hydroxide, Butylene Glycol, Cetearyl Isononanoate, Isopropyl Palmitate, Lecithin, Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Octyldodecyl Neopentanoate, Magnesium Stearate, Beeswax, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Ethylhexylglycerin


Elta MD UV Daily Broad-Spectrum SPF 40

(It is not reef-safe because it uses octinoxate)

  • Active Ingredients: 9.0% Zinc Oxide, 7.5% Octinoxate
  • Inactive Ingredients: Purified Water, Petrolatum, Isopropyl Palmitate, Cetearyl Glucoside, Dimethicone, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Polyisobutene, PEG-7 Trimethylolpropane Coconut Ether, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Polyether-1, Citric Acid, Oleth-3 Phosphate, Phenoxyethanol, Butylene Glycol, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Triethoxycaprylylsilane


    Octinoxate is Not Reef Safe

    Octinoxate, commonly found in many sunscreens, poses a significant threat to coral reefs and marine ecosystems. Studies have shown that octinoxate can contribute to coral bleaching, DNA damage, and disruption of reproductive processes in marine life. When washed off into the ocean, even in small concentrations, octinoxate can accumulate in coral reefs, ultimately leading to their decline.

    Recognizing the harmful effects of octinoxate on marine environments underscores the importance of choosing reef-safe sunscreens that exclude this detrimental ingredient. By opting for sunscreens free from octinoxate and other toxic chemicals, we can take proactive steps to protect coral reefs and preserve the health of our oceans for future generations.


    Non-Nano Zinc Oxide is Reef-Safe

    Non-nano zinc oxide is considered reef-safe due to its mineral-based composition, which does not contain harmful chemicals known to harm coral reefs. Unlike chemical UV filters like oxybenzone and octinoxate, non-nano zinc oxide builds a physical barrier on the skin's surface, effectively reflecting and scattering UV rays without releasing harmful byproducts into the marine environment.

    This makes sunscreens containing only non-nano zinc oxide preferable for those seeking to protect their skin and delicate coral reefs.

    Waxhead Sunscreen offers a range of sun protection products formulated with food-grade ingredients and non-nano zinc oxide, ensuring effective UV protection while minimizing environmental impact. With its commitment to sustainability and skin safety, Waxhead Sunscreen is an excellent choice for conscientious consumers looking for reef-safe sunscreen options.


    Assessing Environmental Impact Studies

    Limited research explicitly evaluates the impact of Elta MD sunscreen on coral reefs. However, studies on the environmental effects of chemical UV filters raise concerns about their potential harm to marine ecosystems. Chemicals like octocrylene and avobenzone can accumulate in coastal waters, affecting coral health and contributing to reef decline.


    Consumer Awareness and Alternatives

    As consumers, it's crucial to choose reef-safe sunscreens to minimize our environmental footprint. While Elta MD offers adequate sun protection, individuals concerned about reef preservation should consider alternatives with mineral-based ingredients like non-nano zinc oxide. Additionally, adopting sun-safe practices, such as wearing protective clothing and seeking shade, reduces reliance on sunscreen and its potential impact on marine environments.


    Reading Sunscreen Ingredients is Essential

    Reading the ingredients in sunscreen is crucial for keeping your family safe from potential harm. Sunscreens often contain various chemicals, some of which may be allergens or irritants, especially for sensitive skin types. Additionally, certain sunscreen ingredients, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, are linked to coral reef damage and human hormonal disruption.

    By carefully reading ingredient lists, you can ensure your sunscreen is free from harmful chemicals and contains effective, reef-safe ingredients like non-nano zinc oxide. Prioritizing safe and natural ingredients protects your family's health and helps safeguard the environment. Reading and understanding sunscreen ingredients empowers you to make informed choices and enjoy sun protection without compromising safety or environmental sustainability.



    In conclusion, while Elta MD sunscreen provides sun protection, its formulations containing chemical UV filters raise concerns about reef safety. Consumers interested in preserving coral reefs should opt for truly reef-safe alternatives with mineral-based ingredients like non-nano zinc oxide.

    Waxhead Sunscreen is a safe alternative that offers effective sun protection without harming marine ecosystems. Through informed decision-making and championing environmentally conscious practices, we can safeguard our skin and the invaluable marine ecosystems for the benefit of future generations.











    1. Know your ingredients — Flip over your sunscreen and read the ingredients. We want everyone to know what good ingredients are, regardless of whether they use our products or not. Your health is worth it.

    2. Buy safe sunscreen — Waxhead is dedicated to using only the healthiest, safest, most effective ingredients in our sunscreens. Shop Safe Sunscreen here.

    3. Teach a friend — If you know someone who might still be buying sunscreen with questionable ingredients, please share this post with him/her.









    Is Elta MD sunscreen reef safe?

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