This post was originally posted on July 15th 2019. It has been updated for freshness, accuracy and completeness.
Did you know that your sunscreen might be damaging marine life and coral reefs? Various studies have shown that the standard chemicals used in sunscreens are highly toxic for coral reefs and marine life.
So, what sunscreen is reef-safe? The best reef-safe and cruelty-free sunscreens are Thinksport, Badger Balm, Tropic Great Barrier, Ren Clean Skincare, Organii Sun Milk, Green People, Blue Lizard and Supergoop!.
If you’re heading for the beach this year, make sure you take one of these excellent reef-safe sunscreens with you. This way, you can be sure you’re not damaging the environment while enjoying yourself in the ocean.
The 8 Best Reef-Safe Sunscreens UK
There are tons of great reef-safe and vegan sunscreens available. We’ve narrowed it down to just 8 to make your life easier this summer.
This is one of the most popular and well-reviewed sunscreen products available. Thinksport contains 20% no nano Zinc Oxide. This makes it ocean-safe and will not affect coral reefs or marine life.
This sunscreen from Thinksport is also an award-winning product. It has been given a rating of “1” by EWG skin deep database for skin health and reef-safe qualities.
Tropic is certified by Land + Sea. This means the product has gone through rigorous testing to ensure that it is safe for the environment and animals.
You won’t find any nasty chemicals such as no oxybenzone, octinoxate or octocrylene in this bottle. We particularly like this product because it is really smooth to rub in and easy to apply.
There is no stickiness to this cream, and it won’t leave your skin feeling greasy or oily either. The sunscreen includes coconut to help soften the skin. Vitamin E is added for anti-inflammatory properties, and you also get green algae which are thought to help stop free radicals that lead to premature ageing.
We love Badger Balm products. They’re always high quality and do exactly as they promise. This is an excellent broad-spectrum sunscreen suitable for all people.
This is a nice smooth cream that is unscented, sweat-resistant, water-resistant, and great for those with sensitive skin or eczema. It is also a 100% natural biodegradable product that uses 94% organic ingredients.
Sometimes you can’t go wrong with choosing a top brand. Ren is an expert when it comes to sunscreen, and this product is proof.
The sunscreen is made from non-nano zinc oxide to help protect against the sun and ensure that it is reef-safe. It has a matte-like finish so you won’t look ridiculously shiny on your beach photos.
We like the fact it comes in an eco-friendly tube made from recycled plastic.
Please not that while REN is 100% cruelty free not all products are vegan. This sunscreen is vegan however before adding all their products to your basket, be sure to check they are vegan. REN is also owned by Unilever. We appreciate that some vegans may choose to either support or not support vegan brands or products owned by non vegan companies.
Organii is an organic-certified sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection and is long-lasting. We like the milky texture as it’s soft and creamy without feeling sticky or oily on the skin.
It’s effortless to spread on your body and includes organic ingredients such as jojoba oil, argan oil, linseed and marigold. Organii sun milk is excellent for those with sensitive skin, they’ll benefit a lot from the inclusion of argan and jojoba.
Organii sun milk is completely fragrance-free and suitable for people of all ages. It uses Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide and is completely reef-safe.
This lotion from Green People offers broad-spectrum protection and is suitable for those with sensitive skin. If you’re prone to prickly heat, you will also benefit from this sunscreen.
We like the fact this product is water-repellent but still allows your pores to breathe. It doesn’t feel heavy or sticky either.
The lotion is packed full of antioxidants and skin vitamins including vitamin A, C and E (green tea, olive, avocado and rosemary extract). This is to help support the skin’s natural immune system against any cell damage.
Last but not least, we have Blue Lizard. This is a well-known and reliable sunscreen brand from Australia. Blue Lizard provides high-quality sun care and has been doing so for over 20 years.
Again, this sunscreen is free from ingredients like parabens, fragrances, and oxybenzone. This product uses titanium dioxide and zinc oxide with no nanoparticles. The nanoparticles are what damages the coral reefs and marine life.
The product has been created on the back of 20 years of testing and experience in the Australian sun. If anyone knows about sunburn, it’s the Aussies. If you’re planning on spending significant time out in the hot sun this summer, this is a great choice. It’s ultra-protective and lasts a long time.
Gwynth Paltrows brand, Supergoop is taking the world by storm. Gwynyth is a long time vegan and natural health and wellbeing advocate.
It was only natural that she would then offer up a fabusklous sunscreen that is both vegan and reef safe.
And what’s better is that Unseen Sunscreen has great reviews for darker skin – it soaks up well with no white cast. Another great vegan, reef safe and suitable for dark skin sunscreen is from Serena Williams who created a sunscreen out of her own desire for a product that didn’t make her skin look white cast and ashy. Her product is not available in the UK (yet) so if you want it you will have to order direct from the USA.
Why Reef-Safe Sunscreen?
Photo by Shaun Low on Unsplash
Unfortunately, the current state of our coral reefs and marine life are not in good shape. Centuries of fishing and exploitation of our waters had resulted in a massive decline in the health of coral reefs and numbers of marine life.
Right now, 80,000 different chemicals are entering our oceans from various cosmetic products each and every year. They’re only exposed in small amounts when people enter the sea, but collectively it is a huge issue.
One of the chief suspects in this chemical pollution is our sunscreen. While we need sunscreen to protect our skin and stay safe in the sun, the chemicals used to do this are detrimental to our oceans.
Each year, billions of people swim in the ocean and leech toxic chemicals into the water. These chemicals then come off into the water, polluting our oceans.
In 2015, 14,000 tons of sunscreen found its way into our precious oceans. This is a huge amount of chemical pollution by regular people on vacation or having fun in the sea. This collective amount of toxic chemicals is now hurting our oceans.
The issue with regular sunscreen is the ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate. Both have been tested and found to be the culprits for degradation of coral reefs and damage to marine life health.
Both Oxybenzone and octinoxate are really effective for absorbing UV rays, which is what helps keep your skin protected in the sun. This is why they’re the two ingredients of choice for most sunscreen brands.
We now have studies that have proven that both oxybenzone and octinoxate are terrible for the coral reefs. Oxybenzone alone is highly damaging in several different ways. It is linked to causing cancer, it damages DNA and causes deformations in juvenile corals.
Both oxybenzone and octinoxate cause our coral reefs to bleach at much higher temperatures than they naturally would. When this happens, it causes severe damage to the health of the coral reefs.
There are other nasty ingredients beyond these two. Things like parabens also have a damaging effect on coral reefs and marine life.
Is There a Solution?
Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash
Yes! In our list of best reef-safe sunscreens at the top of this article, you will find the solution. You can now buy eco-friendly reef-safe sunscreens that are not made with oxybenzone and octinoxate. Instead, they’re created using non-nano zinc oxide, which is much safer for reefs and marine life.
There are also reef-safe sunscreens using non-nano titanium dioxide. This is also a safe alternative to regular sunscreen ingredients. It is much much less damaging to the environment and marine life.
Many of us are guilty of not considering the chemicals that are in our care products before we go into the ocean. But, we must start to be more conscious of the products we use, including makeup and other beauty products.
Taking the time to research the best products for the environment is well worth it. We need to evaluate the effects of our care products not just on the environment, marine life or wildlife but on our own health too.
Fortunately, there has been a considerable surge in the number of eco-friendly and vegan care products. As consumers become more conscious of what they’re using on their bodies, we’re seeing lots of new eco-friendly companies and products.
This is making life easier for eco-conscious consumers and helping to limit the damage we inflict on our planet.
What To Avoid When Buying Sunscreen
If you’re looking for a new sunscreen, it’s essential to know what you want but also what you don’t want. Here is a shortlist of things to watch out for and why you don’t need them.
Avoid Oxybenzone and Octinoxate
These are the main culprits for chemical damage to coral reefs and marine life. You do not want to buy sunscreen with these two ingredients.
Instead, purchase a reef-safe sunscreen using non-nano zinc oxide or non-nano titanium dioxide. Use our list at the top of the page to find the best reef-safe sunscreen for you.
Ignore High SPF Labels
There is a misconception that the higher the SPF level, the more protection you get. In reality,
Anything above 30 SPF is unlikely to protect you better.
Putting high SPF products on the market is almost always a trick to sell you something more expensive. According to EWG, SPF30 blocks 97% of UVB radiation. SPF50 blocks 98% and SPF100 blocks 99%.
If you’re sunbathing and playing in the ocean, you will be just fine with SPF30. If you do sports or trekking in the scorching sun, a higher SPF may be useful.
Look at the EWG Safe Sunscreen Database
The EWG Safe Sunscreen Database is a great resource that evaluates all the sunscreens on the market. It then provides consumers with a rating so you can make the best choice possible. The best-rated products offer a broad spectrum of protection that lasts longer.
This year, before you dive into the ocean slathered in sunscreen make sure you get reef-safe sunscreen. It will protect you just the same as regular sunscreen without polluting our oceans and affecting marine life.
Going to the beach doesn’t have to negatively impact the planet. Be smart with your choice using our guide at the top of this page. We hope you enjoy your time in the sun wherever you are this year!