The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

Zero waste sunscreen isn’t something you want to skip in the summer months. And technically, you should be wearing sunscreen year-round (at least on your face). But most sunscreens come in wasteful plastic packaging and have controversial ingredients in them. Specifically, most sunscreens actually pollute waterways and harm coral reefs. Did you hear Hawaii banned the sale of sunscreen containing chemicals harmful to their coral reefs? The ban went into effect January 1st of 2021 and for good reason – sunscreen pollution threatens Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay. Research shows the harmful chemical oxybenzone transferring from swimmers to fragile coral reefs. FYI, coral reefs are essential for a healthy ocean – thousands of species can be found living in one reef, protect coastal areas by reducing the power of waves hitting the coast, and provide a crucial source of income for millions of people. So it’s important we always use reef safe sunscreen. Lets follow Hawaii’s lead and ditch conventional sunscreen for more reef safe alternatives. Here are the best zero waste sunscreens on the market.

FYI, this is a guest post written by Little By Lottie, a zero waste advocate and blogger. This post contains affiliate links. This means if you choose to purchase one of these items I will make a very small commission at no extra charge to you. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

What kind of sunscreen is biodegradable?

Unfortunately, for a long time, mainstream sunscreens weren’t biodegradable and the ingredients included in the formulation were destroying the world’s coral reefs and other aquatic life. Sunscreens listed in this post are biodegradable, breaking down naturally and minimize their damage to the environment.

What is environmentally friendly sunscreen?

Environmentally sunscreen is sunscreen specifically developed to have a minimal impact on the environment. It is free from ingredients which are known to be harmful to the waterways and reef life. Often it will be mineral based, with a zinc oxide active ingredient and free from nanoparticles. In an ideal world, the packaging is also environmentally conscious by either being compostable, refillable or at worst, recyclable!

FYI, most of the brands on this list are plastic-free, but some aren’t. I chose to highlight them anyway due to their clean, reef-safe ingredients and properties, that way you can make a decision that works best for you and your needs.

What sunscreen does EWG recommend?

Some of the highest rated EWG sunscreens include Badger, Suntegrity and Coola. For more information on these, and other awesome sustainable brands- make sure to check out the products I have listed below.

Is All Good sunscreen biodegradable?

Yes! All Good sunscreen’s formula absolutely is biodegradable! It comes in both a reusable metal tin and a aluminum spray on can version. I’ve tried the spray on version and really like it, but I recommend doing it before you get to the beach, as the particles can travel into the ocean air and eventually wind up in the water.

Even though it’s biodegradable, it’s best to apply spray on sunscreens before you’re at the beach (and ideally spray it in your hand, then apply to reduce the amount that gets into the air).  

What sunscreen is OK for coral reefs?

When looking for a reef safe sunscreen, it is best to look for a chemical free sunscreen, which has zinc oxide as the active ingredient. This ingredient is biodegradable and safe for the reefs. In addition, try to look for non-nano sunscreens as these have been shown to also be harmful to the reefs.

What are the worst sunscreens?

Many of the main sunscreens that you will find in the drug store, are some of the worst sunscreens you can find, in terms of their environmental impact. Some of the most toxic sunscreens have been found to be Trader Joe’s Norish Spray, Well at Walgreens, Rite Aid and many others. Why not try switching to some of these awesome zero waste sunscreens which I have listed down below?

What ingredients to avoid in sunscreens?

Sadly, the term reef safe is quite unregulated. Some businesses will falsely claim to have reef safe products when in fact they are not. Make sure when buying sunscreen you are avoiding any sunscreens that include oxybenzone and octinoxate. These are the most harmful but also try to avoid homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, and avobenzone, where possible.

20 Zero Waste Sunscreen Options

Ready to dive into the best zero waste sunscreen options on the market? Several of these are completely free of plastic, though some do have plastic packaging. Why? Well, let me explain…

I choose to put them in because of their ingredients and other sustainability initiatives (reef safe > packaging), so just keep that in mind. There’s something for everyone on this list, be it vegan, spray-on, cream-based, or squeezable tubes!

Raw Elements: The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

1. Raw Elements

  • Certified Natural sunscreen
  • UVA-UVB true broad spectrum protection
  • Reef Safe
  • 1% for the planet
  • SPF options include body, tinted moisturizer, lip rescue and kids stick

Raw Elements produce a fantastic UVA-UVB true broad spectrum sun protection. It is completely reef safe, mineral sunscreen for all year round. They describe their sunscreen as gentle enough for infants, yet meeting the demands of the most extreme athletes, all while protecting reefs and eco systems. The company also has a scheme offering free, mineral sunscreen in dispensers across the Hapuna bay state recreation area, helping protect locals and vital wildlife in Hawaii.

All Good: The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

2. All Good

  • Broad spectrum sunscreen with spf up to 50+
  • B Corp
  • Reef Safe
  • 1% for the planet
  • Various SPF options

All Good is a women owned and certified B corporation, producing a wide range of sunscreen options. They are known for their more niche varieties, such as sports sunscreens which are water and sweat resistant, to their SPF lip balms in flavors from tangerine to spearmint. Their product come in all shapes and sizes, with sprays, butter sticks, balms and classic liquid sunscreen, making All Good a fantastic option for just about anyone.

Eir: The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

3. EiR

  • Body butter with in built sun protection
  • SPF 30
  • Reef Safe
  • 100% plastic free
  • Non-Nano Ingredients

Eir sun protection products have been designed to become part of your daily skin care routine, while being strong enough for even the most hard core of sun lovers. Their main product is their skin mud, which is suitable for the whole body and also comes in a lip balm too. They also have body oil, to help re-moisturize your skin after sun exposure – for all rounded skin protection.

Coola: The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

4. Coola

  • Broad Spectrum Sun Screen 
  • SPF range from 30 to 70
  • Reef Safe
  • Cruelty Free
  • Range of application options

Coola makes a fantastic broad spectrum sunscreen with one of the widest range of application options on the market. Whether you prefer spray, lotion or sticks, they really do have an option for everyone. Not only that, but they also are renowned for producing reef safe, cruelty free sun protection with SPF protection up to 70. If you choose to buy from Coola, while all of their sunscreens are reef safe – not all of their products are mineral based or plastic free. If these qualities in a sunscreen are important to you, then maybe they aren’t the product for you.

Public Goods: The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

5. Public Goods

  • Broad Spectrum Sun Screen Spray
  • SPF 50 
  • Reef Safe
  • Cruelty Free
  • Water resistant for up to 80 mins

Public Goods are a well known company with sustainability at their heart. They have come out with a broad spectrum UVA-UVB sunscreen spray, which are known for being non-greasy and super effective. The sunscreen has been carefully formulated with only five key ingredients, making it 100% reef safe and naturally derived to protect and nourish your skin. Unlike other natural sunscreens, it is completely clear – so you won’t be left with the dreaded white residue all over your face! 

Stream 2 Sea: The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

6. Stream 2 Sea

  • Broad Spectrum UVA-UVB Sunscreen
  • Plant based
  • Reef Safe
  • Non-Nano
  • Water resistant for up to 80 mins

Stream 2 Sea are focused on ensuring that not only are their products reef safe, but they are also safe for all aquatic life. They are the only mineral based sunscreen on the market which has been proven to be safe for freshwater fish, saltwater fish, and coral larvae, and has passed the stringent HEL Labs Protect Land + Sea certification. They have a unique organic ingredient blend, which they are totally transparent about and have a wide range of products to suit everyone.

Brooklyn Made Natural: The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

7. Brooklyn Made Natural

  • Chemical free sunscreen 
  • Zero Waste 
  • Reef Safe
  • Zinc Oxide based
  • Plastic free

Brooklyn Made Natural have developed a truly natural sunscreen, which focuses on creating a physical barrier on the skin, as opposed to a chemical one – like most sun screens. There is scientific evidence to suggest that sun screens with this approach have a longer lasting SPF effect. However, if you are keen on knowing exactly what SPF you are using, this sunscreen might not be for you. Brooklyn Made does not claim a specific SPF level since their sunscreen has not been tested in a lab. You will need to reapply and be aware of your own skin type. 

Badger: The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

8. Badger

  • Broad Spectrum UVA-UVB sunscreen.  
  • Completely clear after rubbing in
  • Reef Safe
  • USDA Certified Organic
  • Water resistant for up to 40 minutes

Badger creates loads of awesome natural products, including their sunscreen. It has been especially formulated so that it becomes completely translucent on application – making it the perfect choice if you are sick of the white residue after applying sunscreen. The formula is totally safe for coral reefs and other ecosystems and is also an amazing effective formular protecting against UVA and UVB rays.

Sunbum: The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

9. Sunbum

  • Moisturizing sunscreen
  • Hypoallergenic 
  • Reef Safe
  • Gluten Free and Vegan
  • Water resistant for up to 80 minutes

Sunbum has created a sunscreen which you can use in almost the exact same way as a traditional sun lotion. They originally started to make products to protect their loved ones from the sun, which explains the caring nature of the brand. They care about their customers, the planet and animals, so created a product to look after them all. All of their products are reef friendly, cruelty free and suitable for vegans. They have a range of mineral, non-mineral and hybrid formulas for their sunscreens and even have aftersuns, tanning lotions and more to check out too!

Tierra and Lava: The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

10. Tierra and Lava

  • Moisturizing sunscreen and aftersun product
  • SPF 15 
  • Formulated with Mayan wisdom
  • Reef Safe
  • Non-nano formula
  • Water and sweat resistant

Founder, Lucy Ashman, has formulated her zero waste sunscreen with traditional Mayan practices and locally harvested organic ingredients grown on volcanic soil. Tierra and Lava is a zero waste business with conscious packaging. While it might not be the highest SPF on the market, it definitely does the job. With only a few ingredients, the formula is reef safe, water resistant and sweat resistant. The formula is also super moisturizing so can be used as both a sunscreen and after sun!

Meow Meow Tweet: The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

11. Meow Meow Tweet

  • Zero waste sunscreen lotion 
  • SPF 25 
  • Reef Safe
  • Pump free option 
  • Suitable for wearing under makeup

Meow Meow Tweet makes so many awesome products, already mentioned on this blog, so I couldn’t go without mentioning their sunscreen lotion. As with many of their products, they are as low waste as possible, with aluminum packaging, and an optional, reusable pump. The formula is totally reef safe, with SPF 25. If you are looking for a totally waterproof formula, this might not be for you but for everyday use – this product is great!

Suntegrity: The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

12. Suntegrity

  • Broad Spectrum UVA-UVB 
  • SPF 30
  • Reef Safe
  • Water resistant for 80 mins
  • Sample sizes available 

Suntegrity has one of the widest ranges of SPF products on the market, with various formulations and specialty products developed for all needs. It may not be plastic free, but it is reef safe which (in some ways) matters more. Some of my favorites are their tinted sunscreen – to avoid white residue and also their sports sunscreen. The broad spectrum UVA-UVB sunscreens have SPF 30 protection in most of their products, but some have SPF 50 or higher.

Babo Botanicals: The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

13. Babo Botanicals

  • Broad Spectrum UVA-UVB upto SPF 50
  • Hypoallergenic 
  • Reef Safe
  • Water resistant for 80 mins
  • Non-Nano 

Babo Botanicals was founded by a mom looking for safe, plant based solutions for her family. Therefore, you can have the confidence that their products will be suitable for even the littlest members of your family. Babo Botanicals have created specialist formulations for babies, sports, swimming and many other requirements. They will definitely stock a product for you, with options of lotions, sticks and spray applications.

Sunbutter: The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

14. Sunbutter

  • Water resistant Sun Butter
  • Certified palm oil free
  • Carbon neutral + donate 10% profit
  • Reef Safe
  • Plastic Free 
  • Subscription Service available

Sunbutter is the first sunscreen in the world to be certified totally palm oil free. You can be sure that these zero waste sunscreens are totally plastic free, with their innovative metal tins. They have two options, original or tinted – depending on your preference and even have vegan friendly options too. Their products were developed to be reef safe and skin safe – preventing chemically induced breakouts.

Surfdurt: The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

15. Surfdurt

  • UVA/UVB Broad Spectrum protection
  • SPF 30
  • Reef Safe
  • Plastic Free 
  • 80 Minute Water Resistance

Surf lovers, Maxine and Nicolette, founded Surfdurt after realizing how harmful chemical sunscreen is for the coral reefs. There are two color options- either classic white or neutral tan. There is the choice of four different tops – each supporting a different environmental cause: coral reef restoration & fights reef decline, reforestation & helps plant trees, initiatives for clean water for everyone and surf therapy for underserved communities.

Hipeecraft: The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

16. Hipeecraft

  • Eco-friendly Organic Sunscreen
  • Zinc Based
  • Reef Safe
  • Plastic Free 
  • Non-Nano

Hipeecraft’s product is an almost entirely zero waste sunscreen. As this product is made by a small business, each product is made to order. The ingredients are remarkable simple and natural, ensuring there are no harmful chemicals to harm aquatic life or your skin. Unlike some other sunscreens, reapplication is needed quite frequently, however, the push up tube makes this incredibly easy to do.

Trail Botanical: The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

17. Trail Botanical

  • Full Face zero waste sunscreen stick
  • Suitable for various skin types
  • Reef Safe
  • Plastic Free 
  • Unscented

This handmade sunstick comes in a solid, plastic free container. The paperboard tube, allows easy push up application, with totally vegan and unscented ingredients. It is gentle on the skin so is suitable for most skin types, and is made with natural, reef safe ingredients. There is no official SPF assigned to this product, so if this is particularly important, then this probably isn’t the product for you.

Butterbean: The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

18. Butterbean

  • Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB
  • Water resistant up to 80 mins
  • Reef Safe
  • Refills available
  • Various application options

Butterbean began making sunscreen for their children, and following the overwhelming reception from customers, were able to expand their product range. The packaging is truly zero waste and made of paperboard and aluminum containers. There are also innovative liquid sunscreen refill packs available, to reduce waste further.

Supergoop Cloud 9: The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

19. Supergoop Cloud 9

  • Moisturizing Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB protection
  • Suitable for sensitive skin
  • Reef Safe
  • SPF 40
  • Various application options

Supergoop Cloud 9 have developed a super nourishing, mineral based sun balm. It is multipurpose, so will sooth dry and cracked skin while also giving SPF 40 broad spectrum UVA-UVB protection. This reef safe sunscreen has been dermatologically tested to be suitable for even the most sensitive skin.

Kinship: The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

20. Kinship

  • Moisturizing Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB protection
  • Recycled container
  • Cruelty Free
  • SPF 32
  • Dermatologically tested

Kinship’s reef safe mineral sunscreen has an SPF of 32. It is award winning and both kind to your skin and the planet. It is totally reef safe and the packaging is at least 30% recycled materials. The formula is lightweight, with a mild vanilla scent. All of the ingredients are natural, with a non-nano zinc oxide based. 

The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen: 20 Plastic-Free + Reef Safe Options

So, what do you think about these zero waste sunscreen options? Let me know which is your favorite in the comments!

For more summer fun, check out these zero waste beach essentials.

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Guest post: Hi, my name is Lottie and I have my own zero waste blog too (it’s littlebylottie.co.uk if you want to check it out or @littlebylottie on Instagram). I live across the pond in England and am super passionate about sharing easy changes you can make in your life to have a huge impact on the planet. I’ve been lucky enough to have a chat with Ariana on a few occasions.

By Ariana Palmieri

Ariana Palmieri is the founder of Greenify-Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste and sustainability. Her work has also been featured on Going Zero Waste, Green Matters, Mother Earth Living and several other online publications.

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