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Applying sunscreen when your skin is exposed to the sun is a no-brainer. Knowing the effects sunscreen can have on the environment can be a little more complicated. In fact, many sunscreens are potentially harming our oceans by damaging coral reefs around the world. Thankfully, cosmetic brands are becoming more aware of their responsibility to make eco-friendly products, and have thus created the best reef safe sunscreens.
Sunscreen often contains oxybenzone and octinoxate which have been known to cause harm to aquatic life, including coral reef systems. However, companies that make sunscreen have been hard at work developing formulas that avoid these chemicals yet still provide the same protection against the sun’s rays.
Although the name suggests these sunscreens are focused only on the safety of reefs, eco-friendly sunscreens are better for the environment, in general, whether you’re swimming or not. That’s because the chemicals we apply to our bodies all eventually end up in our water supply whether we rinse them off in the ocean, swimming pool, shower or bath.
Fortunately, there’s a better way to prevent sunburn, protect yourself from skin cancer, and keep marine ecosystems safe and healthy.
Why Should You Use Reef-Safe Sunscreens?
Here are a few benefits of the best reef-safe sunscreen brands:
Water Resistant – Most reef-safe sunscreens protect your skin for up to 80 minutes when in water. This makes them ideal for anyone who enjoys swimming, snorkeling or surfing. However, reapplying your sunscreen once you’re out of the water is recommended, even if you weren’t wet for longer than 80 minutes.
UVA and UVB Protection – While the SPF factor of your sunscreen is a good indication of the protection it provides against UVB rays, it is also important to be protected against UVA rays, too. Choose a product that promotes itself as a broad-spectrum sunscreen to ensure you’re protected against both.
Eco-Friendly – In addition to avoiding chemicals known to harm marine organisms, many reef-safe sunscreen companies use packaging made from recycled plastic and commit to creating biodegradable products. These are great features to look for when selecting the best reef-safe sunscreen for you.
While further study is needed to assess the overall environmental toll of sunscreen, using reef-safe products is a great way to make a difference. Below we have listed the best reef-safe sunscreens for 2021, all of which are safer for coral reefs and the health of the overall environment, too.
1. Two Peas Organics Mineral Sunscreen
Two Peas Organics Mineral Sunscreen is a natural and biodegradable sunscreen that is suitable for all members of the family. This unscented, SPF 30 sunscreen uses the natural mineral, Zinc Oxide, to deflect the harmful UVA/UVB rays and help prevent sunburn, skin cancer and premature aging. In addition to protection, this sunscreen contains organic coconut oil, jojoba oil and shea butter to leave your skin feeling smooth and protected.
2. Sun Bum Reef Safe Sunscreen
You can feel confident in your protection against UVA and UVB rays when using Sun Bum Reef Safe Sunscreen. With a five-out-of-five star rating and nearly 6,000 customer reviews, this 30 SPF lotion is one of the most popular sun creams on Amazon. Its vegan formula contains vitamin E and is designed to moisturize as you apply it. It’s also hypoallergenic, which makes it great for anyone with allergies. Plus, the eight-ounce bottle features a fun, coconut-inspired design.
3. EiR NYC Surf Mud
BEST NATURAL SUNSCREEN
This is one of our editor’s favorite reef-safe sunscreen brands. The EiR NYC Surf Mud boasts a 100% reef-safe formula, which contains only seven ingredients. Non-Nano Zinc Oxide protects the skin from UV rays, while the included cocoa powder helps the mud to blend in with your skin. Additionally, this SPF-30 sunscreen, which is also water repellant thanks to the included beeswax, helps to promote local blood flow and increase cellular healing to ensure you feel and look good when it’s on your skin. If you’re looking for the best reef-safe sunscreen that’s also great for your skin, then you’ll want to go with a natural sunscreen like Surf Mud.
LOW IN STOCK!
4. Solimo Reef-Friendly Sunscreen
As an Amazon-endorsed product with a 4.5-star rating and over 1,000 customer reviews, the price tag of the Solimo Reef Friendly Sunscreen seems almost too good to be true. This broad-spectrum product offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays without the use of oxybenzone or octinoxate. Despite the low cost, the formula is highly effective, and the eight-ounce bottle is larger than most others on our list. Plus, the grip-bottle design features finger grooves for a firm hold and easy application.
5. Banana Boat Reef-Friendly Sunscreen
BEST FOR FAMILIES
Clinically proven to protect against UVA and UVB rays, Banana Boat Reef Friendly Sunscreen is a lotion that’s suitable for the whole family. The extra-large, 12-ounce bottle features a pump lid for a user-friendly application, which is possible with just one hand. Although this lotion has a strong SPF factor of 50, it’s designed to be lightweight for comfortable all-day wear.
6. BLUE LIZARD Reef-Safe Sunscreen
BEST FOR SENSITIVE SKIN
Designed to protect sensitive skin and the environment alike, BLUE LIZARD Reef Safe Sunscreen doesn’t contain any oxybenzone or octinoxate. It’s water and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes and is completely fragrance-free. The mineral-based formula uses zinc oxide and titanium dioxide rather than active chemicals to provide top-quality protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
7. Alba Botanica Reef-Safe Sunscreen
BEST AIR-POWERED SPRAY
Alba Botanica Reef Safe Sunscreen comes in an air-powered spray bottle that is lightweight yet effective. The SPF 50 solution is made from all plant-based ingredients and is cruelty-free, too. By using coconut extract, shea butter and avocado oil, this sunscreen formula moisturizes the skin as it protects. The six-ounce dispenser is ideal for travel, and the coconut-scented sunscreen adds to the holiday vibes.
8. Banana Boat Reef-Safe Sunscreen
BEST FOR TRAVEL
With two, six-ounce tubes of Banana Boat Reef Safe Sunscreen included in each order, this set is ideal for vacation. With one in your bag and another in your partner’s suitcase, your sun protection will be nearby at all times. The weightless formula is designed for ultra-breathable wear, so you will hardly feel it on your skin. Plus, it absorbs quickly to avoid any white marks.
9. Seven Minerals Reef-Safe Sunscreen
Not only is Seven Mineral Reef Safe Sunscreen free of octinoxate and oxybenzone, but it’s also packaged in recycled plastic collected from the coastlines of Haiti, Honduras and Mexico. The broad-spectrum SPF 30 formula protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and it is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. As well as being sensitive to skin, this sunscreen is both cruelty and paraben-free, too.
10. TotLogic Natural Sunscreen
BEST FOR BABIES
The TotLogic Sunscreen was created especially for babies six months of age and older but can be used by anyone who wants an all-natural, mineral-based, broad-spectrum sunscreen with superior UVA and UVB protection. Hypoallergenic and gentle, this formula contains 20% natural zinc oxide, which makes it great for sensitive skin and safe for the face and body. Rich in antioxidants and botanicals, this sunscreen is infused with white tea, jojoba oil, hyaluronic acid, arnica, chamomile and lavender, making it not only a good sun protectant but a nourishing skin hydrator as well.
11. Reef Repair Reef-Safe Sunscreen for Kids
BEST FOR KIDS
This easy-squeeze, four-ounce tube of Reef Repair Reef-Safe Sunscreen is ideal for kids (and parents, too). For the best results, the SPF 50 lotion should be applied every two hours or after being in the water. Made with all-natural ingredients and packaged in recycled plastic, this sunscreen is committed to being kind to the environment. It’s also biodegradable, so any excess cream will not cause harm.
12. All Good Sport Sunscreen Lotion
All Good Sport Sunscreen SPF 30 is a lightweight, broad-spectrum sunscreen with a mission to keep you protected while protecting the oceans. By using non-nano zinc for protection, this formula also contains organic green tea, rose hips and buriti oil for help repairing dry and sun-damaged skin. Free of oxybenzone and gluten, this vegan sunscreen is biodegradable making it coral reef-friendly, environmentally safe and works on all members of the family, including kids.
13. Stream2Sea Natural Travel-Sized Toiletries
Sunscreen is a great place to start, but basically any cosmetic product you use on your body could potentially harm coral reefs. This includes leave-in conditioners, body lotions and after-sun gel. That’s why we recommend picking up the Stream2Sea Natural Travel-Sized Toiletries kit. In addition to some of the best reef-safe sunscreen for both your body and your face, this kit also includes reef-safe leave-in conditioner, body wash, soothing gel and body lotion. Plus, all these products are packaged in travel-friendly tubes for your next vacation in the sun.