Sustainability | 7 Jun, 2021

Navigating Ocean Friendly Beauty

by Christina Almeida

The ocean is a big place and yet everything we do has an impact. We won’t throw out a list of sad statistics about ocean health and marine habitats, but let’s just say that we have a responsibility to be better friends to the ocean and that 100 percent applies to our beauty regimen! That means looking at the ingredients and packaging of our products and at the values of companies we support.

What does ocean-safe mean? Ocean-safe or “reef-safe” are general terms used when looking at the ingredients and packaging of a product, and evaluating the overall impact the product has on the ocean or ecosystem.   


One of the greatest ocean conservation efforts is keeping alive coast line habitats of coral reefs. Factors like warming waters and pollutants have largely decimated the population. One way we can adapt our beauty routines to be ocean friendly is to avoid using products like sunscreen that contain oxybenzones. 

According to Craig Downs, a biologist who runs the nonprofit Haereticus Environmental Lab, oxybenzones are chemicals that contribute to coral bleaching by acting as an endocrine disruptor to juvenile coral. “When they come across oxybenzones, they just encase themselves in their own skeleton, effectively killing them,” he says. “They sink to the bottom of the ocean and die.” 

The (ocean friendly) Girlfriend Collective Paloma Bra

Oxybenzone pollution can come from many sources, but sunscreen from swimmers and snorkelers checking out the coral reefs is a huge contributor. To see if any of your products contain oxybenzone, check out EWG’s searchable list of products to avoid.

Other ingredients like parabens and homosalate are also considered to be ocean unsafe. Many exfoliating scrubs we use contain plastic microbeads that can put marine animals at risk. If you want to make sure that your beauty products are free of any ocean harming ingredients, you can always look for the Protect Land and Sea Certification seal.  This certification granted by Haereticus Environmental Lab, guarantees that the product you’re buying is free from any ocean harming chemicals. 

Reducing Waste

Unfortunately when it comes to plastic in the water, microbeads are just the tip of the iceberg. An estimated 10 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year. Recyclable and compostable packaging made of glass, aluminum, or renewable plant based materials are the future of ocean safe beauty. The trick here is to pay attention to the described method of processing, and make sure you’re recycling properly. That also may mean checking in on our regional recycling laws and practices. 

Recyclable and refillable Noto Resurface Scrub

While companies like BioLogiQ are working to develop biodegradable plastic especially formulated for the ocean, the bad news is that floating trash can still harm marine wildlife before it biodegrades. It seems then, that the answer first and foremost is to reduce our waste over all, even if it is biodegradable! The best kind of packaging is no packaging! Beauty brands like Noto Botanics, allow customers to refill old bottles in stores with new product, which removes the waste entirely!

When figuring out what brands to support, consider whether they have alternative programs to keep trash out of the oceans. Girlfriend Collective is an excellent example. From producing their clothes with recycled fishing nets, to filtering waste water before it’s released into streams, they are super ocean friendly. At the end of your item’s life you can send it back to them to be repurposed with their Re:Girlfriend program. For more information about their practices, check out our earth day highlight.

Knowing about the ingredients and waste impact of the brands you support is such a huge part of being a friend to the ocean. Together, we can all make a difference!