The Negative Effects of Sunscreen on the Riviera Maya Environment

As a visitor to Gate48 and the Riviera Maya, there is one important thing to remember when you go to the beach, snorkel, dive or swim in a cenote: use biodegradable sunscreen.

Many products used by consumers to protect them from the harmful UV rays of the sun also contain additives and chemicals that can prove harmful to you and the environment. When sunscreen washes off into lakes, rivers, cenotes, oceans and seas, it can leave behind a chemical residue that harms the marine life that lives in the water.

All of this residue eventually begins settling on coral reefs and other marine life. Over time, reefs become suffocated and bleached. 25 percent of the world’s coral reefs are in imminent danger of collapse due to human factors, while another 25 percent are in longer-term danger. According to a 2008 study by Environmental Health Perspectives, coral reefs are particularly sensitive to the chemicals found in human sunscreen products.


One of the most common and harmful ingredients found in regular sunblock is oxybenzone, which promotes viral infections in the coral system. Other harmful chemicals include:

Octocrylene, Benzophenone, Methylparaben and Polyethylene.



This is the  alternative to the regular sunblock we recommend using environmentally friendly sunscreen products.

These lack the harmful chemicals and additives listed above. The difference is eco-sunscreens break down naturally and minimize damage to the environment.

Look for products that use titanium oxide and zinc oxide as the primary additives.


Some brands that we recommend are:


Soleo Organics


UV Natural

Caribbean Solutions

The Yucatan Peninsula is one big hydrological system running underground, connected throughout. Studies show that 4,000 and 6,000 tons of sunscreen washes off tourists every single year, so please remember to shower before you enter with any chemicals on your body. We all must play our part in protecting this beautiful ecosystem of the Riviera Maya. It is the reason why you and millions of others have chosen to visit every year.

What did you think of this article? We are always looking for feedback from our readers. You can leave us a comment below, and don’t forget to share this with others on your social media.

Tags: biodegradable sunscreen, environment, health, marine life, sunscreen

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