The Best Sunscreens for the Environment: Reef-Safe and Eco-Friendly Options

    Ocean-Safe Sunscreen

    When you’re looking for sunscreens this summer, it’s important to choose options that are both safe for you and the environment. Many sunscreens contain harsh chemicals that can be harmful to marine life, particularly coral reefs— this is why it’s important to look for reef-safe and eco-friendly sunscreens. In this post, we will discuss what makes a sunscreen environmentally friendly and highlight some of our favorite reef-safe options!

    What type of sunscreen should I look for?

    When it comes to sunscreen, there are two main types of ingredients: physical blockers and chemical blockers. Physical blockers, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, work by reflecting or scattering the sun’s rays away from the skin. Chemical blockers, on the other hand, absorb the sun’s rays. Both types of ingredients are effective at protecting your skin from damage; however, chemical blockers can be more harmful to the environment.

    Chemical sunscreens often contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have been shown to be harmful to coral reefs. In fact, studies have found that these chemicals can contribute to coral bleaching – a process in which corals lose their color and eventually die. As a result, many eco-conscious individuals are choosing to switch to sunscreens that do not contain these harmful chemicals.

    The connection between chemical sunscreens and cancer is a topic of much debate. Some studies have shown that toxic chemicals in sunscreen can be absorbed by the skin and may contribute to the development of cancer. However, these studies are inconclusive, and more research is needed to confirm this link. In the meantime, many experts recommend taking a proactive approach to sun safety by using physical sunscreens (containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) instead of chemical sunscreens. Physical sunscreens provide broad-spectrum protection against both UVB and UVA rays, and they are less likely to be absorbed by the skin. They are also free from harmful chemicals, making them a safer choice for those who are concerned about the potential link between cancer and sunscreen.

    How does this affect my vacation?

    With the harmful effects of the sun becoming more and more well-known, it has led to some locations taking action in order to protect visitors. One example of this is Hawaii, which has passed a law that bans the sale of sunscreens containing two specific chemicals, oxybenzone and octinoxate. These chemicals have been shown to harm coral reefs, and as Hawaii is home to some of the world’s most beautiful reefs, the law is designed to help protect them. While this law is currently only in effect in Hawaii, it could set a precedent for other places around the world that are looking to take similar steps. In addition to Hawaii, some cruise lines have also banned the use of certain sunscreens on their ships in order to protect reefs. As awareness of the damage that sunscreen can do continues to grow, it is likely that more and more places will start to place regulations on what types of sunscreen are allowed.

    If you’re looking for a reef-safe sunscreen, we recommend checking out the following options:

    Stream2Sea Sport Sunscreen: The organic ingredients in this sunscreen act as a physical shield that provides protection on the surface of your skin against both UVA and UVB rays of the sun. This means that the sunscreen literally sits on the surface of your skin – which renders more safety to your body, unlike most chemical sunscreens where harsh ingredients are absorbed in our pores.

    Sun Bum Mineral SPF 30/50: This sunscreen is made with zinc oxide and other natural ingredients, making it safe for both you and the environment. Plus, it’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes!

    Badger Sport SPF 40: Badger’s sunscreen is also made with zinc oxide and provides broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. It’s also water-resistant for up to 40 minutes.

    Raw Elements Eco Stick SPF 30: This option contains zinc oxide as well as other natural ingredients, making it a great choice for those looking for an eco-friendly sunscreen.


    These are just a few of our favorite reef-safe and eco-friendly sunscreens – but there are plenty of other great options out there! So, next time you’re at the store, be sure to look for sunscreens that do not contain oxybenzone or octinoxate. And always remember to reapply every two hours (or more often if you’re swimming or sweating). By taking these simple steps, you can help protect yourself and the environment this summer!

    Do you have a favorite reef-safe sunscreen? Let us know in the comments below!

    Alternative Ways to Protect Your Skin:

    Women’s UPF 50+ protective sun shirt

    Women’s Beach Straw Hat UPF 50+

    Supergoop! Lip Shield SPF 30 with Mint

    Men’s UPF 50+ sun protective sun shirt

    The North Face Flyweight Bucket Hat



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