Your Reef Safe Sunscreen Guide – 6 Sunscreens That Are Reef Safe

Sep. 17
Vacation hotspots such as Mexico and Hawaii are encouraging tourists to avoid sunscreens that are damaging to coral reefs.
A 2015 study in the journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology found that sunscreen ingredient oxybenzone is directly linked to coral bleaching, which can lead to the death of coral reefs. And a 2008 study showed that around 14,000 tons of sunscreen end up in the oceans, with the biggest concentration near coral reefs in locations popular with tourists for swimming, surfing, and snorkeling. 
However, it’s still important to still make sure that you take steps to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays. So how can you make sure your sunscreen isn’t damaging to the coral reefs?
Sunscreens fall broadly into 2 categories:
  • Mineral or physical sunscreens, which sit on the skin’s surface and deflect UV rays
  • Chemical sunscreens, which soak into the skin and act by absorbing UV rays
What should you look out for with each type?
With mineral sunscreens, look for keywords like "non-nano", “reef-safe” or "reef-friendly" on the label, which means the particles aren't small enough to be absorbed by, and harm, marine life.
If you're looking for a chemical sunscreen, choose products that do not contain oxybenzone or octinoxate. In fact, from 2021, Hawaii will ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone or octinoxate, and tourists swimming at certain beauty spots in Mexico are already forbidden from wearing non-biodegradable sunscreens.
Google searches for “reef-safe sunscreen” have more than quadrupled since 2015, and here we’ve found the 6 best reef-friendly sunscreens that actually work.
  • All Good Mineral Sport Sunscreen SPF30
  • This sunscreen is oxybenzone-free, made with only reef-friendly ingredients. Its non-nano zinc oxide-based formula is lightweight but will stay on in the water for up to 80 minutes. It contains organic green tea, rose hips, and buriti oil to repair sun-damaged skin.
  • Babo Botanicals Sheer Zinc Sunscreen SPF 30
  • This all-zinc spray is ultra-sheer so it doesn’t feel heavy on your skin or take 30 minutes to blend in, and its long-lasting but effective SPF30 formulation makes it suitable for all the family. It’s ocean-safe and free from sulfates, phthalates, fragrance, and dyes. 
  • Badger Sport Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 35
  • This reef-friendly, biodegradable sunscreen is ideal if you spend a lot of time swimming, surfing, skiing, and doing other performance sports. If you are looking for clean suncare, this could be the product for you - it has just 5 ingredients - non-nano uncoated zinc oxide, organic sunflower oil, organic beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and vitamin E.
  • Supergoop! Play 100% Everyday Lotion SPF 50 with Sunflower Extract
  • This octinoxate-free formula is reef-safe, and offers an impressive SPF50 protection while offering protection against dehydration and photoaging. It’s suitable for sport and swimming - as suggested by the name ‘Play’ - and provides 80 minutes of protection from the sun’s rays.
    • Blue Lizard Australian Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF 30+
    Regular Mineral-Based Sunscreen SPF 30+, BLUE LIZARD AUSTRALIAN SUNSCREEN, cherie
    BLUE LIZARD AUSTRALIAN SUNSCREENRegular Mineral-Based Sunscreen SPF 30+
    Designed with dermatologists to protect sensitive skin, this Australian sunscreen provides broad-spectrum SPF 30+ protection. Its water-resistant formula is made without Oxybenzone or Octinoxate to help protect fragile reef ecosystems.
    Blue Lizard’s innovative Smart Bottle technology helps remind you to apply sunscreen as it turns blue when harmful UV rays are present. No excuses!
  • Coola Mineral Face Organic Matte Tint Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
  • We’re big fans of SPF face skin protection - and this formula is slightly tinted to even out skin tone while providing SPF 30 coverage. It blends in without leaving behind white streaks and contains vitamin C rich rosehip oil to help brighten and smooth the skin. Like all of Coola’s products, this sunscreen is non-nano and reef-friendly.
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