As the weather gets warmer, more and more people are spending their time outside. The sun makes us feel good, it makes us happy, but it’s so important to wear sunscreen to look after and protect our skin.
I mean, did you know that the skin is the biggest organ in our body?
Since the world has opened up, many are itching to book a trip away, (*hands up* I’m guilty!) and one of the most important things to pack is SUNSCREEN!
However, did you know that a lot of products sold in your local stores are often unsafe for the coral reef and not vegan?
Together, we will be uncovering what makes sunscreen unsafe for the reefs and discover brands that are releasing products that are gentle on the planet and do not harm animals.
With that in mind, let’s get researching!
Why do we need sunscreen?
Experts tell us to wear sunscreen every day, even if it’s not sunny, to protect ourselves from the damaging UV (Ultra Violet) rays. If we don’t protect our skin, we are susceptible to sun damage which, over time, could lead to skin cancer, discolouration, and wrinkles.
Adding sunscreen to your morning routine will probably only add a few seconds each day. That small effort might not seem like a lot, but your skin will thank you for it in the future.
Why aren’t traditional sunscreens safe for the coral reefs?
Over the years there has been some awareness that our coral reefs have been suffering, although not too much coverage in general media and news. One-fifth of the world’s coral reefs have died off, and sunscreen is playing a role in that. There are many large-scale projects to try and restore and keep them alive, but we need to do our bit too!
When we apply sunscreen, it doesn’t all stay on our skin. When we swim or have a shower, it washes off and ends up in the waterways and oceans.
Each year approximately 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen is washed off our body, into the ocean, and onto the world’s coral reefs. This is exposing the beautiful underwater species with their own ecosystem to so many harmful chemicals that can kill them. Source
The chemicals found in sunscreen, which I’ll talk more about in a minute, can kill developing coral, increase the bleaching of coral and damage the developing polyps.
What would happen if the coral dies?
Global warming is playing a big part in the damage. So although sunscreen isn’t the main culprit, it’s not helping!
As well as a loss of habitat, there will be a decline in tourism making that country suffer, having a knock-on effect on small businesses. It will also have a negative impact on our shorelines through erosion and less oxygen in the world, (50-80% of our oxygen is produced in our oceans by plankton and photosynthesising bacteria.)
“Coral reefs are known as ‘the rainforests of the sea’ and provide a quarter of marine species with habitat and food. If coral reefs disappeared, essential food, shelter, and spawning grounds for fish and other marine organisms would cease to exist, and biodiversity would greatly suffer as a consequence.” Source
XYZ has discovered that coral reefs aren’t the only things that suffer from traditional sunscreens. Source
- Green Algae: Can impair growth and photosynthesis.
- Coral: Accumulates in tissues. Can induce bleaching, damage DNA, deform young, and even kill.
- Mussels: Can induce defects in young.
- Sea Urchins: Can damage immune and reproductive systems, and deform young.
- Fish: Can decrease fertility and reproduction, and cause female characteristics in male fish.
- Dolphins: Can accumulate in tissue and be transferred to young.
What ingredients should I avoid?
- 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
- Any nanoparticles or “nano-sized” zinc or titanium (if it doesn’t explicitly say “micro-sized” or “non-nano” and it can rub in, it’s probably nano-sized)
- Any form of microplastic, such as “exfoliating beads”
What makes a sunscreen ‘Planet friendly’?
There are two types of UV (Ultra Violet) light that are proven to contribute to the risk of skin cancer:
- UVA = Ultraviolet A has a longer wavelength and is associated with skin aging.
- UVB = Ultraviolet B has a shorter wavelength and is associated with skin burning.
These are what we need sunscreens to protect us from.
SPF = Sun Protection Factor is a measure of how well a sunscreen will protect skin from UVB rays. SPF measures sunscreen protection from UVB rays only. SPF does not measure sunscreen protection from UVA rays. To find out more, have a look here!
Chemical sunscreen or Mineral sunscreens? Source
They both shield your skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays in very different ways.
Chemical sunscreens, allow UV light into the skin. Once the light is absorbed into the skin, the chemicals in the sunscreen (oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate) create a chemical reaction in which UV light is converted to heat, and the heat dissipates from the skin.
Those chemicals are ones that cause harm to the ocean and coral reefs.
Mineral sunscreen on the other hand contains, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are small particles that sit on the skin’s surface and physically prevent UV rays from penetrating the skin. The two ingredients are recognised as safe and effective by the FDA. The sunscreen is ideal for people with sensitive skin, and people with melasma (melasma is worsened by chemical sunscreens.)
Looking at Boba Botanicals, I found that zinc oxide, can either be nano or non-nano.
- Nano particles = range from 10-20 nanometers in size.
- Non-nano particles = at least 100 nanometers in size.
Non-nano means that the particles aren’t small enough to penetrate the skin. This is considered safer for your body because it means that the zinc oxide particles won’t enter your blood system or your lungs. (So we should avoid nanoparticles!)
This is just one of the best ways to protect your skin now and in the future!
In this modern world, we have so much access to knowledge and products that we really don’t need to be buying anything that harms the planet or animals. We shouldn’t have to choose between caring for the planet and protecting our skin.
The 12 Best Cruelty Free and Coral Reef Safe Sunscreens
Sunscreens for the face
01. Salt and Stone – Sunscreen Stick SPF 30
Price: £18 ($22)
Description: “A natural sunscreen face stick that glides on smoothly and sinks into the skin effortlessly without the white residue. Formulated to be water resistant and reef safe. Jojoba, Sunflower and Vitamin E oils help moisturize and protect skin.”
About the brand: SALT & STONE is high-performance skincare for the active body. As well as sunscreens, they sell body wash, natural deodorants, candles, face oil, lotions, and creams. They create products using ingredients from the oceans to mountains that are carefully formulated for the active body.
Other comments: As well as this stick sunscreen, they sell sunscreen for the body, available in SPF 30, 40, or 50.
02. Lucy Bee – SPF 30 Face Serum UVA/UVB 50ml
Price: £22.50 ($28)
Description: “Protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays all year round with our vegan, palm oil free, broad spectrum, lightweight, silky SPF 30 suitable for sensitive skin. As SPF 30 Face Serum protects, it deeply hydrates the skin, and can be used after your moisturiser under makeup, or on its own.”
About the brand: A small, UK-based, family business creating products that are 100% natural. They also sell organic & natural skincare products, palm-free soaps, gift sets, and accessories. With an emphasis on being ethical and caring for the environment, making products that are free from palm oil, including any derivatives of palm oil. All beauty products are manufactured in the UK and are certified Vegan, and Cruelty-Free.
Other comments: This is one of the more expensive products on the list however, the customer reviews on their page all rave about how brilliant the product is!
03. Suntribe – All Natural Zinc Sun Stick SPF 30
Price: £14.99 ($18.80)
Description: “All natural zinc sunscreen that stays on in both big waves and sweaty activities on land. Doesn’t contain any questionable ingredients (chemicals that harm coral reefs anyone?) and won’t cause a mess on your fingers or sting if it gets in the eyes. This is the original zinc stick you’ve been looking for.”
About the brand: Suntribe was started by three friends in Sweden who love to surf, climb and run. The products are natural sunscreens that are 100% free from synthetic chemicals and unnecessary ingredients like perfumes and preservatives. Only using ingredients that have been scientifically proven to be safe for both humans and the environment. They also sell sunscreen, lip balm, face creams, body butter, and after sun.
Other comments: This sunscreen is brilliant! It’s cruelty-free, coral reef safe and the packaging is biodegradable!
As this is a sunscreen intended for outdoor sport/water sports, it is a lot thicker and will leave a visible mark on your face. They also have a liquid all around sunscreen that rubs in and comes in sustainable packaging. This may be better for those who just need an everyday sunscreen
If you intend to travel with a carry-on-only bag, the stick would be perfect as it won’t count as one of your liquids!
04. Ren – Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30
Price: £33 ($41)
Description: “A chemical UV filter-free mineral sunscreen offering clean protection to skin and the planet, against UVA/UVB rays and free radicals. Suitable for daily use, the mattifying and vegan formula is infused with antioxidant-rich Passion Fruit Extract to help support the skin’s natural defence against free radicals, and Rice Starch to leave the skin mattified. Plus, 22% non-nano naturally derived Zinc Oxide offers broad spectrum protection and sits gently on the skin’s surface acting as a physical barrier against sun rays, whilst helping to limit irritation.”
About the brand: REN Clean Skincare was founded 2000 in East London by Rob Calcraft and Antony Buck. They started exploring ‘safe’ skincare when Buck’s wife experienced reactions from her beauty products when pregnant, becoming wary of ingredients within it. They wanted to create a brand that challenged traditional skincare that often had synthetic ingredients.
Other comments: A brand who has challenged traditional products and has always been on a mission for cleaner beauty is a brand I’d like to support! And one you should, too!
Sunscreens for the body (and face)
05. Holland and Barrett – Mineral Sunscreen SPF 150ml
Price: £9.99 ($12)
Description: “Our H&B SPF 30 100% Mineral Sunscreen provides immediate UVA & UVB protection once rubbed into the skin. Formulated with natural filters, antioxidants and oils, it leaves the skin feeling nourished as well as protected throughout the day. Packaging made from minimum 50% recycled materials. This formulation does not contain chemicals Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, which are known to harm coral reefs and local fish.”
About the brand: With 145 years of experience in the industry, Holland & Barrett International is one of the world’s leading health and wellness retailers and the largest in Europe, supplying its customers with a wide range of vitamins, minerals, health supplements, specialist foods, and natural beauty products.
Other comments: H&B are a very accessible high street brand, and with that price tag this product should be attainable to anyone.
06. Tropic – GREAT BARRIER sun lotion SPF 50 100mls
Price: £18 ($22)
Description: “Non-greasy, reef-friendly, broad-spectrum and water-resistant. This mineral and chemical sun protection hybrid protects skin in a gentle but highly effective manner, sinking in with an invisible finish without causing any skin sensitivities or irritations and leaving no trace of white chalkiness.”
This is available to buy in SPF 30 200ml, SPF 50 100ml & 200ml.
About the brand: An Australian brand “creating a healthier, greener, more empowered world”. Selling skincare, body products, make up, hair products as well as mama and baby products. Their products are freshly made, carbon-neutral, made from responsibly sourced ingredients, cruelty-free and vegan, some products are refillable and the packaging is made from recyclable materials. Each and every purchase funds an education. Tropics works with United World Schools (UWS); working with local communities and supporters around the globe to give children in some of the poorest, most remote regions of the world access to free education.
Other comments: Since finding this brand, I have fallen in love with their whole brand ethos, and what they stand for. Purchasing this product not only means it’s safe for me and the planet, but it’s also helping others that are less fortunate. I just think that’s wonderful!
07. Green People – Scent Free Sun Cream – SPF 30 200mls
Price: £25.50 ($32)
Description: “SPF30 natural sun cream suitable for all skin types. Effective, broad-spectrum UVA & UVB protection, plant-based packaging, fully recyclable, easy-to-apply formula, suitable for sensitive skin & prickly heat, moisture retaining for a longer lasting tan, water repellent but non pore-clogging, allows your skin to breathe, rich in natural antioxidants to protect delicate skin, 84% certified organic ingredients”
About the brand: Green People is a UK based natural and organic skincare brand. The company was founded in 1994 after Charlottle Vøhtz (founder) was trying to create natural and organic skincare to help her daughter, who was battling multiple skin conditions. The company have a commitment to preserving the environment during manufacture, never using unsafe ingredients, and never testing on animals.
Other comments: With many companies claiming that they are sustainable or eco, it is refreshing to find companies out there who will decline to partner with big businesses that don’t meet their ethical standards; Green people are one of those brands!
08. Hawaiian Tropic – Mineral Sun Milk SPF30 100ml
Price: £10.33 ($13)
Description: “Our first sun lotion with 100% mineral filters for UVA and UVB protection. Uniquely formulated to protect and care for your skin, our light and ultra spreadable Mineral Milks are suitable for even the most sensitive skin. The milks use naturally derived zinc oxide to form a protective shield on the skin’s surface, acting as a barrier against UV rays.”
About the brand: Hawaiian Tropic make “skin-loving” and “Hawaiian-inspired” suncare. They offer a variety of products to cover all suncare needs. Hawaiian Tropic is certified by PETA, which means they do not conduct or commission any animal tests on ingredients, formulations, or finished products.
Other comments: Hawaiian Tropic is a brand that is familiar to a lot of people. The brand is available up and down the high street and is well-known for its gorgeous scent, as well as being budget-friendly. The Mineral Milks packaging is made from 25% recycled plastic, and the lotion is vegan, cruelty free and reef friendly.
As a well-known big brand, have they created a vegan and reef-safe sunscreen because they believe that’s the most ethical thing to do? Or have they done it just to jump on the eco bandwagon?
Let me know your opinion in the comments, and let’s get a discussion going!
The Mineral Milk cream is the only sunscreen in their line that is reef-safe.
Having said that, I do believe there are benefits for big high street brands to change their products even if it’s just to benefit their pockets. Although every sunscreen should be eco, vegan, and reef safe, They aren’t! Having a product readily available in our shops, (instead of having to search for brands online) makes it easy for consumers and brings awareness.
At the end of the day, it’s helping the planet so surely it can’t be negative?
09. Babo Botanicals – Clear Zinc SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion
Price: £13.32 ($16)
Description: “80 minutes water and sweat resistant, 100% Non-Nano Zinc Oxide Sunscreen, Rubs in Clear, Fragrance Free for Sensitive Skin, Hypoallergenic and lightweight, Contains our exclusive Nutri-Soothe™ Complex rich in vitamins and anti-oxidants, Reef safe, and contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate”
About the brand: Babo Botanicals was founded in 2010 when Kate Solomon (founder) wanted products that would be safe enough for her baby. This led her to create products using natural ingredients safe for the entire family and planet.
Babo Botanicals have a certification from the B-Corporation which means that they are verified by B Lab to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.
Other comments: B-Corp company who promote urban farming and educations, enabling families and nature to nurture each other.
10. Jason – Mineral Sunscreen SPF30
Price: £14.99 ($18)
Description: “An all-mineral sunscreen that is both chemical and fragrance free, the JĀSÖN® Mineral Based Natural Sunblock SPF 30 provides UVA and UVB protection and creates a natural barrier to protect skin against sun burn. The easy-to-rub in formula won’t leave a white film on skin like most mineral sunscreens do and is hypoallergenic making it ideal for sensitive skin. It is also safe for use on babies over six months of age.”
About the brand: Founded in 1959, they have been producing “wholesome” and “result-driven blends” from day one without harmful ingredients. JĀSÖN, meaning ‘healer’ in Greek, was founded by a group inspired by their California heritage to get back to nature. They produce products that are biodegradable, cruelty free, no GMO’s, no parabens, no sulfates and vegan.
Other comments: They are using safe and effective methods to harness the power of botanical ingredients to improve everyday wellness.
11. Badger – Active Mineral Sunscreen Cream SPF 30
Price: £21.99 ($27)
Description: “Stay protected while you stay active.” Nourish and protect your skin with this clean mineral sunscreen cream, perfect for beach days and light outdoor activities. With just 5 simple ingredients, it goes on smooth and rubs in clear, leaving your skin moisturised and protected. Reef friendly, cruelty free, packaged in a 50% PCR tube, and made with solar power.
About the brand: Another Certified B Corporation! They are a family-owned business and have been in operation since 1995 where money is the fuel and not a goal. Using ingredients that are minimally processed and grown in nature, they have received many awards for being a company that inspire success and for helping the environment.
Any other comments: Another B-Corp company with a wonderful ethos. $27 for 87ml tube of sunscreen seems very steep, however Badger uses products that are processed with the highest degree of respect for the environment, the workers and the natural properties of the plants.
12. Ultrasun – Body Mineral Sunscreen SPF50
Also available in SPF 30 and SPF 50 for the face.
Price: £28 ($35)
Description: “Certified 100% Natural by NATRUE, this formula provides heavy duty protection in a lightweight lotion. This mineral lotion uses 100% natural physical filters and is free from perfumes, emulsifiers and preservatives. Offering SPF50 with very high-level 95% UVA absorbance, and the powerful complex InfraGuard.”
About the brand: Ultrasun was founded three decades ago by a Swiss chemist whos brother got diagnosed with skin cancer. He combined his experience, knowledge, and expertise as a chemist to create a product that will protect you from the sun, no matter the skin type, skin tone, age or lifestyle. They are the only sun care brand to use patented Lamellar technology to provide long-lasting, high-level, water-resistant protection.
They are the first sun protection brand worldwide to be awarded the BASF EcoSun Pass, the ultimate test of environmental impact for sun protection products. Their products are reef safe, ocean safe, vegan friendly and cruelty free.
Any other comments: Their website offers a wonderful user experience. It may not be a reason alone to buy from Ultrasun, but it’s certainly something in the buying process that makes me more inclined to add it to my basket and order it. Take a look for yourself and see what you think!
I love researching cruelty-free and eco brands to buy from, and these are 12 of the very best that I found that are doing great for us and the planet. I’ve only scratched the surface with discovering such wonderful brands, and I’m keen to learn more.
Let me know if you know of any other brands that are helping the planet and producing beautiful products for our skin! I want to discover more B-Corp companies so I can support them now and in the future.
After three years of being vegan, I’d like to think I know all the dos and don’ts. However, I’m sure a lot of people only think about the food and leave it at that. There’s a whole world out there of safe, sustainable, and vegan products that are only just starting to appear on the market.
Up until most recently, I’ve not had to buy anything as I’ve had so many things to get through from birthdays and Christmas; but now I need to start buying some products, I’m finding it very exciting!
A lot of the familiar brands you would find in shops are now using words such as ‘Natural’, ‘Eco’, and ‘Sustainable’, but are they really? Or are they just trying to greenwash us?
Hopefully, I’ve made choosing a cruelty-free and coral reef-safe sunscreen easier for some of you!