Green Okinawa (15) Coral Safe Sunscreen

Dear OISTers,


The Resource Center is compiling information on how to be more environmentally friendly in Okinawa. In the spirit of learning from each other, please share your knowledge with us and we'll share it with fellow OISTers!

Climate change, ocean acidification, and coastal development are the greatest threats to coral reefs.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects that coral reefs will decline by a further 70–90% as the temperature of the planet increases by 1.5°C, and >99% of coral reefs are likely to be lost if the temperature rises to 2ºC (ref 1).

Enjoying the coral reef whilst diving and snorkeling can, unfortunately, cause physical damage to it. Onna Village has joined the international ‘Green Fins’ initiative to protect and conserve coral reefs by promoting sustainable diving and snorkeling practices (ref 2). They are developing guidelines for diving instructors to teach clients about protecting the corals whilst diving (ref 3). Joining Green Fins is part of Onna Village's broader Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda. 

Did you know the sunscreen you are putting on your skin could harm corals? Studies have shown that chemical ingredients in sunscreen damage the coral reef (ref 4 and ref 5). In 2018, Hawaii banned sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate (ref 6).

Here are some tips from us about how to look after the coral reef in Okinawa. Please share your knowledge with us and we will update the post. 


Green Fins Guides

To learn more about diving sustainability, check out the free guides from Green Fins (ref 4). 



Chemical-based sunscreen can damage coral reefs

It's a good idea to avoid sun care products using chemical ingredients such as oxybenzone (ref 5 and ref 6). Even if you are not swimming, sunscreen washed off in the shower can eventually find its way into the ocean. In total, an estimated 14,000 tons of sunscreen enter the oceans each year (ref 6).

Another tip is to avoid aerosols and sprays as they create a chemical cloud that settles on the sand and washes into the ocean with the tide.

Opt for mineral sunscreens that use ‘non-nano mineral ingredients as they are less damaging to corals. The minerals used are either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They block UV light from reaching your skin by either reflecting the light or absorbing it. Mineral sunscreens tend to be less irritating to the skin than chemical sunscreens. That can be particularly beneficial for children and anyone with sensitive skin (ref 8). Non-nano means that the ingredients are larger than 100 nanometers and are less likely to be absorbed by marine life.

Here are the words to look for on the label

Non-nano ノンナノ

Mineral ミネラル

Zinc oxide 酸化亜鉛

Titanium dioxide 二酸化チタン

Where to buy mineral sunscreen in Okinawa

Coralily, coral-friendly sunscreen (link and webshop link). Coralily sunscreen is sold in various places in Okinawa, for example Petaluna stores (link), Naha Aeon Mall Shopping Center. 

Matsumoto Kiyoshi drugstores sell Surfer’s Diane sunscreen (link

Ethical Store RE/AO in Chatan sells all kinds of eco-friendly products including sunscreens (Google map link and weblink).


Wear UV protection clothes

Physical sunscreens are a good alternative to chemical sunscreens, but they still wash off. Even natural ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide don’t belong in the ocean, so the only truly natural solution is to wear clothing rather than sunblock.

Protect yourself from the sun well by wearing a rashguard in the water and reduce the amount of sunscreen you need to apply. Sports shops in Okinawa sell long-sleeved swim tops, swim leggings, full bodysuits, and more. Often yoga leggings made from fast dry material can be worn in the water. We searched for swimwear and rashguards made in Japan from recycled materials and found them through Patagonia Japan (ref 7). 

Epochal ( is a Japanese brand that sells sun-protective clothing.

Bubbles Wetsuits Okinawa is a shop in Okinawa repairing and selling tailor-made wetsuits.

Read other Green Okinawa posts in the series here

Contact us here 


Illustration credit Mirijam Neve . . insta: meervanmirijamneve “The very best sun protection is wearing long sleeved swimwear!”


The post was developed in collaboration with Mirijam Neve, Tim Ravasi (OIST Marine Climate Change Unit), Mai Barnes (OIST Resource Center) and Kate Whitfield. 



  1. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Special report: Global warming of 1.5 ºC, Summary for policymakers,
  2. Green Fins 
  3. Japan Green Fins
  4. Review of environmental effects of oxybenzone and other sunscreen active ingredients, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2019, Samantha L.Schneider and Henry W.Lim.
  5. Environ Health Perspect. 2008, Sunscreens Cause Coral Bleaching by Promoting Viral Infections, Roberto Danovaro, Lucia Bongiorni, Cinzia Corinaldesi, Donato Giovannelli, Elisabetta Damiani, Paola Astolfi, Lucedio Greci, and Antonio Pusceddu
  6. What sunscreens are best for you—and the planet? National Geographic, 2019
  7. Patagonia 

Mayo Clinic

Name: Anonymous

I have read the article from the above link. "Epochal" is a brand specialized in producing UV-proof wear. We established a company 19 years ago with mothers, whose children were suffering from atopic dermatitis. The motive came from our experience when we were advised by the dermatologists not to get the children with atopic dermatitis sunburned. In fact, we have a deep connection with Okinawa. We have sold our items in a collaboration with "Okinawa Parenting Good Products", we had film shooting sessions every year around the aquarium and various places on the island. We have interviewed a representative from Sunshine aquarium to support the coral protection activities. A year ago, we were commissioned by Saitama prefecture to interview the environmental division at Okinawa Prefectural Government about coral reef protection. Regarding the UV-proof wear, there are unfortunately many companies selling items with "UV" on the package because they sell a lot with that labeling. However, the effect of most of these products normally wears off after washing. Our products, however, are produced with the materials with titanium oxide kneaded in the fiber used, thus the effect doesn't wear off by washing. We are proud of our products. Our head office is now moved to the incubation plaza at Riken, and we are doing research on these UV-proof products. If possible, I would like you to introduce our brand Epochal on your website. Below is the Epochal brand website Brand website English website Sorry to contact you out of a sudden, but I would appreciate it if you take it into consideration. We are planning to keep cooperating in the coral protection projects. We wish you the best in your great activities. Peekaboo Incorporated CEO Kikuko Matsunari