The 10 Best Reef-Safe Sunscreen

Young-beautiful-woman-applying-sunscreen-lotion-sitting-on-the-wooden-poolside.-Sunscreen-solar-cream-uv-protection-concept
If you go swimming in the ocean, even if it’s in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean or Hawaii, there’s more to the water than meets the eye.

According to the National Park Service, 6000 tons of chemicals penetrate the areas surrounding reefs each year. Research shows that the chemicals commonly found in sunscreen may be a contributory factor to the declining health of oceans.

With over 80,000 different kinds of chemicals from various personal care products making their way into the oceans, using the best reef-safe sunscreen is one positive step you can take so you don’t add to this mounting problem.

Unfortunately, when you’re looking for reef-friendly sunscreen, you’ll find it tough to source the right products since this space is unregulated. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with the ingredients in sunscreen formulas and what’s on the label if you want to guarantee you get a legitimate reef-friendly sunscreen.

You should focus on the following pointers when you’re searching for reef-safe sunscreen:

  • Avoid products with oxybenzone and octinoxate: You should avoid any sunscreen containing oxybenzone if you’re looking to stay reef-safe. This chemicals is also called benzophenone-3 and BP-3, so avoid these iterations, too. Octinoxate is another no-go chemical if you have the welfare of coral reefs at heart
  • Say no to parabens, nano-particles, and other chemicals: The more natural ingredients a sunscreen formula contains, the better. Mineral oil, also known as petrolatum, is less than ideal from a conservation standpoint. This chemical takes years before it biodegrades, and it also known to be harmful to various forms of aquatic life. Parabens are not good ecologically, and nano-particles are also small enough for coral to consume. Give sunscreen containing para-aminobenzoic acid a swerve, too
  • Consider mineral sunscreen: With more and more brands adopting an eco-conscious image, you’ve got more choice these days when it comes to green sunscreen. As a general rule, mineral sunscreen is a smart bet, as long as it doesn’t contain any nano-particles. This type of sunblock is designed to sit on your skin, physically blocking UV rays. You’ll need to rub this form of sunscreen in thoroughly, and you’ll also need to make sure you reapply it ever couple of hours
  • Water resistant: Every sunscreen will wash off when you go in the water, but the more the lotion sticks to your skin, the less will end up in the ocean harming the reefs
  • Use lotion and not spray: Spraying sunscreen when you’re at the beach will leave some on the sand. This ends up in the ocean, so stick with lotions rather sprays

If you keep these simple pointers in mind, you should have no problem finding the best reef-safe sunscreen the easy way.

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I. The 10 Best Reef-Safe Sunscreen

1. Our #1 Pick: Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen

Supergoop!-Unseen-Sunscreen-SPF-40,-1.7-oz

Features

  • SPF: 40
  • Scent: Unscented
  • Size: 1.7oz

First in line and our favorite reef-safe sunscreen comes from Supergoop! This brand has been in business since 2005 producing top-tier sunscreens to liven up a dull vertical.

The key selling point here is that the formula is completely invisible. Smear it on, stay protected from the sun, but without those white marks zinc lotions impart.

Suitable for all skin types, even sensitive skin, the lotion works effectively as a makeup primer, too. Applying this lotion leaves your skin looking dewy and hydrated.

Packed with antioxidants for whole-body health, the oil-free lotion will protect you against both UVA and UVB rays. Unlike much of the opposition, this reef-safe sunscreen will also safeguard you against IRA rays. Broad spectrum protection of SPF40+ will keep you safe all day long.

The lotion is unscented so it won’t clash with your cologne, and it’s shine-free, too. As a mineral lotion, your skin will be mattified rather than shining.

Free of oxybenzone, octinoxate, and other chemicals known to damage coral reefs, you’re doing your part for marine life and the environment without compromising sun factor protection.

This weightless and scentless sunscreen is not only reef-friendly, but delivers a shower of other benefits. This is out favorite overall sunscreen in this class and well worth a place on your shortlist.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • Total invisible formula
  • Maximum shine control
  • No oxybenzone or octinoxate
  • Too thick for some users

2. Thinksport Mineral Sunscreen

Thinksport-SPF-50+-Mineral-Sunscreen

Features

  • SPF: 50+
  • Scent: Unscented
  • Size: 3oz

If you frequently take your kids to the beach, why not look for a go-to sunscreen so you can streamline your supplies rather than constantly scouring the shelves looking for the next new lotion? With Thinksport’s kid-friendly formula, you get everything you need and nothing you don’t in a sunscreen.

Boasting SPF50+ sun protection, you can allow your kiddos to play all day long without worrying about damage from the sun’s UV rays. The broad spectrum protection will safeguard skin against both UVA and UVB rays. Ideal for daily use on soft and sensitive children’s skin, you can buy with total confidence.

For any parents tired of their kids wriggling around as they desperately try to apply sunscreen, the easy application of this formula is a huge bonus. It works quickly and easily into the skin then delivers immediate protection: what’s not to love?

One distinction of this lotion is that it’s the first sunscreen awarded certification for Whole Foods Premium Care. There are no parabens, no BPA, and no PABA. Free of gluten, phthalates, and dairy, you get no toxic chemicals in this reef-safe formula.

Offering water resistance for up to 80 minutes, your kids can swim away without you needing to continuously reapply their sunscreen.

Non-nano zinc oxide means you won’t be leaving any of those tiny nano-particles in the ocean. These are known to damage coral reefs.

Easy to apply and delivering top-notch sun factor protection without any backlash for marine life, see what you and your kids make of this reef-safe sunscreen from Thinksport.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • Ideal for sporty, active users
  • Great sun protection for kiddos
  • Biodegradable active ingredients
  • Some reported issues with skin burning

3. Badger Zinc Sunscreen

Badger-SPF-30-Clear-Zinc-Sunscreen-Cream

Features

  • SPF: 30
  • Scent: Unscented
  • Size: 2.9oz

Badger is a highly reputable brand in the sunscreen space, and this unscented formula is ideal for use on the face and the body. How does it shape up, then?

Firstly and most crucially, the lotion provides robust sun factor protection of SPF30. This whole line of sunscreens is certified organic, and also serves up the broad-spectrum protection you need to sunbathe without niggling concerns about skin cancer.

This clear zinc formula is at the lower end of the protective scale, but if you need more SPF, Badger puts a variety of other options at your disposal.

The 3oz bottle gives you plenty of lotion on demand. Some of the bottles in this market segment are tiny, so you’re getting great value for money.

This mineral zinc oxide stays on top of your skin. It’s here it gets to work, repelling the UVA and UVB rays that would otherwise penetrate and possibly damage your skin over time. It rubs in quickly and easily, and it stays clear, too. You won’t get any of that trademark whitening effect with this sunscreen.

The lotion is water-resistant for up to 40 minutes, and it will also keep sweat at bay.

Consisting of 99% natural ingredients, this non-GMO sunscreen is also reef-safe, with no chemicals known to harm humans or coral reefs.

Although this broad spectrum sunscreen is not the best fit for oilier skin, for most other skin types it makes a great low-SPF and reef-safe lotion.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • Broad spectrum mineral sunscreen
  • 5 natural ingredients
  • Made with reef-friendly chemicals
  • Not great for oily skin

4. Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen

BLUE-LIZARD-Australian-Sunscreen,-Sensitive-SPF-30+,-5-Ounce

Features

  • SPF: 30+
  • Scent: Unscented
  • Size: 5oz

Blue Lizard comes in striking packaging, but is it a case of form over function.

Absolutely not! This Australian formula comes backed by dermatologists for the past 20 years, so things are off to a strong start.

This unscented formula is great if you don’t want the scent of your cologne or perfume obscured when you’re protecting your skin against the sun. So many lotions have nasty artificial smells, but this is not among them.

The mineral sunscreen is rated at SPF30+. This rating means the lotion will repel 97% of the burning rays of the sun. To see off 98% of those rays, you need SPF50, so the difference is incremental.

Blue Lizard has a deep bench of sunscreen designed for different skin types, with this iteration intended for sensitive skin.

Containing no chemicals known to harm coral reefs, you won’t have any guilt about the marine ecosystem while you’re keeping yourself and your family safe in the sun.

There are no parabens in this formula either. Combined with the fragrance-free nature of this formula, it’s a winner all round for anyone with sensitive skin.

Offering a full 40 minutes of water resistance, make sure you reapply the lotion after this length of time in the water to stay protected.

With no chemical ingredients and the full backing of the skincare industry, you should add some of this reef-safe sunscreen to your shopping list. The only real gripe we discovered from user reviews were a few reports of the lotion being a little messy for daily use. You should do your own due diligence here.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • Dermatologist-recommended
  • Up to 40 minutes of water resistance
  • No chemical active ingredients
  • A bit messy for daily use

5. All Good Mineral Sunscreen

All-Good-Mineral-Face-Sunscreen-Butter

Features

  • SPF: 50+
  • Scent: Coconut
  • Size: 1oz

Do you want a dinky pocket-sized tub of reef-safe sunscreen? If so, you may want to consider this zinc-based butter from All Good. Is it really all good, though?

Well, as a zinc-based butter, it stays on top of the skin and forms a physical barrier to stop the potentially harmful sun’s rays from penetrating.

This line of sunscreen is all considered reef-safe, and also offers broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. There are no parabens, no chemical UV absorbers, and no chemicals known to harm reefs. There are no nano-particles in the mix either.

Blendable, the lotion will offer up to 80 minutes of water resistance, making it one of the strongest performers in this regard.

The formula is hypoallergenic, making this a great bet for anyone with sensitive skin. The remarkably hydrating nature of this sunscreen will keep your skin soft and supple rather than ravaged by the sun. Enjoy the great outdoors without any safety concerns and without any concerns .

Despite the SPF50+ rating, we found a few complaints from users – some including pictures – reporting sunburn issues even after using this cream.

The compact size of the tub makes it ideal for everyday use.

Aside from those gripes about sunburn – and these are tough to quantify even with pictures – you’re getting one of the best reef-safe sunscreens on the market, so what are you waiting for?

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • Zinc-based butter
  • Nicely blendable
  • Deeply hydrating
  • Multiple reports of sunburn

6. Manda Organic Sun Paste

MANDA-Organic-Sun-Paste-Natural

Features

  • SPF: 50
  • Scent: Coconut and chocolate
  • Size: 2.7oz

As we near the end of our showcase of the best reef-safe sunscreens, here comes a sun paste from Manda Organic. As the brand name makes clear, this formula is loaded with organic ingredients so you can rely on nature rather than chemicals, helping your skin while saving the coral reefs from further damage.

Lightly scented with a decadent combination of coconut and chocolate, you’ll be eager to slather this stuff on.

Specifically designed with the needs of skin prone to acne in mind, you can still protect your skin against sun damage, even if most sunscreens tend to inflame your acne.

All ingredients are not just organic, but also food-grade. With 20% non-nano zinc oxide as the active ingredient, you’ll protect yourself against sun damage safely and naturally.

One of the other ingredients, thanaka, has been used in Myanmar for 2000 years to nourish and protect the skin.

With bamboo packaging and a recyclable tin, this brand’s commitment to the environment is impressive. If you are prone to pimples and looking for an effective sunscreen that won’t bring you out in more spots and won’t hurt the coral reefs either, it’s got to be Manda Organic.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • Designed for acne-prone skin
  • Organic food-grade ingredients
  • Eco-friendly and reef-safe
  • Pretty thick consistency

7. COCOKIND Facial Sunscreen

COCOKIND-Daily-SPF-32-Facial-Sunscreen-Lotion,-1.7-OZ

Features

  • SPF: 32
  • Scent: Unscented
  • Size: 1.7oz

Where many sunscreens are designed for use on both the face and body, COCOKIND has an unscented and reef-friendly formula that’s expressly for facial use. If this is just what you’ve been looking for, read on.

When it comes to sun factor protection, the SPF rating of 32 is enough to stop 97% of UVA and UVB rays, strongly protecting your skin against premature aging, discoloration, and potentially skin cancer.

None of COCOKIND’s products are tested on animals and all the ingredients are natural and organic.

Although unscented, you may make out faint traces of coconut as this is contained in the formula.

This sunscreen is quite easy to apply and it blends in pretty quickly, too. Unlike some cheaper and less effective facial sunscreens, it won’t leave your skin looking shiny or oily either. We did find a handful of isolated complaints from users claiming they found the formula a little greasy, so you should think twice if gloopy products in general put you off.

You won’t get any of the harmful chemicals that damage coral reefs, so you can not only safeguard yourself, but you’ll also be doing the marine ecosystem a favor.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • Not tested on animals
  • All-natural ingredients
  • Paraben-free formula
  • Slightly oily for some users

8. Totlogic Natural Sunscreen

TotLogic-Natural-Mineral-Sunscreen-For-Kids-SPF-30,-3-oz

Features

  • SPF: 30
  • Scent: Naturally scented
  • Size: 3oz

If you have kids, it’s vital to keep their skin protected against the sun. Did you know you can also find reef-safe sunscreen for kids, though?

SPF30 protection will stop up to 97% of the sun’s UV rays. The broad-spectrum protection in place here sees off both types of UV rays, UVA and UVB.

Not only does this sunscreen contain plenty of botanicals to nourish young and tender skin, but it’s also loaded with antioxidants. These help your body fight off the damage caused by free radicals.

The tube contains 3oz of sunscreen, a nice size if you have several kids and don’t want to be endlessly picking up new bottles of lotion when you’re shopping.

The natural scent of lavender and chamomile is not so strong as to be cloying, but it’s detectable enough.

This sunscreen works well for adults as well as children. Suitable for use with all skin types and great for applying underneath makeup, there’s no excuse for anyone in the family to go without sun protection, and there’s no excuse either to protect yourself while leaving damaging chemicals in your wake.

The only real blowback we could find among user reviews were some complaints about this sunscreen becoming quite greasy after exposure to the sun. This aside, consumers are consistently impressed with this reef-safe sunscreen.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • For sensitive skin
  • Packed with botanicals
  • Antioxidant-rich formula
  • Becomes greasy in the sun

9. Raw Elements Face and Body

Raw-Elements-Face-and-Body-Certified-Natural-Sunscreen

Features

  • SPF: 30
  • Scent: Naturally scented
  • Size: 1.7oz

Raw Elements serves up a certified natural sunscreen that also happens to be reef-friendly. How does this lotion stand out in a crowded pack, then?

Firstly, you get a lotion that’s ideal for use every day. The 3oz tin is reusable and recyclable, so you’re doing your part for the environment as well as keeping your skin protected from sun damage.

The active ingredients include non-nano zinc oxide, so you won’t end up leaving those microscopic particles in the ocean that are known to damage reefs.

Delivering SPF30 protection, this performance-driven formula offers up to 80 minutes of protection before you need to reapply it. The broad spectrum protection ensure that both UVA and UVB rays are repelled.

Certified organic, the ingredients are all-natural, free of soy, nuts, and gluten. The formula is also loaded with antioxidants to help combat the aging caused by free radicals.

We found a few complaints from people with darker skin claiming this lotion didn’t make the best fit for them. Setting this niggle aside, most user testimony is predominantly positive. For most other skin types, this sunscreen is a good bet.

Biodegradable, non-GMO, and cruelty-free, you can also remain confident this lotion won’t leave any debris in the ocean capable of damaging coral reefs.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • Suitable for daily use
  • For all skin types
  • Broad-spectrum protection
  • Not great on dark skin

10. Badger Sunscreen

Badger-SPF-30-Lavender-Clear-Zinc-Sunscreen-Cream

Features

  • SPF: 30
  • Scent: Lavender
  • Size: 2.9oz

To round out our quest for the best reef-safe sunscreen, we have another entry from the ever-reliable Badger stable. What do you get for your money here, then?

Off the bat, this lotion is delicately scented with lavender. While many people embrace unscented lotions, others enjoy a pleasant whiff of floral notes.

This sunscreen has only 6 ingredients, and less is always more when it comes to eco-friendly products. Ingredients are disclosed as 98% organic.

Protection is provided through non-whitening zinc oxide. This rubs in clear and responds well to most skin tones and types. Rather than being absorbed into your bloodstream, instead this lotion stays on top of your skin. Here it repels those UV rays that would otherwise damage your precious skin.

It’s not only your skin that’s protected with this formula, though. The all-natural lineup of ingredients contain none known to harm coral reefs.

Resistant to both water and sweat for 40 minutes, you and your kids can play for almost an hour before you need to reapply your sunscreen.

Not only are these healthy botanical ingredients great for protecting and hydrating your skin, but they won’t leave behind any damaging residue in the ocean.

Made in rural USA since 1995, you can place your trust in Badger when it comes to top-notch sunscreens that protect your skin without harming marine life.

Things We Like Things We Dislike
  • Delicate scent of lavender
  • Broad-spectrum formula
  • Non-GMO and reef-friendly
  • Hard to apply and remove

II. FAQs

1) Why should I use a reef-safe sunscreen?

Sunscreens labeled reef-safe should not contain any chemicals or nano-particles known to damage coral reefs. These reefs are being damaged and the knock-on effects to aquatic systems are concerning. Using a product without these harmful agents will still protect you from the sun without wreaking havoc in the ocean.

2) What is mineral non-nano sunscreen?

Mineral sunscreens traditionally contain titanium oxide and zinc oxide. These particles won’t rub into your skin very easily, and they tend to produce a visible whitening to the skin. One of the ways companies managed to avoid this problem was to break these two minerals down into much smaller nano-particles. This helps them to rub more easily into the skin. There is some concern about the potential harmful effects to the human body caused by nanotechnology. Some people suggest these nano-particles could cross cell membranes, stressing the cells and ultimately damaging them. You should avoid sunscreen with nano-particles if you’re looking to stay reef-safe.

3) What’s the issue with micro-plastics in sunscreen?

Liquid polymers like carbomer and acrylates copolymer are very slow to biodegrade. If you opt for a natural, organic sunscreen, you’ll get no micro-plastics.

4) Why is water resistance important in a reef-safe sunscreen?

The longer your sunscreen stays on when you’re swimming in the ocean, the less will end up in the water. Look for sunscreens boasting excellent water resistance.

5) What are the skincare benefits associated with SPF?

SPF (sun factor protection) is anti-ageing in the sense that it prevents wrinkles, discoloration and sun spots. You can also protect yourself against skin cancer by using a sunscreen with a high SPF.

6) Do I need to use a moisturizer as well as a sunscreen?

You should apply SPF after moisturizer if you’re using one, but before using makeup. If you feel this is one step too many in your skincare routine and you find using SPF alone a little too heavy, you can use an SPF moisturizer instead. This will be diluted in terms of sun factor protection, though, but will certainly be better than using no protection at all.


III. Conclusion

We very much hope today’s guide to choosing the best reef-safe sunscreen has shown you the importance of finding an eco-conscious sunscreen.

By opting for a green choice here, you don’t need to compromise when it comes to sun factor protection. All of the sunscreens on our shortlist today cope admirably on that front, but without any of the chemicals or tint particles that can damage our precious coral reefs.

Stick with any of the sunscreens on our list and you can buy with total confidence and a clear idea about what’s included in the formula and what isn’t. If you encounter some sunscreen we didn’t review today, we hope you keep the pointers in our buying guide in mind. This should streamline your decision and help you determine whether the lotion really is reef-friendly.

Take a moment to bookmark WildRiver before you head off today. We have a very busy content slate for the coming months and we’re also expanding, so watch this space and pop back very soon!

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