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Is Non-nano Zinc Oxide Reef Safe?

Non-nano zinc oxide does not damage or adversely affect wildlife or water habitats or the animals that use them. It is marine and reef safe.


Zinc Oxide

Non-irritating and easy on sensitive skin, zinc oxide has been used in skincare for 1000s of years. A skin protectant widely used in treating various forms of skin irritations, it’s used in diaper creams, calamine lotion, and toothpastes.

Zinc is a critical mineral nutrient that keeps us healthy. Zinc oxide is the ONLY sunscreen active ingredient that’s been tested and FDA approved for use on babies less than 6 months old. It’s also great for use around the eyes, as it won’t cause stinging.

Zinc oxide is a powdered mineral that doesn’t dissolve in seawater, and in its non-nano variety (meaning its particles are all large enough to not seep through skin pores or enter marine biosystems) it rapidly settles to the seafloor and becomes part of the sediment.


Non-nano Zinc Oxide

Non-nano (larger than 100 nanometers) zinc oxide is safe for reefs and marine life, but NANO zinc oxide particles (smaller than 100 nanometers) can be ingested by marine animals including coral, causing internal damage, and when washed off into ocean, they can react with UV rays to generate hydrogen peroxide which can be toxic to phytoplankton—a vital nutrient to many reef and coral species.

Kenneth Howe, a dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology says, “Mineral sunscreen nano particles larger than 30 nanometers are not absorbed into our bodies through the skin. Particles smaller than 30 nanometers, on the other hand, can be absorbed through the skin and then enter our bloodstream. The effects these internally absorbed nano particles might have on our health is not yet known.”


Non-nano Zinc Oxide in Sunscreen

The best sunscreen active ingredient, for both human and marine biosystems, is non-nano zinc oxide, and by a wide margin. Non-nano titanium dioxide is a distant second best choice, though it is less expensive than high grade non-nano zinc oxide, and it is better than all petrochemicals.

When using either ZnO or Ti2O, non-nano varieties are key. If a product uses non-nano, it will state this clearly within the ingredients; otherwise, it is almost assuredly NANO and should not be used. (Such products are marketed as “sheer” and “clear.”)


Non-nano Zinc Oxide is Reef Safe

It’s vital to read sunscreen labels (not just the marketing messages) and understand the ingredients used in sunscreen and skincare products.

Remember, many sunscreen companies label their products as “reef-safe” simply because they don’t contain 2 specific petrochemical ingredients banned by a growing list of government jurisdictions, but they contain several other petrochemical ingredients that make them completely UNSAFE for reefs and other marine life.

Always check the ingredients, know what those ingredients do, and decide for yourself.



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.







Zinc Oxide Reef Safe

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