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May Beauty Roundup: Reef Safe Sunscreen

Summer is approaching, and we're all about protecting our skin...and the ocean! Check out these reef-friendly sunscreens and find out exactly what to look out for when you're browsing.

By Samantha Topp
May 11, 2022

Over the last few years the term ‘reef friendly sunscreen’ has become a buzzword as consumers become increasingly aware of the detrimental side-effects of many chemical sunscreens on marine life. The actual term ‘reef friendly’ isn’t regulated, meaning the term alone cannot be relied upon as a measure of marine-life safety, so here we’ll break down how you can find out if your sunscreen is really reef safe while still being effective.

First, make sure your sunscreen has an SPF that uses physical ultraviolet A and B filters—commonly referred to as UVA and UVB. These filters will protect your skin against the main two types of UV light that are proven to contribute to the risk of skin cancer. Reef safe UVA and UVB filters include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and are classed as ‘inorganic sunscreens’ because they contain inorganic metal oxides as their active ingredients. Mineral sunscreens tend to fall under this category, meaning reef-safe sunscreens are actually more ideal for people with sensitive skin.

And secondly, be sure to check the ingredients list on your sunscreen before buying it and keep an eye out for some commonly-found chemicals that are known to harm marine life. Some of the most common chemicals include Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, Benzophenone-1, Benzophenone-8, OD-PABA, 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor, 3-Benzylidene camphor, and Octocrylene—and this list is by no means exhaustive. Chemicals like these can cause issues like coral bleaching, impairment of photosynthesis, decreased fertility and even cause defects in marine life.

Now that you know what to look for, check out our list of five sunscreens that are good for the reef and good for your skin!



Photo: Shade Sunscreen

100% non-toxic and natural, Shade Sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays up to SPF25 and is tested to the standards of the European Union. The sunscreen is made up of just four organic natural ingredients: shea butter, coconut oil, beeswax and zinc oxide. Zinc oxide is considered one of the “safest, broadest-spectrum sun protection” ingredients possible, and it also creates a cooling, antibacterial layer on the skin.



Photo: avasol

Available in a handy wind-up stick tube made from recycled paper, avasol's Surfer’s Barrier sunscreen is water resistant up to 80 minutes and SPF 50+. It comes in three different shades: light, tan and dark, allowing you to use a protective sunscreen without the whitecast often associated with most sunscreens. The hand-crafted sunscreen is made in small batches using ethically-sourced premium organic and wildcrafted ingredients. It contains no nanoparticles, no GMOs, no synthetic chemicals and is also non-greasy. But remember, the packaging is biodegradable, so don’t get it wet!



Photo: Raw Elements

With an SPF of 30, UVA and UVB protection and 80 minutes of water resistance, Raw Elements’ face and body SPF is the perfect addition to your beach bag this summer. The sunscreen comes in a handy recyclable metal tin and is completely biodegradable and reef safe. For those worried about allergies, this sunscreen is soy, gluten and nut free and considered safe for all ages as it doesn’t run or sting your eyes.



Photo: Supergoop!

Made by one of the most renowned sunscreen brands in the world, Supergoop’s Mineral Sheer Screen is weightless on the skin, very blendable and is the perfect addition to a makeup routine—just replace your primer with the sunscreen. It contains zinc oxide, a commonly used sun protection ingredient, but in non-nano form, meaning its particles are larger than 100nm and as a result, won’t penetrate your skin.



Photo: Caudalie

French skincare brand Caudalie’s SPF50+ sunscreen is the ideal cream for sensitive skin. Lightweight, vegan and dermatologically tested, it is made to be incorporated into your morning routine as an everyday sunscreen. The fragrance-free, alcohol-free and silicone-free cream protects against UVA and UVB while providing antioxidant action to boost your skin. Caudalie has also banned the use of chemical filters such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are known to be toxic to the marine environment.