Recently, Hawaii put a ban on two types of sunscreen—oxybenzone and octinoxate—because they:
- Bleach the coral reefs
- And are otherwise harmful to marine life
But the truth is, oxybenzone and octinoxate aren’t the only offenders when it comes to ocean pollution.
There are other ingredients—like octocrylene, PABA, parabens, camphor, triclosan, nano-particles, etc.—that are just as harmful.
Since no one wants to contribute to pollution (or develop skin cancer, for that matter), I decided to round up some reef-friendly sunscreens.
Bonus! All of the items on this list are also cruelty-free!
FYI: My top pick is Australian Gold Botanical’s Tinted Mineral Sunscreen—it’s cheap, powerful, reef-safe, and it’s the one I use on a daily basis. Check it out here on Amazon or read more about it here on my blog.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
1. Australian Gold Botanical Sunscreen
Type of sunscreen: Titanium Oxide (4%), Zinc Oxide (4%)
I know I’ve already talked about this product a million times over. But until I find something I like better, I’ll keep singing its praises.
Since it mattifies shine (and leaves skin with a nice, velvety finish), it’s the perfect choice for an oily complexion. Personally, I can get about 6 or 7 oil-free hours with a single application—whoot!
The product also contains a bit of pigment. So it’s perfect for people who want to even out their skin tone. No, that doesn’t mean it’s full coverage—I personally don’t want it to be. Instead, it has just enough coverage to blur out some of my dark marks, while being sheer enough so that my skin still looks like skin.
The best part: Even in sunlight, the pigment is virtually undetectable. Whenever I wear this sunscreen I get loads of compliments about how good my “bare” skin looks.
- Mattifies shine, so it’s perfect for oily skin
- Evens out skin tone
- Doesn’t contain fragrances
- Blends in seamlessly into light to medium skin tones
- It’s SUPER affordable, especially when you compare it to other sunscreens in its class
- Dry skin types will find it too drying
- Shade doesn’t work on dark skin tones (sorry guys!)
Where to buy: You can find Australian Gold Botanical’s Tinted Mineral Sunscreen here on Amazon.
2. COTZ Prime and Protect
Type of sunscreen: Titanium Dioxide (8%), Zinc Oxide (3.8%)
COTZ Prime and Protect is another holy grail product and another one of my favorites!
People can’t seem to get enough of this stuff because it’s a triple threat. Not only is it a sunscreen, but it’s also a mattifying cream and a makeup primer. You know what that means, right? Yep! A faster and easier morning routine.
Just like the Australian Gold Botanical sunscreen, the tint in this sunscreen provides a sheer coverage. Since it blurs out my dark spots AND my pores, I can often skip foundation altogether. To me, it’s perfect for no-makeup makeup looks—sometimes I even wear this as a base for a night out (but I think most people would go for something with more coverage).
Okay. Maybe makeup isn’t your thing.
Does this sunscreen have any other selling points?
Another thing that people can’t get enough of is that it’s very waterproof. So if you need something that won’t slide off your face while you’re working out, look no further.
About the application: Despite its thick, peanut-butter-like texture, it’s super easy to apply. Since it contains tons of silicones, it glides on skin—kind of similar to Benefit’s Porefessional Primer. And once it’s on, it stays on.
- It’s a triple threat (a mattifier, a primer, and a sunscreen)
- Works on all skin types
- Doesn’t pill under makeup
- Blurs pores and blemishes
- No streakiness
- Has a silky finish
- It’s very silicone-y. To be honest, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that some people can’t stand it—you know who you are
- The tinted version is often too dark for light skin tones
Where to buy: You can find COTZ Prime and Protect here on Amazon. Bonus: Here’s the non-tinted version.
3. Badger Clear Zinc Sunscreen
Type of sunscreen: Uncoated Clear Zinc Oxide (18.75%)
Since its launched, Badger has been a pioneer for environmentally safe skin care products. Even the EWG—otherwise known as the Environmental Working Group—has recommended them time and time again in their annual sunscreen reports.
This particular formula is different from the rest because it utilizes clear zinc. So unlike other untinted, mineral sunscreens, it’s less likely to leave a white cast (but to be honest, I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it leaves no white cast).
The other ingredients in this product aren’t too shabby either.
First off, the ingredients are 98% organic and 100% non-GMO. Second, they’re completely natural.
Let’s take a look: Other than zinc oxide, this sunscreen contains sunflower seed oil, beeswax, vitamin E, and seabuckthorn extract—that’s it! What’s more is that a lot of these ingredients have emollient properties, making them great for dry skin types.
Now let’s talk about the application…
The sunscreen itself is incredibly thick—I would say that it has the same consistency and texture as toothpaste. So you have to spend a lot of time rubbing it into your skin in order to get a streak-free, white-cast-free application.
- Leaves a minimal white cast (but according to a lot of Amazon reviews, it should work on most skin tones)
- Only contains natural ingredients (organic and non-GMO)
- Since it contains emollient ingredients, it’s moisturizing
- It’s hard to apply—you have to rub it in forever before it blends into your skin
- It makes my oily skin look oilier
Where to buy: You can find Badger’s Clear Zinc Sunscreen here on Amazon.
4. Kokua Natural Zinc Sunscreen
Type of sunscreen: Zinc Oxide (25%)
Kokua is a Hawaiin-born-and-bred brand that’s committed to making products that are good for you and the environment.
The coolest thing about their sunscreen is that it’s loaded with 23 antioxidants (7 of which are sourced from Hawaii). Why is this so cool? According to a bunch of research studies, antioxidants can actually enhance sun protection (source 1, source 2). I don’t know about you, but I’m deathly afraid of getting skin cancer (and wrinkles, for that matter). So I’ll take all the protection I can get!
Another cool thing about it is that it contains 25% zinc oxide—the highest concentration allowed in OTC sunscreens. Since zinc oxide provides both UVA and UVB protection, this should work beautifully for outdoor activities (as long as you reapply it every two hours).
Although the Kokua isn’t as thick as some of the other sunscreens on this list, you’ll still have to spend some time rubbing it into your skin for a streak-free application. And the application woes don’t end there. This sunscreen has been known to leave a slight white cast on skin.
- Some of its ingredients are sourced from Hawaii
- Contains the highest concentration of zinc oxide allowed by the FDA
- Since it contains skin-healthy ingredients, some people use it as a moisturizer
- It’s friggin’ expensive
- Leaves a white cast on darker skin tones
Where to buy: You can find Kokua Natural Zinc Sunscreen here on Amazon.
Rant: Although this is a short list, compiling it wasn’t easy. I must’ve gone through at least 50 sunscreens to come up with the 4 mentioned here. When the sunscreen had all the right ingredients, I emailed the company to ask if they include nano-particles in their products. And guess what? In most cases, they did. It was definitely disappointing that I couldn’t find one Asian Beauty brand to include on this list, especially considering the fact that they’re at the forefront of the sunscreen game.
Nevertheless, I’m glad to report that the sunscreens mentioned in this article are pretty reef-friendly:
- Australian Gold Botanical’s Tinted Mineral Sunscreen
- COTZ Prime and Protect
- Badger’s Clear Zinc Sunscreen
- Kokua Natural Zinc Sunscreen