The term “reef-safe” isn’t regulated, so it’s important to be educated about the properties that make a sunscreen product a safer choice for biologically-diverse marine environments. (Like in shallow waters when you’re snorkeling, for example.) The first key concept to understand is that the compounds in sunscreen that protect your skin from burning break into two broad categories:
Physical sunscreens protect your skin with minerals like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide
Chemical sunscreens protect your skin with chemical UV filters like oxybenzone and octinoxate
Some sunscreen brands use one or the other, while other brands use a combination of both. Much is still unknown about the science behind what makes a reef-safe sunscreen truly safe for marine life, but most experts agree you should avoid oxybenzone, octinoxate, and non-nano zinc oxide.
When you combine reef-safe sunscreen factors with the other items on your wish list (minimal whitecast, easy to apply, high SPF) it might seem unlikely that you’ll ever end up with the sunscreen of your dreams. But we can confirm that unicorns do exist.
Click here shopping now, or keep reading learn about some of our favorite small businesses and brands. Don’t have a goodbuy account? It takes less than a minute to set up, is free to use, and will help you find the sunscreen that protects your face and honors your values.
Product: Self-Reflect, $26
Kinship makes clean, cruelty-free products that actually work for all people. They have a special focus on sustainability and clean beauty products, pioneering earth-friendly, ethical packaging and excluding over 1,300 questionable ingredients. Their bestselling Self-Reflect sunscreen is a sheer, benzene-free, mineral, reef-safe sunscreen for blemish-prone skin that provides SPF 32 coverage.
Sustainable, women-owned, cruelty-free
Product: Liquid Reef-Safe Sunscreen, $28
Ao Organics is owned by Chelsa Davis, an indigenous Hawaiian woman who formulates products that are safe for the ocean and safe for her own family. She created her Liquid Reef-Safe Sunscreen product to provide SPF 30 protection, go ****on silky smooth, be safe for sensitive skin, and features Hawaiian Beeswax, which gives your skin water-resistant protection.
Black-owned, women-owned, cruelty-free
Product: Black Girl Sunscreen, $19
BLK + GRN is a marketplace with a mission to normalize access to non-toxic products targeted at Black women, and to fund Black women entrepreneurs. All of the products that BLK + GRN carries adhere to their Toxic Twenty gidelines and they’re non-toxic, natural, and cruelty-free. One of their most popular products is Black Girl Sunscreen. It’s a weightless, melanin-protecting SPF 30 reef-safe sunscreen that won’t leave skin with a sticky residue or whitecast.
Small Business, AAPI-owned, sustainable, women-owned, ethical
Product: Grown Alchemist Natural Hydrating Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30, $39
Every product that Credo carries meets their Credo Clean Standard, which excludes over 2,700 ingredients and focuses on sustainable, ethical, and transparent products. If it’s a reef-safe sunscreen you’re after, the Grown Alchemist Natural Hydrating Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30 is an invisible, lightweight and ultra-sheer product that’s great for blemish-prone skin.
Product: Natural Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, $28
Salt & Stone has a singular focus on sustainability. They believe recyclable packaging is just table stakes—they go above and beyond, incorporating up-cycled ocean plastics and other recycled, biodegradable materials in their containers. They also have a minimal approach to branding, and the products look great on your bathroom shelf. Their Natural Mineral Sunscreen Lotion is sweat and water-resistant, sinks into your skin with no residue, and offers SPF 50 protection.
Small Business, cruelty-free, AAPI-owned
Product: Mineral Sunscreen, $29
Koa’s approach to skincare connects to Hawaiian philosophies of caretaking that extend back centuries, sharing these rich pre-modern healing traditions with the world. That’s the energy they put into developing their Mineral Sunscreen, a reef-safe sunscreen that provides anti-aging benefits and is available in tinted or invisible varieties.
Small Business, women-owned
Product: Summer Blend Broad Spectrum SPF, $23.99
California Baby is the classic safe sunscreen brand. Since 1995, they’ve been committed to creating the safest plant-based products, and their mineral sunscreen is multi-award-winning, formulated for sensitive skin and eczema, and proudly reef safe. All of the California Baby sunscreen products are fantastic, but we especially like their Summer Blend Broad Spectrum SPF.
Small Business, cruelty-free
Product: Nourishing Mineral Sunscreen, $40
A|N formulated their Nourishing Mineral Sunscreen as a daily, year-round sunscreen product. It’s a mineral formula that’s easy to apply, not sticky, fragrance-free, and hydrating. The unique spray application makes it easy to use and reapply throughout the day.