Eco-friendly Sunscreens to Protect Your Skin

The basics of sun protection

Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. To decrease the risk of sunburns and sun damage, regularly use a broad spectrum (protecting against both UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen rated SPF 50+ and other sun protection measures including:

UVA rays cause tanning while UVB rays are responsible for causing sunburns. It is a common misconception that only sunburns are reason for concern, when the tanning caused by UVA rays is also a visible sign of sun damage and increases the risk for skin cancer.

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a measure of how much time a person can be exposed to the sun before getting burned. For example, if you burn in 10 minutes without sunscreen and you apply a liberal dose of sunscreen with a SPF number of 50, you would be protected from a sunburn for 500 minutes.

Mineral Sunscreens vs Chemical Sunscreens

There are two major types of sunscreens: mineral based and chemical based. Mineral based sunscreens function by using zinc oxide and titanium oxide to create a physical barrier that reflects UV rays away from the skin’s surface. Chemical based sunscreens function by making use of chemical UV filters that absorb UV radiation.

There is some controversy around chemical UV filters as studies have shown they are absorbed into the bloodstream and cause hormone disruption and even cancer. Chemical based UV filters have also been proven by researchers to cause damage coral DNA and larvae, contribute to coral bleaching, and affect the health of algae, fish, shellfish, urchins, and marine mammals.

This damage from chemical UV filters is causing a devastating effect on the environment as coral reefs absorb carbon, provide a habitat for over a million marine species (25% of all the animal species living in the ocean call reefs home!), and protect coastlines from tropical storm damage.

Ingredients to avoid

According to the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, the following sunscreen ingredients have all been found to cause damage to coral reefs. Unfortunately, many sunscreens that contain these harmful chemicals are still labelled as reef safe since there is no certification or testing requirement for this claim, so it’s important to always check ingredients when shopping.

  • Oxybenzone
  • Avobenzone
  • Homosalate
  • Octisalate
  • Octinoxate
  • Octocrylene
  • 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor [4-MBC]
  • Para-Aminobenzoic Acid [PABA]
  • Parabens
  • Triclosan
  • Any nanoparticles or “nano-sized” zinc or titanium
  • Any form of microplastic, such as “exfoliating beads”

A single drop of oxybenzone in 4.3 million gallons of water—six and a half Olympic sized swimming pools—is enough to be deadly. It’s estimated that around 14,000 tons of sunscreen end up in the world’s coral reefs annually, causing irreparable damage to the ecosystem.

Ingredients to look for

Mineral sunscreens formulated with non-nano zinc oxide and titanium oxide are the only sunscreens considered to be safe, effective, and eco-friendly. We recommend covering up as much of your skin as possible with UPF 50+ clothing and applying a broad spectrum mineral sunscreen to exposed areas of skin as needed.

The harmful ingredients found in chemical sunscreens and other personal care products are washed off in the shower and flow through local water streams into the ocean, so it’s important to use a eco-friendly mineral sunscreen no matter how far you are from the ocean.

Best Eco-friendly, Reef Safe Mineral Sunscreens

The MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème provides broad-spectrum sun protection and the silky-smooth texture leaves a true matte finish that helps even out complexion for a natural look. Its sheer and weightless “barely there” feel glides on effortlessly, blending into all skin tones with no white cast. Naturally derived zinc oxide helps reduce the risk of photo aging and skin cancer, while Vitamin C and natural antioxidants fight sun damage and free radicals. Dermatologist-developed and water resistant up to 80 minutes.

CōTZ Flawless Complexion SPF 50 provides broad spectrum mineral sun protection in a sheer, lightweight tinted cream that virtually vanishes on most skin tones and moisturizes to leave a soft, even finish. 20% Zinc Oxide is non-comedogenic and ideal for all skin types, even sensitive, rosacea-prone or breakout-prone skin.

Solara Suncare’s oil-free 100% mineral sunscreen milk is loaded with 12 biocompatible actives including: collagen building Super Proteins (a 5 amino acid pentapeptide), exotic Adaptogenic + Ayurvedic Superfruits with clinically proven cell energizing and free radical scavenging ability, and the defense barrier support of CoQ10 and Niacinamide. Acts as a protective primer for helping to reverse and prevent environmental damage, a root cause of premature aging. Free of fragrance, oils, silicone, PEGs, drying alcohols and other common SPF skin irritants. Dermatologically Tested, Dermatologist Approved and Clinically Tested Safe for Sensitive Skin.

Powered by Colorescience’s patented EnviroScreen Technology, this hydrating, antioxidant-rich mineral sunscreen provides Broad Spectrum SPF 50 protection in a weightless formula with a silky-smooth texture that blends in sheer, for a natural bare-faced finish. Water resistant up to 40 minutes.

20% non-nano zinc offers powerful broad-spectrum SPF 50 protection against UVA and UVB rays and organic coconut oil and shea butter nourish and soothe sensitive skin. Dermatologist tested, gentle unscented mineral formula is safe for sensitive skin. Soothing and effective formula is ultra-sheer, easy to apply, and water resistant up to 80 minutes.

Made from a mineral blend of Zinc oxide and botanical ingredients, the All Good SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Butter Stick is super hydrating and easy to blend thanks to coconut oil and jojoba oil. Formulated with 25% non-nano zinc oxide for broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection, beeswax gives this sunscreen an extra boost in the waterproof department (water-resistant for 80 minutes) and the wide-mouth sunscreen butter stick allows for no-mess direct application. Made with just 6 simple ingredients, this formula is hypoallergenic and great for sensitive skin. Easy wide-mouth sunscreen butter stick for no-mess direct application.

A 100% mineral SPF50 facial sun cream that offers broad-spectrum protection, the Tropic Skin Shade Tinted Facial Sunscreen SPF 50 not only shields you from the sun’s damaging rays, the slight tint will give you a radiant all-round glow. Available in two shades that quickly adapt to your skin tone, it blurs and evens out any dullness or redness, a bit like smoothing on a real-life filter. Full of antioxidants including aniseed myrtle and wild hibiscus extract, this tinted sunscreen will also help protection your skin from free radicals.

The ThinkSport Safe Sunscreen is a dermatologist tested and reef safe sunscreen water-resistant for up to 80 minutes in the water. This natural, mineral based sunscreen is formulated with 20% non-nano Zinc Oxide to create a physical barrier from harmful UVA/UVB sun rays.

A high performance sunscreen with broad spectrum protection from 25% non-nano zinc oxide to provide a natural physical barrier to the sun’s UVA and UVB rays while deeply nourishing the skin with antioxidant-rich botanicals including Noni, Hawaiian Spirulina, Plumeria Extract, Macadamia Nut Oil & Kukui. This sunscreen rubs on clear and smooth and will “kōkua” you from the mountains to the oceans and everywhere in between without harming the environment. Water resistant up to 80 minutes.

A multi-tasking mineral sunscreen & skin serum all wrapped into one convenient spray. Non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide combine to provide Broad Spectrum SPF 50 mineral protection while key skincare ingredients help moisturize and nourish the skin. This nutrient dense, milky formula is light-weight, non-sticky and easily absorbs into the skin without leaving a white cast. It’s supercharged with youth promoting antioxidants that fight free radical damage and can be used on both the face and body. Lightly scented with natural mango/papaya fruit extracts and water resistant up to 40 minutes.

The Badger Adventure Sport Mineral Sunscreen broad spectrum SPF 50 contains the highest percentage of zinc oxide allowed by the FDA and is water resistant up to 80 minutes—keeping you protected on any adventure, from tropical surf to mountain glaciers. Made with just 4 simple ingredients: Uncoated Zinc Oxide 25%, Organic Sunflower Oil, Organic Beeswax, Sunflower Vitamin E. This hypoallergenic formula is rich in antioxidants and leaves skin moisturized.

An all natural, fragrance-free SPF 50 lotion formulated by Salt & Stone to be water and sweat resistant. This non-greasy, reef safe formula sinks into the skin effortlessly with no white residue. Rosehip Seed soothes and moisturizes the skin while Non-Nano Zinc Oxide blocks both UVA and UVB rays.

SPF50 Sun Lotion provides high natural protection thanks to its anti-UVA/UVB mineral screens and Laboratoires de Biarritz’s patented red seaweed extract, Alga-Gorria, a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals to prevent cell damage and skin ageing caused by the sun. Its fluid and non-greasy texture spreads on easily and keeps the skin protected and moisturized during exposure.

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