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What does “TRULY” Reef Safe mean?

The ugly truth is many products labeled “reef safe” are not reef safe at all. In contrast, a TRULY Reef Safe product:

1) uses ONLY mineral-based active ingredients, primarily zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, either of which MUST be NON-NANO (otherwise, the tiny particles enter and harm marine biosystems).

2) contains NO petrochemicals, either in its active or inactive ingredients.

If a product violates either of these requirements, it’s simply not reef safe.


How are products labeled reef safe when they’re actually not?

The term “reef safe” is not regulated by the FDA, and its growing use is largely due to the sunscreen industry’s desire to attract eco-aware consumers.

Hawaii passed a ban on oxybenzone and octinoxate (set to take effect 1/1/2021), two sunscreen petrochemicals most well-known to damage coral systems and marine life.

An admirable first step, the ban created two dangerous myths among consumers, the media and government, such as:


Myth 1) The banned chemicals are bad for reefs but OK for humans.

ALL petrochemicals, not just oxybenzone and octinoxate, do significant long term harm to the health of consumers who use them. In short, petrochemicals are toxic to human biosystems. Just one use of petrochemical sunscreen destroys the benefits of an entire year’s worth of clean, organic eating, and since the mid-70s, when the use of such sunscreens were first mass-marketed, increases in skin cancer rates have tracked right along with per capita, inflation-adjusted sunscreen use, growing by over 400% in 40 years.


Myth 2) Other sunscreen petrochemicals do not harm reefs.

The truth is that ANY petrochemical, including avobenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate, and tinosorb, among many others, is harmful to marine life, including coral systems.

Unfortunately, the ban has given petrochemical sunscreen makers the idea to simply replace the banned chemicals with other petrochemicals (that are extremely similar from a molecular structure standpoint and that have their own toxicity issues that are just less studied for now) and market them as “reef safe.” That’s why the term shouldn’t be trusted as definitive until the term is regulated and enforced effectively.


So is Waxhead Sunscreen TRULY reef safe?

Absolutely. We stress the TRULY to differentiate our products from the many pretenders.

We make our products with only top-quality, non-nano zinc oxide as their active ingredient, and they contain NO petrochemicals.

We’re not the ONLY maker of high-quality non-nano zinc oxide sunscreens, but we’re one of the very few with rigorous, formal education in biochemistry, which allows us to formulate sunscreens that work well and defend the long term health of the user. Many makers of “healthy” sunscreen are well-meaning, but they lack formal expertise, which manifests in formulations that “seem” good, with otherwise “healthy” ingredients ill-placed on human skin that’s actively receiving UV light.


Know Your Sunscreen. Trust Your Sunscreen.

Read your sunscreen ingredients, including the “inactive” ones. Research and know each one, then either decide for yourself if it’s reef safe, or better yet, ask us and we’ll give you straightforward guidance, whether it’s for our sunscreen or not. If a sunscreen’s good for you, we’ll tell you so.



Ask us anything!

Email Mac questions about sunscreen, skincare or anything outdoors >




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.




What does “TRULY” Reef Safe mean?

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