Everyone knows how important sunscreen is for the protection of our skin against harmful UVA and UVB rays, but unfortunately, for all the good sunscreen does, it is also can damage the environment.

Oxybenzone and octinoxate, two common ingredients used in chemical sunscreens, have been shown to damage coral reefs significantly. In places like Hawaii, the issue is so severe that sunscreens containing those chemicals are banned.

Protecting our skin is essential and the same is true for our oceans, which is why physical sunscreens are the best option for eco-friendly beachgoers. Physical sunscreens contain mineral ingredients that effectively protect your skin without putting the environment at risk.

For a high-quality sunscreen, start here with our list. Every option is free of oxybenzone or octinoxate and is reef safe.

The Best Eco-Friendly Sunscreens in 2020

1. Loving Naturals SPF 30 Clear Body

Sunscreen clear body
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Through a combination of organic oils and non-nano zinc oxide, you’ll get broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection that is both water and sweat resistant, allowing you to splash around in the water for up to 40 minutes before having to reapply.

Made with 100% all natural ingredients and recommended by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), it is safe for children and adults of all ages.

2. Raw Elements SPF 30 Face and Body Sunscreen

Raw elements certified natural sunscreen
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Sport mineral sunscreens have a reputation of washing off well before the sweat causing or water-based activity you’re doing is over, but Raw Elements’ reef safe sunscreen lotion does not run or sting your eyes and lasts beyond the advertised 80-min mark.

Gentle, moisturizing and light, it’s perfect for daily use and safe for all ages. Certified organic, biodegradable and cruelty-free, it is one of the best eco-friendly sunscreens.

3. All Good SPF 50 Sport Sunscreen Butter Stick

All good sport sunscreen butter stick
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A reef safe sunscreen with a zinc oxide and coconut oil base, it offers the highest UVA/UVB protection, creates a strong wind barrier and is biodegradable and water-resistant for as long as 80 minutes. Easy to apply, there’s no mess and the thick white texture makes it easy to cover every section.

The sport sunscreen lotion’s moisturizing formula is also packed with rose hips, green tea and buriti oil – ingredients that help to repair damaged skin.

4. BABO Botanicals SPF 30 Clear Zinc Sunscreen

Babo botanicals clear zinc sunscreen spf 30
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Sheer, light and powerful, this sunscreen lotion provides broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection, is fortified with antioxidants and is vegan.

A mineral sunscreen formulated using skin-soothing organic oils, sunflower and jojoba, it is the perfect protection for people with sensitive skin (and a great option for those in need of an eco-friendly baby sunscreen). The zinc oxide-based lotion is clear, fast-absorbing and sweat/water resistant for 80 minutes.

5. Badger SFP 30 Lavender Sunscreen

Broad spectrum spf 30 natural mineral sunscreen cream
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Sunflower oil, vitamin E, beeswax and organic sea buckthorn sooth and moisturize the skin and the zinc oxide formula provides skin with protection against UVA and UVB rays while being resistant to sweat and water for up to 40 minutes.

Naturally scented with organic Bulgarian lavender, adults will enjoy the subtle fragrance of this sunscreen lotion as opposed to the traditional pina colada and coconut scents found everywhere.

6. Blue Lizard SPF 30 Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen

Blue lizard australian sunscreen 30 spf
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A trusted brand for over 20 years, Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen’s sensitive formula was designed with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to provide skin with protection from 97% of UVA and UVB rays and without parabens or fragrances to minimize skin irritation.

The packaging uses smart bottle technology, turning blue when harmful sunrays hit it and reminding you to stay safe while you’re enjoying the outdoors.

7. Thinksport SPF 50 Safe Sunscreen

Thinksport spf 50 sunscreen
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Free of biologically harmful chemicals, give your skin the gift of highly effective sun blocking protection with the broad-spectrum coverage of UVA/UVB rays this eco-friendly sunscreen provides.

The non-nano zinc formula applies easily and absorbs into the skin quickly without leaving that greasy feeling and unwelcome smell many other sunscreens can leave behind. Water and sweat resistant for up to 80 minutes, you can safely have fun in the sun for a while before reapplication.

A Guide to Eco-Friendly Sunscreen

The conversations surrounding sun protection can be confusing. Changing from chemical sunscreens, which were the norm, to eco-friendly physical sunscreens can be a bit daunting.

With this guide, you’ll learn the basics of planet-friendly sunscreen lotions. 

The Importance of Eco-Friendly Sunscreen

It may not be obvious, but coral reefs are relied on by the entire world for things like food, coastal protection and to make a living, among other things. Though they’ve been resilient to changes in climate, plastic pollution, carbon emissions, over-fishing and chemicals like those used in chemical sunscreens are taking their toll.

Thousands of tons of sunscreen with dangerous ingredients are produced annually, harming the environment and potentially causing hormone disruption and allergic reactions the human body. Eco-friendly sunscreens protect coral reefs and your body.

Ingredients to avoid

Just because a sunscreen claims it is ocean-friendly doesn’t mean it is actually safe for coral reefs. Below are the dangerous ingredients that true eco-friendly sunscreens will never contain:

  • Oxybenzone (also known as benzophenone-3)
  • Oxtinoxate (also known as octyl methoxycinnate)
  • Avobenzone (also known as benzophenone)
  • Octoclyrene
  • Octisalate
  • Homosalate

A reef-safe sunscreen will be paraben-free, non-nano and will not contain any of the typical cosmetic ingredients considered bad, including:

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate / sodium laureth sulfate
  • Phthalates
  • Retinyl palmitate
  • Formaldehyde

Reef-friendly ingredients

Physical sunscreens are eco-friendly because they use the minerals zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as UV filters instead of chemicals. Zinc oxide, in particular, is highly recommended by the Environmental Working Group for beach activities, diving and snorkeling.

Instead of penetrating the skin like chemical ingredients, these minerals build a layer on the skin that reflect harmful UV rays, much like a mirror would. The result is strong protection with fewer health concerns.

Non-nano particles

Mineral ingredients are only half the solution, eco-friendly sunscreens should also be non-nano. This means that over 90% of the particles are bigger than 100 nm – a size too larger to enter the human body or be ingested by fish and coral reefs.

You will see sunscreen lotions that contain nano titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which are safe for humans, but can cause disorders in fish and coral if ingested. Non-nano is the eco-friendly option.

Protect Your Skin Without Harming the Planet

Eco-friendly sunscreens provide skin with protection against harmful sunrays and they protect reefs – the oldest and most diverse ecosystems in the world – from chemicals that can cause coral bleaching, abnormal skeletal growth and DNA damage.

Leave chemical sunscreens behind starting today.

Note: Giving Assistant shoppers can really make a difference by donating their free cash back to an environmental nonprofit of their choice.