10 Cruelty-Free, Vegan, and Reef-Friendly Sun Protection Brands

Stay safe in the sun without hurting any animals — or coral!

Every year it is estimated that somewhere between 6,000–14,000 tons of sunscreen washes off our skin when we are in the sea. Studies have shown that common chemicals that are found in many sunscreen lotions are highly toxic to marine life, especially coral. Sunscreen pollutants are reaching coastal environments through wastewater discharge, killing off entire marine ecosystems in the process.

These pollutants are toxic that the President of Palau, a Unesco World Heritage Site, signed a law that went into effect this year which prohibits the sale and use of sunscreens containing ten critical ingredients known to cause damage to marine life.

Navigating the world of cruelty-free and vegan cosmetics can be tricky enough without the added responsibility of figuring out if the product is reef-friendly too.

Don’t panic — I’ve got you covered!

There are alternatives to reef-toxic sunscreens, but there is a caveat: A label reading “reef-safe” or “biodegradable” doesn’t guarantee that they are. At this stage, labelling for these categories is unregulated, meaning anyone can slap that terminology onto their product based on any invented guideline. To the ingredients lists, we must go!

So let me start by sharing the specific list of nasty toxins that Palau has outlawed:

  • Oxybenzone (BP3)
  • Octyl Methoxycinnamate (EHMC) also known as Octinoxate
  • Octocrylene (OC)
  • 4-methylbenzylidine camphor (4MBC)
  • Triclosan
  • Methyl Paraben
  • Ethyl Paraben
  • Butyl Paraben
  • Benzyl Paraben
  • Phenoxythanol

10 Cruelty-Free, Vegan, Reef-Friendly Sunscreens

To make it as easy as possible for you to succeed in getting your hands on the planet friendly sun protection of your dreams — here are ten brands that are all cruelty-free, with vegan and reef-friendly options! ☀️ 🌞 ☀️

1. Sol de Janeiro

The “Bum Bum Sol Oil SPF 30” is all I use on my body for my day-to-day protection. It smells incredible and has a gorgeous, subtle shimmer.

Their commitment to the planet also extends to their packaging: “We consciously select manufacturing partners who efficiently utilize resources through renewable energy, recycling, hazmat waste programs, and water filtration. As part of our dedicated commitment to sustainable packaging, we encourage all our suppliers to increase responsible fiber sourcing, giving preference to third party certified fiber for our paper and paperboard packaging. Our plastic and paper packaging is currently reusable and recyclable in many communities in North America.”

2. Supergoop

Not to be confused with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop!
This is my go-to for my daily face protection. I currently live in HCMC (Saigon) Vietnam, where my poor skin is battered by the heat and pollution every day — their “every single day” factor 40 is a game-changer that has saved my sensitive skin. All their products are cruelty-free, and all but two (the 100% mineral sunscreen stick and the sunnyscreen mineral stick, which contain beeswax) are vegan.

3. Sunbum

They have an extensive range of everything you need to be out in the sun. All of the sunscreen products stocked in the US are oxybenzone-free and their plans to reformulate the items that still contain octinoxate should be complete by the end of 2020. Use the “Vegan” and “Reef Friendly” filters to narrow down your search.

4. Drunk Elephant

Although Drunk Elephant is not specifically a suncare brand, they get an honourable mention for the power of their “daily defense,” which is a great facial sunscreen. It’s free from nasty irritants, is unperfumed, sheer and an excellent base for makeup. A little goes a long way, too; I am still working my way through my tube.

5. Josie Maran

Not all Josie Maran products are vegan, some of the suncare contains beeswax, so check the ingredients, which are always clearly labeled. They have also partnered with Terracycle to upcycle their packaging into new, useful products.

6. Coola

This brand has a variety of vegan-friendly products including basic, organic, mineral; they even make self-tan, bronzers, and my shoutout: “Full spectrum 360° refreshing water mist organic face sunscreen SPF 18.”Just use the search function to highlight the vegan goodies, or click on the link I have provided below.

7. Alba Botanica

A brand that is easy to find in most supermarkets and drug stores, and also great value. Although most of their products are vegan, be sure to check the ingredients, because some contain things like beeswax.

8. All Good

All Good are B-Corp certified and also members of 1% for the planet. Their sunscreens are all mineral-based and use non-nano zinc oxide as the active ingredient; this is a topical mineral that sits on top of your skin and won’t absorb into your body. Their products also contain antioxidants like green tea leaves and rosehip oil which are super nourishing and restorative.

When asked about animal testing, this is what they said 😍:

No way, Jose — we test on actual humans! We’re all about cruelty-free cosmetics and partner with membership affiliates like PETA and Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (Leaping Bunny) to encourage consumers and companies to say no to animal testing. It’s the 21st century, people — let’s just test on humans or robots. Paging the Terminator.

9. MyChelle

MyChelle have been making reef-safe sun care before most of us even knew suncare was damaging reefs! They are a vegetarian company, and some items do contain beeswax. The “Replenishing Solar Defense Body Lotion SPF 50” is fantastic and smells delicious!

10. Babo Botanicals

Babo is a B-Corp certified botanical brand that prides themselves on natural hypoallergenic ingredients. All of their products come with an expiration date as they are not full of nasty preservatives. Their suncare is especially good for sensitive skin, but be sure to check the ingredients list as some products do contain beeswax.

Future predictor, Art director, Vagabond living in Sài Gòn

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