Don’t we all love the sun? The feeling of warm sun rays touching our skin. The good mood that bright, shiny days bring. And the scent of sunscreen spreading summer vibes.
While spending time in the sun is super fun, of course we need to protect our skin from nasty burns. But is it possible to protect our skin as well as our planet with sustainable sunscreen?

For decades, research has focused on the dangers of exposing the skin to the sun. So the threat of skin cancer due to sun exposure is nothing new.
Yet, besides protecting our skin, it’s equally important to protect the environment. But when researching a bit, you quickly learn that conventional sunscreen is packed with harmful ingredients both for us and for nature.

That’s why I’ve put together this guide on sustainable sunscreen, taking a look at different aspects to consider, such as reef-friendly sunscreen as well as zero waste sunscreen.

Sustainable and zero waste sunscreen on the beach is a must

Sustainable sunscreen on the beach is a must

Why sustainable sunscreen?

Reef-friendly & sustainable sunscreen – Why is it important?

You’ve probably seen it either in the swimming pool or even the sea: A glimmering layer covering the water’s surface. But that’s not the reflection of the sun but instead an oily film of sunscreen. Of every layer of sunscreen we put on our skin, a large part ends up in the sea. Even if you’re only in the pool or shower it off. Everything eventually ends up in groundwater and thereby in the sea.

Have you ever wondered how it affects marine life? If the answer is no, it’s definitely about time to give a thought to the impacts of many types of sunscreen.

Conventional sunscreen causes many harmful effects on nature as well as on your skin. So let’s dive into that.

Which kind of UV filters are there?

In order to protect your skin, every kind of sunscreen has some kind of UV filter that absorbs the sun rays before they can damage your skin.
You can divide them into two kinds of filters: On the one hand, chemical filters and on the other hand mineral filters (also called physical filters). There’s also a third subtype which is mineral nano-filters.
So what’s the difference and how do they work?

Chemical-based UV filters

Chemical UV filters can be found in most conventional sunscreens. They absorb the UV rays before they reach your skin and transform them into heat.
The most common chemical-based UV filters (and so much can be already said: also the most harmful ones) are Oxybenzone, Octinoxate and Octocrylene.

Mineral-based / Physical UV filters

So-called mineral-based or physical UV filters place a layer of tiny particles on your skin that reflects the sun and thereby prevents them from reaching your skin. It’s like a barrier between your skin and the sunlight.
Minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide appear in nature and are often used in sunscreen by natural cosmetics brands. In general, mineral sunscreen is considered the more sustainable sunscreen option, as it’s more environmentally friendly.

Mineral-based nano UV filters

A side-effect of mineral-based UV filters is that they often leave a white haze on your skin. Many people consider this as a downside. That’s why the cosmetics industry has come up with nano-sized versions of these minerals. These mineral-based nano UV filters are simply even smaller particles of minerals (broken down in nanometers, meaning as tiny as a ten-thousandth of a millimeter).

Because they’re so incredibly small, they leave less white haze and improve spreadability. However, they are quite controversial, because the smaller the particles, the more likely they can penetrate your skin. That means they can end up in your blood and also in the blood of fish in the sea. Doesn’t really sound like something you’d want, right?
The actual effects of nanoparticles on our bodies are not yet researched enough. But many recommend to rather avoid them.

How is conventional sunscreen harmful?

So we’ve figured out that conventional sunscreen containing chemical UV filters is not the best, neither for you nor for nature. But what exactly can they cause?
As opposed to mineral-based nano-filters, the harmful effects of conventional chemical filters have been researched and proven a lot.
And by harmful effects, I mean both damages to your skin and body as well as to the environment.

Coral bleaching

It’s estimated that around 14,000 tons of sunscreen end up in the sea every single year. That’s quite a number, isn’t it? That’s a huge amount of chemicals with a destructive effect on marine life and especially corals.
Numerous studies have proven that especially the commonly-used chemical-based UV filters Oxybenzone and Octocrylene kill corals. And corals play an unbelievably important role in keeping the oceans and thereby us healthy.
Just watch Chasing Coral on Netflix in order to learn more about it.

But how does sunscreen cause coral bleaching, and how do corals die thereof?
Well, after the sunscreen we’ve put on our skin ends up in the water, it stresses the corals. One has to know that corals actually live in symbiosis with algae, so they need algae in order to stay alive.
When the corals are stressed by chemical UV filters, however, they reject the algae (which also gives the corals their colors) and thus get bleached. While bleached corals can live on for a bit without algae, they starve to death after a while. And so the corals also die.
This already happens when corals are exposed to a very small amount of chemical UV filters. So with 14,000 tons each year, coral bleaching happens alarmingly fast.
At the same time, the chemicals prevent coral larvae from creating new populations.

While Oxybenzone and Octocrylene are already harmful on their own, the worst are sunscreens that contain both. As a study has shown, this combination can directly kill corals.

Sunscreen that is not sustainable sunscreen kills corals

Sunscreen that is not sustainable sunscreen kills corals

Bleached, dead corals

More impact on marine life

Besides killing corals, conventional sunscreen can have more harmful impacts on marine life such as fish. Here are just some of the proven effects:

Often found in creams, and thus also in sunscreen, is microplastic. It shouldn’t be news to you that microplastics are bad for the sea, nature in general, and for you.
Those tiny pieces of plastic that don’t dissolve in water aren’t biodegradable. So they stay in the sea and end up in the bodies of all marine animals.
Just some of the toxic effects of microplastics on marine life are delays in growth, oxidative damage, and abnormal behavior.

Other frequently used, but hardly biodegradable ingredients, are silicons. So just like mineral oils (like petrolatum) they pollute our environment.

Sunscreen chemicals infographic

Infographic Sunscreen Chemicals and Marine Life (source: NOAA)

Impacts on your skin

Besides being environmental-friendly, you should also want the ingredients of sunscreen to be healthy for your body.
So we’ve talked about marine life a lot. But if chemicals can have toxic effects on all kinds of animals and kill fish, do you also wonder what they do to our bodies?

Chemical sunscreen

After knowing everything that we’ve discussed above, it’s no surprise that toxic ingredients such as Oxybenzone and Octinoxate can cause high skin allergies for many people and disturb your hormones. Especially because studies have proven that you absorb these chemicals into your body and bloodstream. Actually, Octinoxate has been found in blood 16 times above the proposed safety threshold.


Even though there’s no proven evidence so far, many scientists are concerned that nanoparticles may absorb into the skin. That’s minerals such as zinc oxide, broken down into particles smaller than 100 nanometers.
So you’re on the safer side by sticking to non-nano zinc oxide.

Other irritating ingredients

Eventually, you also have to consider that every body is different. Some people may react to ingredients that have no obvious effect on others.
Perfumes and alcohol are two ingredients in sunscreen that often cause itches or rashes. Other people are sensitive to oil, so they should rather stick to natural water-based lotions.
So it depends a lot on your skin type as well. And this is the part only you know what’s best for your body and what may be harmful to you.

Harmful contents – What to avoid?

With all that in mind, it can seem really overwhelming to know which ingredients to avoid. Also, some ingredients can be hidden in hieroglyphic terms.
So always scan the packaging for some terms, and avoid sunscreen with:
  • Oxybenzone / Benzofen-3 / bp-3
  • Octinoxate / Octyl methoxycinnamate
  • Octocrylene
  • Homosalate
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
  • Para-aminobenzoic acid / PABA
  • Parabens
  • Triclosan
  • Any nanoparticles (you can detect them by the word “nano”), such as “nano-sized” zinc or titanium (“micro-sized” or “non-nano” are fine!)
  • Any form of microplastics such as Polyethylene, Polypropylene, Polymer (many terms with “poly”) or Hexadecene Copolymer or “exfoliating beads”
  • Silicons & mineral oils like Petrolatum
Keep your hands off clear, quickly absorbed sunscreen, such as sun sprays for sports. These are full of chemicals and there’s a high chance of being loaded with microplastics. Also, sprays spread all their ingredients in the environment, ending up on the grass and entering the groundwaters (which eventually flow into the oceans). So better avoid sun sprays in general!

With sensitive skin, also better avoid:
  • Alcohol
  • Parabens
  • Perfume

And after all the bad guys, these are the safe ingredients you want in sunscreen, so look out for the terms:
  • Zinc oxide (non-nano)
  • Titanium dioxide

In order to easily deal with all the hieroglyphics on the packaging, using an App like Codecheck can help a lot.

San Blas Islands

Carribean beaches in Central America

Different kinds of sustainable sunscreen

What makes up sustainable sunscreen?

Besides being free from the ingredients mentioned above, there are a few more characteristics that sustainable sunscreen should meet. So here’s a list of good characteristics:
  • Reef-safe & environmentally-friendly
  • Non-toxic and free of harmful chemicals
  • Ethically made with organic or sustainably sourced ingredients
  • Plastic-free/zero-waste packaging (biodegradable or at least recyclable)
  • Vegan or animal-friendly
  • Free of ingredients that are hardly ever sustainably sourced, such as palm oil
  • A local brand (if possible)

While it’s quite hard to find sustainable sunscreen that meets all these characteristics, you can definitely make sure that most of them are fulfilled.

Reef-safe or reef-friendly sunscreen

After knowing all the harmful effects, conventional sunscreen can have on coral reefs, you probably ask yourself: How do you know if sunscreen is reef-friendly?
The tricky thing is that the term “reef-friendly” isn’t officially regulated. But if you avoid the reef-harming ingredients, such as Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, you’re already on the right path.

Another issue is that there are many UV filters out there that are considered harmless for marine life just because their impact isn’t yet researched enough. However, a lack of data doesn’t make them harmless!

Hawaii Reef Bill

Some brands refer that their ingredients are in accordance with the Hawaii Reef Bill. But what does that mean?
In 2021, the country has made a huge step as Hawaii banned the chemicals Oxybenzone and Octinoxate. These are the chemicals that have been proven harmful to human health, corals, and marine life. So it’s illegal to sell any sunscreen containing any of these chemicals in Hawaii. This law is an important step toward the protection of marine life.
So if any product states to be true to the Hawaii Reef Bill, it means this sunscreen is allowed in Hawaii and there’s no harmful Oxybenzone or Octinoxate inside.

Plastic-free or zero-waste sunscreen

Why all the effort about sustainable sunscreen, if the packaging ends up in landfills polluting the environment? So the packaging is just as important. While zero-waste is almost impossible in the world we live in, it’s about leaving fewer traces.
Fortunately, many sustainable sunscreen brands also offer sustainable packaging, such as biodegradable material (e.g. cardboard), sustainably-sourced material (glass, tins), or recyclable plastic.
Sometimes you can even find so-called bio-based plastic which is produced from natural materials, such as sugar cane.

Besides plastic packaging, also avoid microplastics that are inside the cream. A great help to find out if a product contains microplastics, is the App Beat the Microbead App or the Codecheck App.

Cruelty-free or vegan sunscreen

For animal-friendly sunscreen there are two factors to look out for: If it hasn’t been tested on animals (making it cruelty-free) and if there are no ingredients of animal origin inside the cream (making it vegan).
While in Europe, animal testing for cosmetics is banned, some brands try to get around this by manufacturing in foreign countries. A reliable source to check brands is PETA’s cruelty-free list.

By the way, did you know that coral is an animal, too?

Skin-friendly sunscreen

When you avoid the nasty chemicals in the list above, chances are high that you’re causing less harm to your skin as well.
Finding sunscreen friendly for your skin depends a lot on your skin type. You probably know best, what your skin reacts to.
In order to choose a product with the least possible irritation, stick to sunscreen without perfumes and alcohol. They often cause itches or rashes.

Mineral sunscreen

In general, mineral sunscreen is considered the more sustainable option. For the environment that’s definitely correct. But it’s important to know that there are two types: non-nano and nano mineral sunscreen.
And nano-particles have not yet been proven to be harmless to your body, as they’re suspected to enter the skin (because they’re so tiny). But according to the Environmental Working Group health risks with both nano and non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide is very low.

However, there are many controversial discussions about nano titanium dioxide. Some scientists suspect that it can be harmful (and can even cause cancer) when they’re inhaled. That’s why they’re not allowed in sprays!

Applying sustainable sunscreen

Applying sustainable sunscreen

No beach visit without sustainable sunscreen!

Choosing sustainable sunscreen

How to find sustainable sunscreen?

There’s a clear tendency that mineral filters are the more sustainable sunscreen and you should avoid chemical sunscreen. But it’s not quite that simple, as more research is needed on nano minerals.
So my recommendation is definitely to go with non-nano UV filters such as non-nano zinc oxide and non-nano titanium dioxide.
In general, you’ve got the highest chance of getting sustainable sunscreen when you buy certified natural cosmetics without harmful ingredients.

Besides, pay attention to:
  • Is the sunscreen free of the above-mentioned harmful chemicals?
  • Is it made of natural or certified organic ingredients?
  • Does it come in packaging that can be reused or recycled, or is it even biodegradable?
  • Is it vegan or cruelty-free?
  • Does it contain no palm oil?
  • Is the item available locally (ideally without being shipped to you from another country)?
  • Is it a cream, not a spray?

The thing about labels

Natural cosmetics labels

Natural cosmetics can be found by paying attention to official labels.
In Europe, products with the following labels are not allowed to contain any chemical substances or microplastics:
  • Ecocert
  • BDIH (in Germany: Bundesverband deutscher Industrie- und Handelsunternehmen)

In the US, however, the EWG label can only guarantee that the ingredients are harmless according to the current state of scientific knowledge, but doesn’t give any indication of how natural the products are.

Reef-safe labels

You may have seen sunscreen with a label showing a fish, coral, or turtle and the title “reef safe”.
However, there is no official regulation for a reef-safe label, so brands design these labels themselves and add them to their packaging. This means, there’s no official control of the labeled product’s ingredients.
Still, these labels can be a good guideline for you, as this implies that none of the chemicals that are proven to be harmful to coral reefs (such as Oxybenzone) are in the product.

The American “protect land and sea” label of the non-profit Haereticus lab is a more reliable proof, because none of the above-mentioned harmful substances are allowed inside a product getting that label. They have a detailed list of ingredients that are not allowed in certified sunscreens.
Unfortunately, you won’t find this label on products of European brands yet.

When you plan a sustainable holiday be aware of animal interactions, such as snorkeling trips.

When you plan a sustainable holiday be aware of animal interactions, such as snorkeling trips.

Cream, lotion, or stick?
What kind of substance you use is probably a choice of liking. As sticks contain the least water, they’re definitely a great option for sustainable sunscreen.
Just avoid sprays, as they spill the most, spreading all ingredients in the environment. It’s not only a shame that you lose some of the product (and yes, it’s more than you imagine), but also not environmental-friendly. Sprays with chemical UV filters are probably one of the worst options for nature.

Waterproof sunscreen
Even though the term is misleading because no cream sticks to your skin that heavily that nothing dissolves in water. A part of any product you use will always end up in the water. Still, so-called “waterproof” or “water-resistant” sunscreen will last longer, and less product goes into the sea which makes it the more sustainable sunscreen choice.

Which is the best sustainable sunscreen?

With so much information in mind, let’s get to the juicy but for many probably also most difficult part. We’ve talked about reef-friendly sunscreen, zero waste sunscreen, vegan sunscreen, mineral sunscreen, biodegradable sunscreen, and skin-friendly sunscreen in creams, lotions, and sticks. So I guess you can’t wait to know which sunscreen you can buy in good conscience?

To help you with the choice, I’ve put together a list of sustainable sunscreen brands, indicating the basic features for each.
All of the following are reef-safe (they contain no oxybenzone, octinoxate or PABA) and free of microplastics.

For readers in the US

Butterbean Organic

  • UV filter type: Mineral (zinc oxide)
  • Nano-particles: no
  • Microplastics: no
  • Packaging: Different options available (metal tin jar, metal bottle, paper stick and recycable stick) – so if you reuse the jar, it’s a zero-waste sunscreen
  • Cruelty-free & vegan? Not vegan, contains beeswax
  • Perfume-free? yes, only natural fragrance from coconut oil
  • Water-resistant? yes
  • Made in: USA
  • Other facts:
    • Certified organic ingredients
    • SPF30
    • Jar available in 3 oz & 7 oz
  • Price? Jar: $19.99/3 oz | Stick: $21.99/1.4 oz | Bottle: $21.99/4 oz
  • Where to buy?

Raw Elements

  • UV filter type: Mineral (zinc oxide)
  • Nano-particles: no
  • Microplastics: no
  • Packaging: Different options available (metal tin jar, paper stick or recyclable plastic tube) – so if you reuse the jar, it’s a zero-waste sunscreen
  • Cruelty-free & vegan? Not vegan, contains beeswax
  • Perfume-free? yes, unscented
  • Water-resistant? yes
  • Made in: USA
  • Other facts:
    • Certified organic ingredients
    • Raw Elements is a brand committed to education & environmental awareness & 1% for the Planet member
    • SPF30
    • Available in 3 oz (jar or tube) & 1 oz (stick), version for sensitive kids’ skin
  • Price? Jar & tube: $16.99/3 oz | Stick: $16.99/1 oz
  • Where to buy?

All Good

  • UV filter type: Mineral (zinc oxide)
  • Nano-particles: no
  • Microplastics: no
  • Packaging: Different options available (metal tin jar, recyclable plastic tube, or stick) – so if you reuse the jar, it’s a zero-waste sunscreen
  • Cruelty-free & vegan? Not vegan, contains beeswax
  • Perfume-free? Unscented version available
  • Water-resistant? yes
  • Made in: USA
  • Other facts:
    • Certified organic ingredients
    • Version for sensitive kids’ skin available
    • 1% for the Planet member
    • SPF30 & SPF 50+ available
    • Available in 3 oz (tube), 2.75 oz (stick) & 1 oz (jar)
  • Price? Tube: $16.99/3 oz | Stick: $9.99/1 oz | Jar: $15.75/2.75 oz
  • Where to buy?


  • UV filter type: Mineral (zinc oxide & titanium dioxide)
  • Nano-particles: no
  • Microplastics: no
  • Packaging: Different options available (glass bottle or recyclable plastic tube) – so if you reuse the glass bottle, it’s a zero-waste sunscreen
  • Cruelty-free & vegan?
    • Sunshield liquid (glass jar): yes, vegan & cruelty-free
    • Sun shield cream (tube): doesn’t state vegan, only vegetarian, but no animal testing
  • Perfume-free? Unscented version available (other: coconut scent)
  • Water-resistant? yes
  • Made in: USA
  • Other facts:
    • Committed to full transparency around all ingredients
    • PETA certified cruelty-free
    • MyChelle is a partner of the Coral Restoration Foundation
    • SPF28 & SPF 50 available
    • Different tinted versions for skin types available
    • Available in 6 fl oz (tube) & 1 oz (glass bottle)
    • Contains alcohol & Polysorbate 60 – so it can be tricky for sensitive skin
  • Price? Tube: $21.84/2.3 fl oz | Bottle: $28/1 oz
  • Where to buy?

For readers in Europe


  • UV filter type: mineral (zinc oxide)
  • Nano-particles: no
  • Microplastics: no
  • Packaging: Biodegradable tube made from sugarcane (except the cap)
  • Cruelty-free & vegan? yes
  • Perfume-free? No, but allergen-free perfume
  • Water-resistant? Yes
  • Made in: Netherlands
  • More facts:
    • Different sizes (100ml hand luggage size or 200ml)
    • SPF30 or SPF50 (for kids) available
  • Price? 19.97€/100ml
  • Where to buy?


  • UV filter type: mineral (zinc oxide & titanium dioxide)
  • Nano-particles: no
  • Microplastics: no
  • Packaging: Recycable tube & paper box made from recycled fibres
  • Cruelty-free & vegan? yes
  • Perfume-free? Kids version (SPF 50) yes
  • Water-resistant? Yes
  • Made in: Germany
  • More facts:
    • Ingredients from certified organic agriculture
    • Anti-age version & version for sensitive kids’ skin available
    • Climate-neutral company
    • Different sizes (50ml or 75ml, both hand luggage sizes)
    • SPF30 or SPF50 (for kids) available
  • Price? Anti-age 11.39€/50ml | Kids 22.50€/75ml
  • Where to buy?

For those who want to stick to chemical sunscreen

New Layer

  • UV filter type: chemical filter (but free from Oxybenzone & Octocrylene)
  • Nano-particles: no
  • Microplastics: No, but contains Hydrogenerated Polyisobutene (moderately biodegradable Polymer – so not the worst kind but still not great for the environment)
  • Packaging: Recycled and recyclable plastic bottle
  • Cruelty-free & vegan? yes
  • Perfume-free? No, but allergen-free perfume
  • Water-resistant? Yes
  • Made in: Switzerland
  • More facts:
    • Climate neutral product
    • Different sizes (200ml or 75ml face cream)
    • SPF20, SPF30 or SPF50 available
  • Price? Body (SPF 20, 30 or 50): 27.95€/200ml | Face: 24.95€/75ml
  • Where to buy?

In a nutshell | Brand recommendations for sustainable sunscreen

As you can see, I don’t have the one best sustainable sunscreen for you. All of the above are a good choice and much better than the conventional sunscreen you used to use.
Eventually, the choice is yours, depending on the factors that are most important to you, such as if the product is vegan, free of perfume, or comes in plastic-free packaging.
And there are constantly new brands coming up with new sustainable sunscreen options.

But let’s have a look at the recommendations in a direct comparison:


Butterbean Organic

Raw Elements

All Good




New Layer

UV filter type
Mineral (zinc oxide)
Mineral (zinc oxide)
Mineral (zinc oxide)
Mineral (zinc oxide & titanium dioxide)
Mineral (zinc oxide)
Mineral (zinc oxide & titanium dioxide)
Metal tin jar,
metal bottle,
paper stick
Metal tin jar,
paper stick,
recyclable plastic tube
Metal tin jar,
recyclable plastic tube,
Glass bottle,
recyclable plastic tube
Biodegradable tube made from sugarcane
Recyclable tube
Recycled & recyclable plastic bottle
Cruelty-free & vegan?
not vegan
not vegan
not vegan (beeswax)
yes available
yes available
yes available
yes available
Made in
30, 50+
28, 50
30, 50
30, 50
20, 30, 50
Jar: $19.99/3 oz
Stick: $21.99/1.4 oz
Bottle: $21.99/4 oz
Jar & tube: $16.99/3 oz
Stick: $16.99/1 oz
Tube: $16.99/3 oz
Stick: $9.99/1 oz
Jar: $15.75/2.75 oz
Tube: $21.84/2.3 fl oz
Bottle: $28/1 oz
Anti-age 11.39€/50ml
Kids 22.50€/75ml
Body (SPF 20, 30 or 50): 27.95€/200ml
Face: 24.95€/75ml
Where to buy?
Metal jar: Buy here
Metal bottle: Buy here
Paper stick: Buy here
Metal jar: Buy here
Recyclable tube: Buy here
Metal jar for baby & kids: Buy here
Paper stick for baby & kids: Buy here
Recyclable tube: Buy here
Tinted version (tube): Buy here
Kids’ version (tube): Buy here
Recyclable stick: Buy here
Metal jar: Buy here
Recyclable tube (SPF 28): Buy here
Recyclable tube (SPF 50): Buy here
Tinted version (glass bottle): Buy here
SPF30: Buy here
SPF50: Buy here
SPF30 (anti-age): Buy here
SPF50 (kids): Buy here
SPF20: Buy here
SPF30: Buy here
SPF50: Buy here
SPF50 (face): Buy here

All of these products are free from nano-particles, free from microplastics and water-resistant. So I left those characteristics out of the comparison table.

Sustainable after-sun care

In order to properly nourish your skin after a day in the sun, after-sun care can help soothe your dry and stressed skin.
We certainly don’t want to stop caring after we’ve used sustainable sunscreen. Other body care products are just as important.
So take a look at the following sustainable after-sun lotions:

What to consider when using sustainable sunscreen?

Reef-safe, sustainable sunscreen with a mineral UV filter (non-nano) is safe to use for you and the environment. They work reliably against UV-A and UV-B rays and are usually naturally waterproof due to their texture.
But what do you have to consider when using this kind of sunscreen?

Because it’s a bit different from conventional sunscreen, it may take some time to get used to them and their characteristics:
  • Biodegradable creams are a bit thicker and don’t spread as easily (especially on hairy body parts)
  • Some of them may leave a white haze (but science and the brands are constantly working on it. It has improved a lot already and there are many good creams out there that almost leave no white haze anymore.
    Tip: Don’t use another product or cream before applying your sunscreen. And only apply a very thin layer (yes, that’s enough!) and reapply regularly)
  • They can leave stains on your clothing, so be careful not to spill (especially with dark clothes)
  • Many sustainable sunscreen brands are more expensive than conventional sunscreen. That’s due to their natural ingredients instead of cheap chemicals. But the price your skin and our planet pay for harmful chemicals is much higher, believe me!
  • Mineral sunscreen, especially with zinc oxide can make your skin dry. That’s why these sunscreens are often enriched with oils that protect your skin from becoming dry. So remember to use sustainable after-sun care.
  • After you’ve applied sunscreen, wait for at least 30 minutes to get into the water after you’ve applied sunscreen. This way, chances are lower that any ingredients dissolve.

Sustainable sunscreen protects coral reefs

Sustainable sunscreen protects coral reefs

Can you make sustainable sunscreen yourself?

Indeed, oils can filter UV rays as well. However, you can never be sure, how reliable their protection is. It’s estimated that coconut oil and olive oil offer an SPF of around 7. However, they only offer UV-B protection, but not UV-A.
So, oil can be an addition to sunscreen, but I wouldn’t recommend just using oils, as they don’t provide sufficient protection.

Sustainable sunscreen in short

In short, let’s sum up what you want and what to avoid in a sunscreen:

DO – What do we want in sunscreen?
  • The best sustainable UV filters are non-nano mineral filters: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide
  • Look for zero-waste sunscreen that comes in biodegradable, reusable, or recyclable packaging (such as paper, glass, or tin)
  • Buy sunscreen that is cruelty-free or even vegan

DON’T – What do we want to avoid in sunscreen?
  • Make sure that the sunscreen you use is without harmful chemicals such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, and parabens (check the full list above)
  • Avoid nano-particles
  • If you have sensitive skin, also avoid alcohol and perfumes
  • Don’t use sprays

Sustainable sunscreen is a must on the beach

Sustainable sunscreen is a must on the beach

If you still think “the little bit of sunscreen I use can’t be that harmful”, please remember the numbers from the beginning.
With 14.000 tons of sunscreen ending up in the oceans every single year, we need to take the choice if we actively want to harm the oceans or protect them with the products we use.
Also, many chemical UV filters can’t be removed in ordinary clarification plants.  So because we wash them off in the shower, these chemicals can be found in groundwater and almost all lakes and rivers.

More and more countries take the right steps. After Hawaii passed the first ban on oxybenzone and octinoxate, other countries have followed. Island nations such as Palau, Bonaire, and Aruba also don’t allow any sunscreen with these harmful chemical filters.
Let’s hope more countries will soon follow. In the meantime, the only option we have is to make the right choice when buying sunscreen.

I hope, these tips and info have helped you in choosing sustainable sunscreen. If you have another recommendation for a product, please leave a comment below.

Get a free packing list to travel lighter!

Subscribe to get your free packing list for traveling light or carry-on only!

    By requesting the packing list and subscribing to the newsletter, you agree to receiving updates via e-mail.

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.