All natural, organic, eco-friendly, low-waste, and reef safe sunscreens are becoming easier to find! *PRAISE* My mom harped on me wearing sunscreen as a kid, and I can count on two hands the amount of times I’ve been burned.
She would always slather me in the stuff whether it was winter or summer because sunscreen is important ALL YEAR LONG – not just in summer.
When I was in high school, all my friends used tanning beds. I wasn’t super interested in tanning, and I’m so thankful because a few old classmates dealt with melanomas in their 20s! If you’re interested in getting a bronze look check out my favorite eco-friendly sunless tanner, and lather up with some organic and reef safe sunscreens!
Since no skincare routine is complete with out a good sunscreen so be sure to also check out my favorite all natural and organic skin care recommendations too!
Some of the links below are affiliate links for more information please see my disclosure policy.
how to choose a reef safe sunscreens:
Before we get into sustainable sunscreen brands, it’s important to know what to look for. Did you know up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen enter our marine waterways each year?
Some sunscreens contain chemicals that can cause coral bleaching, increase the risk of disease in coral, and even impair neurological and reproductive abilities of fish!
The major chemicals that cause reef bleaching are oxybenzone and octinoxate: Once these chemicals enter the water, they decrease the corals’ defenses against bleaching and damage their DNA. This damage, along with other stressors including water pollution, ocean acidification and rising sea temperatures, cause corals to bleach and die.
Coral reefs are the world’s largest living structures, but they’re also super sensitive to any changes in the water.
On top of what’s in our sunscreen, we should be mindful of how they’re packaged too. Lots of sunscreen comes in plastic tubes that are hard to recycle, or completely unrecyclable depending on where you live.
Thankfully, there are low waste sunscreen options out there that are mindfully packaged and are reef safe!
broad spectrum protection:
There are three types of sun rays: UVA, UVB and UBC. Thankfully the ozone layer protects us from UVC, but the other two can cause wrinkles, freckles, aging and even skin cancer. That’s why having a sunscreen with broad spectrum protection is important: It protects you against both UVA and UVB rays.
However, it’s important to note that in Australia, large portions of the Ozone are actually missing – so Australians are also regularly exposed to UVC rays as well. For Australians, this makes it even more vital to use broad spectrum protection – and limit the amount of sun exposure in the first place.
spf 15 and up:
Generally speaking, you’ll never want to go below SPF 15, as SPF 15 filters out about 93% of all UVB rays. If you have highly sensitive skin, an SPF 30 (which filters 97%) or SPF 50 (98%) may be better suited for you.
Just be mindful no sunscreen offers 100% protection – and it’s super important to reapply your sunscreen every one to two hours, no matter how high the SPF.
Also, try to cover up, seek shade, and avoid sun exposure during the peak hours (10 AM to 2 PM) to reduce chance of sunburn (and further, more dire problems like skin cancer, down the line).
Cream formulas are better than spray-on sunscreens because it’s harder to misuse cream-based sunscreens.
A lot of people don’t follow the cautions on the side of the can: You’re not supposed to apply spray-on sunscreen during windy conditions. This enables the sunscreen to travel throughout the air, eventually ending up in the ocean and in the lungs of anyone near you.
Truth is, you’re supposed to apply spray-on sunscreen only in well ventilated areas, keeping it away from your face. And you’re supposed to avoid inhaling it or exposing others to the spray.
water resistant for 40+ minutes:
Obviously, you want a water resistant sunscreen especially if you’re going to be in the water or working up a sweat! If you are going to be doing either of those things, be sure to check out my guide to sustainable activewear and eco friendly swimsuits.
Not all sunscreens offer the same water resistance – so its best to look for one that can withstand at least 40+ minutes, and make sure that you’re reapplying!
zero waste sunscreen:
Packaging matters, but protecting your health in skin should be the highest priority! Thankfully, there are a lot of brands that use low waste packaging, are partnered with terracycle to ensure recycling, and are working on reducing waste across the board.
More brands are taking extended producer responsibility with take-back programs and some of the brands below have packaging made from recycled plastic or materials made from sugarcane resin.
There are options for compostable push up tubes, 100% recycled plastic, and even refillable aluminum tins/bottles. As packaging becomes more of a hot button issue, I’m excited to see innovative packaging become the norm.
ingredients to avoid in sunscreen:
These are a few of the ingredients you might want to avoid in your sunscreen since some of these might cause irritation. It’s always good to check your labels since several of these ingredients have been known to cause harm to human health as well as coral and ocean life.
oxybenzone octinoxate 4-methylbenzylidene HomosalateOctisalateOctocryleneAvobenzone
all natural, organic, reef safe sunscreen:
Now you know what a safe, effective, eco-friendly sunscreen looks like, I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite sunscreens. All of these sunscreens are reef-safe, low waste and effective. Many I have tried and used myself!
I’ve gone ahead and highlighted some of my favorite features of each brand, but it’s not an exhaustive list so be sure to check their websites for more information.
1. raw elements
Plastic-free Reusable tin SPF 30 Tinted option Cruelty-free Soy, gluten and nut-free
Spray-on availableRecycled materialsSPF 50-70 70%+ certified organic ingredientsCruelty-free and vegan
/ SHOP COOLA /
5. kari gran
Organic ingredientsPlastic-neutral company with Plastic BankSPF 28Tinted option availableCruelty-free
/ SHOP KARI GRAN /
6. stream 2 sea
Organic ingredientsMade in the USAEcoConscious Sugarcane Resin TubesSPF 20-30Tinted options availableCruelty-free1% For The Planet
7. tierra + lava
Plastic freeReusable aluminum tinOrganic + locally sourced ingredientsSPF 15Fair trade certified
8. meow meow tweet
Carbon neutralReusable aluminum pump bottleMade in USAOrganic ingredientsSPF 25Vegan and cruelty-free
Tinted serum Powdered translucent options availableTake-back recycling programNatural ingredientsSPF 20-40Vegan
/ SHOP ILIA /
10. marie veronique
Tinted coverageReusable glass bottleNatural ingredientsSPF 30Cruelty-free
Eco-Friendly Sugarcane TubeTinted coverage availableFace, lips + body optionsOrganic ingredientsSPF 25-30Cruelty-free
/ SHOP SUNTEGRITY /
12. babo botanicals
Spray on optionOrganic ingredientsBaby-friendly formulas availableMade in the USASPF 15-50Cruelty-free
70% organic ingredientsBaby-friendly formulas availableFarm to bottle SPF 30Cruelty-free
/ SHOP ERBAVIVA /
14. honua hawaiian skincare
Day creamNatural ingredientsReusable glass bottle and jar1% of each bottle sold donated to sustainable Hawaiian coastlinesSPF 30Vegan and cruelty-free
15. solara suncare
Natural ingredientsRecyclable tubeEWG verifiedSPF 30Vegan and cruelty-free
Natural ingredientsTubes are made of post-consumer recycled (PCR) materialsTake-back programSPF 32Vegan and cruelty-free
/ SHOP KINSHIP /
Natural ingredientsSPF 32Fights against pollution + blue lightFragrance-freeVegan and cruelty-free
/ SHOP COCOKIND /
18. blackgirl sunscreen
Natural ingredientsBlack ownedTake back programFragrance-freeSPF 30-50Vegan and cruelty-free
19. josie maran
Organic and natural ingredientsPlastic-free optionsGlass bottlesTake-back program with TerraCycleSPF 30-47Vegan optionsCruelty-free
/ SHOP JOSIE MARAN /
Natural ingredientsCertified B CorpSheer coverageTake-back program with TerraCycleSPF 30Vegan and cruelty-free
/ SHOP BLISS /
Which of these zero waste sunscreens would you use?