The Belize Barrier Reef System is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Belize’s most prized natural treasures. The second largest reef in the world, the Belize Barrier Reef System is the healthiest in the world. And that’s something we take seriously!
When you visit Belize, you can help too. Here’s one easy way: reef-safe sunscreen.
Belize has not followed Hawaii’s and Bonaire’s footsteps in banning sunscreen that is said to harm coral reefs, but many are still choosing reef-safe solutions as awareness continues to grow of the scientifically researched downsides of oxybenzone and octinoxate on juvenile corals. In fact, there are even some tour guides on the Placencia Peninsula who will only let you use their reef-safe sunscreen provided on board, while others highly encourage you to bring your own.
One of the most recognized coral restoration groups in the Caribbean and Latin American region is Fragments of Hope, a non-profit headquartered and founded in Placencia Village. Their most praised project is the planting and restoration of corals at Laughingbird Caye National Park, one of the most visited islands in the area. With so many licensed Placencia tour guides, boat captains and dive instructors who have volunteered their time to assist with planting at the site and have seen first-hand the damage that the source of their livelihood can suffer during the anthropocene age, it’s no wonder that the marine conservation culture is so pervasive throughout the Peninsula.
If we haven’t guilt-tripped you enough yet, as you may have already packed your favorite oxybenzone and octinoxate containing sunblock, no fear! You can find reef-safe solutions right here on the Peninsula.
The top choice for your skincare needs is The Placencia Pharmacy run by beloved pharmacist, Nina Wallen. The longtime caretaker for all our ailments even received an unexpected mention in a 2013 issue of a popular adult magazine featuring a racy write up on Placencia. (We just won’t mention the pill they talked about.)
Nina carries an affordable “Reef Safe Sun” line of biodegradable products including a sprayable, water-resistant sunshield, an SPF 50+, water resistant lotion and sun burn relief products. She also carries popular brands offering products to protect the body and face from harmful UV rays including Ocean Potion, Coppertone, Banana Boat, Neutrogena, Hawaiian Tropic and Aveeno. You’ll also find that prices are more than what you’d spend in large industrial countries, accounting for the additional duty and costs businesses in Belize must pay for imports.
In recent years, the supermarkets and small grocery stores on the Peninsula are also offering a selection of sunscreen options; although they typically contain oxybenzone and octinoxate.
Another place to check when you need to grab one just before jumping on a boat is your hotel gift shop!
Here’s a caveat! No matter where you pick up your sunscreen, always check the expiration date! It’s not unusual for stores to carry expired items here, and expired sunscreen is no good!
And if you’re willing to be adventurous and go against your dermatologist’s warning, you can always take the old school Placencia fisherman’s remedy to the burning sun’s rays and douse yourself in extra virgin coconut oil! Locally-pressed and readily available in all supermarkets, extra virgin coconut oil carries an SPF of four, which means that it blocks 75% of the sun’s harmful UV rays; however, unlike conventional sunscreens, coconut oil needs to be reapplied every 45 minutes. Try this move at your own risk! If tanning is your end goal, this just might work for you, as tanning salons do not exist in Belize.
Creams and sprays don’t always have to be the solution for sun protection. Don’t forget your fabric options! For the snorkelers, divers and swimmers who don’t mind to be conservative in paradise, full-body suits can work as an alternative means to protect the skin from the sun without the need sunscreen. Be sure that your suit is suitable for very warm temperatures! On that note, we also advise that you pack a pair of polarized sunglasses and your favorite hat for additional sun care. Our friends at Captain Jak’s are a licensed dealer for CostaDelMar sunglasses – stop by and see them in the Village or across the street from Sirenian Bay and pick up a pair while you’re in town.
Protecting the reef is a cause that’s near and dear to the hearts of many in and around Placencia – and throughout Belize. Consider your options when choosing your sunscreen and take one small step that can make a big difference.