July 27th, 2021
We all know it’s important to use a sunscreen every day, regardless of the weather, to protect ourselves from harmful UVA and UVB rays. A good, broad spectrum, sunscreen will also protect you from blue light emitted from electronic devices including laptops, tablets, mobile phones and computer screens, along with some environmental pollutants.
Sunscreens fall into two main categories: physical and chemical. Physical sunscreens contain tiny minerals and act as a shield to deflect the sun’s rays. Chemical sunscreens make use of synthetic compounds that absorb the UV light before it reaches the skin.
A growing awareness of the impact of the ingredients that are commonly used in chemical formulations, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, on marine life and coral reefs in oceans around the world have made both brands and consumers take action.
According to The Ocean Foundation, an estimated 14,000 tons of sunscreen is believed to be deposited in oceans annually and it’s a big problem: protectants, preservatives and parabens found in chemical sunscreens, which wash off into the water, can endanger marine organisms and contribute towards coral bleaching. In 2018 Hawaii become the first destination to ban sunscreens containing these compounds.
In recent years the market has seen a slew of “reef-friendly” and “reef-safe” sunscreens appear, however these are not regulated terms. Generally speaking, eco-sunscreens are natural alternatives to traditional sunscreens: they are biodegradable and made of non-toxic ingredients, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which block the sun’s UV rays and include safe synthetic filters. These are known to leave a white cast, so this can be an issue for darker skin tones, but with formulas becoming more advanced, a good rubbing in will usually make any white, chalky residue disappear.
You should look out for the SPF rating of at least 30 for UVB, HEV filters to protect against blue light and, ideally, a five-star rating for UVA.
We take a look at some eco-friendly and reef-safe sunscreens which are available across all budgets. However, if you are concerned about specific ingredients it’s definitely worth doing further research or contacting the brands directly. As we’ve discovered, eco sunscreen is a really complex area.
Tropic Skincare Great Barrier Sun Lotion (£18)
Tropic, the UK’s fastest growing skincare brand, are the first beauty brand in the UK and Europe to be awarded the Protect Land + Sea seal of approval from the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory for their entire sun protection range. This means their formulations are safe for the planet and marine life as they are free from oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene.
The Great Barrier range is a mix of chemical and mineral filters. The chemical filters have been independently tested and deemed safe for both humans and the environment. The formulation includes eco-friendly sunscreen favourites non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide plus green algae extract, vitamin E, aloe vera, hyaluronic acid and coconut extracts. Suitable for sensitive skin and comes in either SPF30 or SPF50.
The brand does also offer a mineral-only sunscreen range called Skin Shade which includes a multi-award winning facial SPF50 facial UV defence product.
All their vegan suncare products are naturally derived and cruelty-free as well as being broad-spectrum, water-resistant sun protection. Packaged in recyclable printed wraps, made from carbon-capture paper and vegetable ink, with a refill return scheme available for the tubes. As well as supporting the Woodland Trust, every purchase from the brand helps fund education through United World Schools which helps to give children in the world’s poorest regions access to free education.
Available from tropicskincare.
Highly acclaimed and much-loved by beauty editors, Ren’s clean screen mineral sunscreen has also won multiple beauty awards and is a bestseller for the brand. Coming in a tube made of 50 per cent post-consumer recycled plastic (with a lid made of 100 per cent PCRP), the 50ml bottle is a perfect size to pop in a handbag or toiletry bag.
The lightweight formula contains 22% naturally derived non nano zinc oxide. Rice starch is the key ingredient for providing a matte finish, creating a perfect base for make-up products so they won’t slip and slide. The formula is vegan, doesn’t contain any chemical UV filters or silicone, and the brand is cruelty-free.
Available from renskincare.
As well as protecting from UVA and UVB, Murad’s ultra-light, 100% mineral daily sunscreen protects from blue light too. The formula absorbs quickly with no ashy residue and leaves a luminous, pearlised finish on the skin. Safe for sensitive skin, fragrance free, and delivers 100% mineral protection—no chemical sunscreens so ocean and reef safe.
Available from murad.
Cruelty-free and eco-conscious brand Green have an award-winning natural sunscreen range. The scent-free sun cream includes ingredients such as organic aloe vera, green tea and edelweiss to provide a formulation that is suitable for sensitive skin, eczema and for those who suffer from prickly heat.
Titanium dioxide-based, the formula is made with 84.8% certified-organic agricultural ingredients and fairly traded myrrha oil and African oil palm. It does contain nanoparticles (concerns have been raised about whether they cause damage to cells of invertebrates and can trigger an allergic reaction in humans) but there is a good explanation of why the brand uses them on its website, plus more in-depth information on the topic.
The sun cream comes in recyclable sugar cane packaging and 20p from each sale goes to the Marine Conservation Society – a charity that Green People has been supporting for more than a decade. Despite a lot of Green People’s products being vegan, this sun cream isn’t, as it contains beeswax.
Available from greenpeople.
The brand’s newest launch is a range of mineral sun milks that do not include oxybenzone and octinoxate in a bid to make them reef-friendly. Packaged in 25% recyclable materials it smells as delicious as Hawaiian Tropic always has, thanks to coconut and kukui nut which are both known for their hydrating and soothing properties.
Vegan-friendly and the brand is certified by Peta, meaning no ingredients, formulas or finished products are tested on animals, while 100% mineral actives provide UVA and UVB protection with no chemical filters or parabens.
Eco-friendly sunscreens are notoriously pricey due to minerals – especially zinc oxide – being more expensive than synthetic chemicals, so it’s great to see a more budget-friendly option. As well as the SPF30, there is an SPF15 option and an SPF30 Facial Milk.
Available from superdrug.
This all natural primer gives the perfect base for makeup as well as providing protection from UV rays, pollution and impurities. It’s also biodegradable and safe for coral reefs and other ecosystems. Plastic-free and Leaping Bunny certified, the brand use 100% naturally derived sustainably sourced ingredients. Fragrance-free and suitable for sensitive skin. The tube is 100% recyclable. The formulation includes beeswax though, so isn’t suitable for vegans.
Available from beautykitchen.
Soleil Toujours’ Organic Sheer Sunscreen Mist SPF50 (£19)
The luxury brand’s ultra-safe formulations ensure that skin is highly protected for fun in the sun. Gentle enough for children, the formulas are full of skin-loving ingredients and anti-oxidants to nourish and provide long-lasting skincare benefits. Using mineral sunscreen technology which does not penetrate the skin, they begin protecting immediately after application and are more stable than their chemical counterparts.
With no added oxybenzone or octinoxate and with 70% organic ingredients, the mists are safe not only for our bodies but for our oceans too. Available in SPF30 and SPF50, the mists are antioxidant and rich to nourish and hydrate the skin. With a lightweight, non-greasy and fast- drying formula that remains water resistant for 80 minutes. Soleil Toujours’ ‘Reef Safe’ operations are at the forefront of the safe sun movement and continue to blaze a path towards formulating the safest products while protecting our marine life, oceans and environment.
Available from including spacenk.
Typology Rayons 1001 SPF30 Face Sunscreen with Aloe Vera (£27.40)
Typology’s recent release is their first SPF30 sunscreen, with a formula made with 83.9% naturally derived ingredients, so it won’t pollute the environment and is less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Formulated with two types of UVA and UVB sunscreen, using both mineral (zinc oxide) and chemical sun filters, the unique, fragrance-free formula is enriched with aloe vera and hyaluronic acid, suitable for all skin types. The sun cream hydrates the skin without leaving a white cast or an oily residue, making it an excellent makeup base.
Available from typology.
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