Using eco-friendly sunscreen can help save our coral reefs and prevent harm to wildlife. However, you must know how to find the right sunscreen for you and your family and not get tricked by marketing tactics.
70% of sunscreens on the U.S. market contain harsh chemicals, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate. These chemicals can damage or kill coral reefs, causing irrevocable harm.
Popular vacation destinations, such as Cozumel, Mexico, the US Virgin Islands, and Hawaii, have banned traditional sunscreens through federal regulations.
Even if you don't go to the beach or on vacation, the sunscreen you use rinses off. It goes down the drain and harms our marine life.
Here is everything you need to know about reef-safe sunscreen and our picks for the best eco-friendly sunscreen.
Best Sellers – Most Popular Eco-Friendly Sunscreen Brands
Brands purchased the most by our readers.
The Best Eco-Friendly and Reef-Safe Sunscreens
1. Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen
Sun Bum is the most trusted brand in sunscreen! People say it smells like summer.
More importantly, it is hypoallergenic and oxybenzone, 0ctinoxate, gluten, cruelty and paraben free. Truly reef-friendly and great for all types of skin.
Plus, they aren't shy about their ingredients list. They clearly list each ingredient so you know what is going on your skin.
Check out all of the positive reviews on Amazon!
2. Elta MD UV Clear SPF 46 Face Sunscreen
Elta MD is the best eco-friendly sunscreen for daily use. You can wear it under makeup or alone.
It offers mineral-based UVA/UVB sun protection. This sunscreen is breathable, easy to apply, and doesn't leave any residue or white cast.
Perfect to add to your daily skincare routine to help reduce the risk of developing cancer.
3. CeraVe Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen
CeraVe protects your skin from the sun and provides all day hydration, It has essential ceramides that help restore the skin’s natural barrier and lock in moisture.
It was developed with dermatologists to instantly leave skin with a healthy glow without any white cast. Suitable for all skin tones!
4. Badger SPF 30 Clear Mineral Sunscreen
When it comes to eco-friendly sunscreen, Badger has it all!
Badger is free of toxic chemicals such as oxybenzone and uses 98% organic ingredients. Additionally, it is made with 100% solar power, uses sustainable packaging, is USDA Organic Certified, and certified as Climate-Pledge Friendly.
This Hawaii and Mexico approved sunscreen is perfect for vacation!
Our readers love the short list of ingredients. You can feel good putting this on your skin and know that it was made in a responsible manner that puts the planet first.
5. Thinksport SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen
Thinksport is highly rated by the Environmental Working Group and was the first sunscreen to pass Whole Foods Premium Care requirements.
The dermatologist recommended formula is easy to apply and non-greasy. Perfect for outdoor activities when you need long-lasting protection. In fact, it provides the highest water resistance per the FDA and offers continuous protection for up to 80 minutes!
It is great for athletes, weekend warriors, swimming, snorkeling, diving, or for a cruise or vacation.
6. Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen for Extra Sensitive Skin
Babo Botanicals is made for people with extra sensitive skin. It is fragrance free and hypoallergenic.
It is made without common irritants such as gluten, soy, dairy, peanut, almond and walnuts. The mineral formula is oxybenzone and octinoxate free and doesn't include parabens or sulfates.
Plus, it uses sunflower which is known to provide anti-inflammatory properties to help soothe skin and reduce irritation.
Great for the whole family and is Environmental Working Group certified and Climate-Pledge Friendly certified!
7. Badger Kids Reef Safe Sunscreen
The same great Badger formula, but for kids!
Easy to apply and great for kids with sensitive skin. It is hypoallergenic and rubs in light and clear.
It even has a light orange scent that reminds us of a fun summer popsicle!
Our readers love the peace of mind when it comes to protecting their children and say it is easy to get kids to use it.
8. Blue Lizard Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen
Blue Lizard is the ultimate fragrance free, eco-friendly sunscreen for the whole family.
They have been creating reef-safe, mineral sunscreen for over 20 years. Their dermatologist recommended formula offers protection for 80 minutes and is sweat and water resistant.
Check out all of the positive reviews on Amazon!
9. KokuaSun Care Hawaiian SPF 50 Natural Zinc Sunscreen
Kokua Sun Care has everything you hope to see in a reef-safe sunscreen. This natural zinc sunscreen includes antioxidants grown in Hawaii. Most importantly, it rubs in clearly and complies with all sunscreen bans.
It has been cleared for use in Hawaii, Palau, Marshall Islands, US Virgin Islands, Bonaire, Aruba, Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel, and more!
See why it was rated one of the Best Reef-Safe Sunscreens by Outside Magazine!
10. Coppertone Pure and Simple Mineral Sunscreen
Coppertone Pure and Simple is the brand's updated, environmentally friendly alternative.
It is a gentle and effective sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection.
Made with naturally sourced zinc oxide, it is free from oxybenzone, parabens, and fragrances, making it safe for sensitive skin and the environment.
The best part is, its lightweight and non-greasy formula is easy to apply and absorbs quickly, leaving no white residue.
11. All Good Sport SPF 30 Mineral Sunscreen
All Good is committed to using good ingredients. They use zinc oxide which provides mineral-based protection and doesn't absorb into your skin.
Their sunscreen is gluten-free, vegan, and hypoallergenic. Easy to use during sporting events or while relaxing on the beach!
How to Choose Eco-Friendly Sunscreen
70% of sunscreens on the U.S. market contain harsh chemicals, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate.
Knowing how to spot the right sunscreen and not be misled by marketing jargon is critical for protecting our oceans.
1. Avoid Harsh Chemicals Such as Oxybenzone and Octinoxate
A lot of sunscreens contain chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate. Sunscreen manufacturers include these chemicals because they are effective in blocking UV rays.
However, studies have shown that they contribute to coral bleaching which kills our coral reefs.
Coral bleaching is when algae leaves the coral's tissue due to pollution. Algae is the coral's source of food. Without it, the coral gets sick and turns white.
2. Carefully Review the Ingredients List
There aren’t any standards that sunscreen must meet to call itself "reef-friendly" or “reef-safe.” The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t set definitions or limits on this hazard.
If you aren’t careful, you can wind up paying more for sunscreen that uses these terms when it is just marketing jargon.
Consumers should look at the ingredients list when purchasing sunscreen. Try to avoid the chemicals that are harmful to coral reefs such as Octinoxate, Oxybenzone, Benzophenone, OD-PABA, Methyl benzylidene camphor, and Retinyl palmitate.
3. Look For Chemical-Free or Mineral Sunscreen Without Nano-Particles
Some sunscreen brands use mineral blockers like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These ingredients block UV rays and won't harm the environment.
Furthermore, dermatologists say that chemical-free or mineral-based sunscreen is better for people with sensitive skin.
Lastly, try to avoid spray sunscreen if possible. Spray sunscreen includes nano-particles that can hurt the environment and irritate your lungs.
How Does Sunscreen Harm the Environment?
Sunscreen rinses off our skin while in the water or while showering. It enters the ecosystem and acts like an oil or pollutant, covering coral reefs and essentially suffocating them.
Even if you don't go in the ocean, your sunscreen comes off eventually and goes into our rivers, oceans, and soil polluting our water and wildlife.
The ingredients can cause harm to our planet if they are toxic and non-biodegradable.
Why are Coral Reefs Important?
Coral reefs are important to our environment and well-being.
They protect coastlines from storms and erosion, house fish and other marine life, and support our local economy through tourism.
Additionally, coral reefs are important in the development of new medicines to treat cancer, arthritis, and other diseases.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why is eco-friendly sunscreen important?
A study found that 14,000 tons of sunscreen enter the ocean and impact coral reefs every year.
Your sunscreen can still make its way to the ocean, even if you don't go to the beach!
When you jump in a pool or lake or shower or bathe after using sunscreen, it rinses off and enters our waterways, including the ocean.
2. Can you use eco-friendly sunscreen on babies?
Yes, eco-friendly sunscreen is safe for babies. Thinkbaby is a popular all-natural sunscreen brand recommended by dermatologists. It is hypoallergenic and free of harsh chemicals.
3. What is the difference between reef friendly vs. reef safe?
There is no difference between reef-safe and reef-friendly sunscreen. Those are terms brands use to draw attention to the environmentally friendly qualities of their sunscreen.
However, both terms are unregulated. That means any company can advertise its products as such without verification, restrictions, or liability.
Consumers must carefully read the ingredients list to determine if a sunscreen is truly reef-safe or reef friendly.
4. Is spray sunscreen bad for the environment?
Spray sunscreen can harm the environment and is unhealthy to inhale. It contains nanoparticles that go into the sand, soil, rivers, and oceans and impact wildlife. Also, it can irritate the lungs when inhaled.
5. Is eco-friendly sunscreen vegan?
A lot of eco-friendly sunscreens are also vegan. Vegan sunscreen doesn't contain ingredients from animals or animal by-products. Instead, it uses plant-based ingredients that are all-natural and often organic.
6. How do I know if my sunscreen is eco-friendly?
Don't depend on marketing labels such as reef safe or reef friendly. Review the list of ingredients to ensure it is truly eco-friendly. Avoid sunscreen with chemicals that are harmful to coral reefs such as Octinoxate, Oxybenzone, Benzophenone, OD-PABA, Methyl benzylidene camphor, and Retinyl palmitate.
7. Where can I buy eco-friendly sunscreen?
Our readers typically buy eco-friendly sunscreen on Amazon.
Finding biodegradable sunscreen in your local store can be difficult. Amazon has a lot of eco-friendly brands that are active members of the Safe Sunscreen Council and have been verified by the Environmental Working Group.
Plus, Amazon certifies certain brands as "Climate Pledge Friendly", if they meet sustainability standards such as efficient packaging that reduces waste and is better for the environment.
8. What is the best sunscreen for sensitive skin?
In our opinion, the best eco-friendly sunscreen for sensitive skin is
9. Is eco-friendly sunscreen as effective as traditional sunscreen?
Yes, mineral-based sunscreen uses natural ingredients to form a physical shield between your skin and the sun’s UV rays. You can find eco-friendly sunscreen brands from SPF 15 - SPF 50 or more.
10. Will eco-friendly sunscreen rub in well?
Yes. Mineral-based sunscreens used to leave a “chalky cast” while chemical-based sunscreens did not. However, advancements have improved the texture and appearance of mineral-based sunscreen, so it rubs in clearly.
11. Is eco-friendly sunscreen worth it?
Yes. Coral reefs are dying at an alarming rate. The Planetary Coral Reef Foundation estimates that 25% of our coral reefs have already disappeared.
It is important to take steps to reduce our environmental impact and preserve our habitats for future generations. Making small changes such as choosing environmentally friendly sunscreen can help.
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