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The Best Reef Friendly Sunscreen Brands to Back this Summer

Sunscreen – a summer essential to protect our skin. But is it at the expense of the world’s coral reefs?

Research over the past few years has begun to highlight the impact that sunscreen is having on the ocean and its reefs. And although the exact quantity of sunscreen entering coral reef areas remains unknown, scientists estimate that it could be as much as 14,000 tonnes!!

When looking for reef-friendly sunscreens the most controversial ingredients to avoid are oxybenzone and octinozate which are found in many chemical sunscreens despite being toxic to coral as well as other ocean life including algae and fish.

Many conscious consumers have therefore begun buying mineral sunscreens which are thought to be less damaging that their chemical counterparts. These typically contain the mineral UV filters zinc oxide and/ or titanium dioxide.

However, things start getting a bit confusing here because some studies suggest that the mineral particles must be non nano (i.e. particles must be more than 100 nanometres) since nano particles could pose a threat to coral.

All sounds a bit complicated right?!

Luckily I’ve made life a little easier with a list of safe sunscreens for protecting both our skin and our coral reefs.

On my recent holiday to Grenada I was especially aware of the need to find a reef-friendly sunscreen because the coral reefs around the Caribbean are actually amongst the most threatened in the world. In fact 80% of corals here have been lost in the last 50 years due to pollution, warming waters, tourism, and coastal development.

So with my mum and sister also on the case, we turned up with 4 reef-friendly sunscreens!

1. Caudalié Milky Sun Spray SPF 30 150ml £20.00

My favourite of the 4 in terms of application, Caudalié Milky Sun Spray is actually a chemical sunscreen without the nasty ingredients. It’s a smooth and silky formula that rubs really well into the skin and also smells great. The only disappointment is its plastic packaging which sadly lets it down.

2. Ren Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 50ml £30.00

Another easy to apply option, although a little more expensive, is the Ren Clean Screen which I loved using on my face. What’s great about this one is that the tube is made from 50% recycled packaging and the cap from 100% recycled packaging. Plus, since it only consists of one type of plastic, the packaging can be recycled again and again!

3. Green People Scent Free Sun Lotion SPF 30 200ml £24

I found this one a little slippery to apply but from an environmental perspective the Green People Sun Lotion is the best sunscreen of the lot (and also the cheapest per ml). Not only is it ocean friendly, but the packaging is actually carbon-neutral and plant based since it is made from sugar cane! Plus it’s fully recyclable. Amazing right?

Please note: contains nano particles of titanium dioxide but these are considered coral friendly since they are coated with a very fine layer of silica during the manufacturing process, meaning that they are no more reactive than sand particles.

4. Bio Solis Sun Milk SPF 30 100ml £19.40

I bought this last year when I went sailing in Corfu and had a little left over which is why I bought it with me. Although I love its eco credentials this one comes out as a thick white cream and can be little difficult to rub in.

Of course there are other reef-friendly sunscreens on the market which I haven’t yet got round to trying. I’ve listed those with the best reviews below:

Please note that no sun cream is 100% reef-friendly but those listed here are better than their alternatives since they are free of the controversial ingredients oxybenzone and octinozate. Those that are mineral based contain non nano zinc oxide and/ or non nano titanium dioxide except the Green People Sun Lotion. Any questions on this, please let me know!

Please note that I make a small commission on purchases generated by some of the links in this blog post


  1. Marian Fleet says

    Have just checked my sunscreen after reading your post! I have Nivea sun sun cream and it has a sticker on that says “Free of octinoxate and oxybenzone. Compliant with Hawaii reef bill”. I think this means it is environmentally friendly (except for the bottle of course!) but the fact it has the sticker makes me think there is old stock out in the retail world which is NOT reef friendly! We should perhaps be aware and look for that good old sticker!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve just had a look on their website – so interesting and very good to know!! I think (and hope) that more big brands will try and jump on this because of the rising awareness around these ingredients and their impact on coral but very pleased to hear about Nivea!


  2. Pingback: Green Beauty with Green People | Sustainably Simple

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