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9 Reef-Safe Sunscreens for Eco-Friendly Sun Protection

Avoid causing unnecessary damage to sea life this summer by choosing an SPF that is both gentle on your skin and the ocean. Here's our rundown of the best reef safe sunscreens.

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9 Reef Safe Sunscreens For Eco Friendly Sun ProtectionRD.COM, VIA MERCHANT (3)

When it comes to marine safety, NOAA estimates that almost a thousand tons of sunscreen wash into the ocean every year. Even if you’re miles from the sea, your sunscreen will most likely end up there through the waterways. That’s why having the best reef safe sunscreens on hand is crucial for your next beach vacation.

Julie Andersen from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors explains that “the most important source of ocean-harming petrochemicals isn’t from beachgoers and scuba divers, but rather from the wastewater created when you wash those chemicals off in a shower or flush them down the drain.”

The chemicals in sunscreens disrupt marine life and lead to long-term damage to the reefs. They can also negatively impact our own skin. Not wearing sunscreen isn’t an option as we still need to protect ourselves from UV rays. But we can switch to a reef-friendly SPF to benefit both the planet and ourselves. Keep reading to find out the best reef-safe sunscreens for eco-friendly sun protection.

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Vacation Classic Lotion Spf 50
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Vacation Classic Lotion SPF 30

The world’s best-smelling sunscreen, Vacation holds on to its signature summer scent while updating its high-performance protective formula to comply with the Hawaii Reef Act 104. Not only is Classic Lotion one of the best reef safe sunscreens but it’s also packaged using recycled materials. The lightweight lotion has an invisible finish that’s gentle on your skin.

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Hello Bello Mineral Spf 50 Spray
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Hello Bello Mineral Sunscreen Spray SPF 50

Keeping kids protected from the sun as they dash in and out of the waves can be stress-inducing for any parent. That’s why we love the efficiency and ease of this Hello Bello spray. Carefully formulated to be both gentle on the environment and sensitive skin, the continuous spray dispenser takes the work out of reapplying. It’s one of the best reef safe sunscreens for any family beach day.

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Sun Bum Sunscreen Lotion Spf 50
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Sun Bum Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

Free from oxybenzone, octinoxate and parabens, Sun Bum is the go-to sunscreen for beach lovers everywhere. If you find that the combination of sweat-inducing heat and sun protection leaves you with skin breakouts, this Sun Bum lotion is oil-free and non-comedogenic meaning it won’t clog your pores or disrupt your natural oil balance. Add in a light summer scent and it is easy to see why almost 30,000 shoppers on Amazon continue to trust the brand.

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Kokua Sun Care Sunscreen Spf 50
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Kokua Sun Care Sunscreen SPF 50

Whether you surf, kayak or paddle board, breaking a sweat while in the water means you may need a little extra protection. This sheer Kokua sunscreen doesn’t contain chemicals that are harmful to reefs and marine life. It’ll help keep you protected while you enjoy a fun-filled day at the beach.

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Banana Boat Sport Ultra Sunscreen Lotion Spf 50
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Banana Boat Sport Ultra Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

Founded by a Miami lifeguard, Banana Boat has provided sun protection to beach lovers for almost 50 years. Its sunscreens are now reef friendly for more fun in the sun without worrying about sunburns. The sweat-resistant formula won’t run into your eyes and has superior endurance against water. At an affordable price, this Sport Ultra sunscreen has a breathable lightweight texture that won’t leave you looking greasy.

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Reef Repair Sunscreen Spf 50
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Reef Repair Sunscreen SPF 50

When scuba diving, swimming, snorkeling or visiting coral reefs, environmentally friendly sunscreen is now required in Hawaii, Mexico, Maldives, Belize, Florida and the Great Barrier Reef. This biodegradable sunscreen ensures no damage to ocean life, while also providing optimum sun protection to wearers. An added bonus is that it contains moisturizing properties like red raspberry seed and coconut oil to hydrate skin.

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Badger Mineral Kids Sunscreen Cream Spf 40
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Badger Kids Mineral Sunscreen Cream SPF 40

While this Badger mineral sunscreen is specially designed for children, it’s also hypoallergenic and works well for anyone with sensitive skin. Made in a factory powered by solar energy, the waterless formula contains vitamin E to nourish skin. Reef-friendly and cruelty-free, the formula has organic tangerine and vanilla for a fresh and fruity scent. Don’t forget about these hand creams with SPF!

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Blue Lizard Mineral Sunscreen Spf 5o
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Blue Lizard Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

This sunscreen from Australian brand Blue Lizard ticks all the boxes for those looking for reef-friendly, high protection that won’t cause irritation. The fragrance-free formula doesn’t sting your eyes or cause contact lenses to itch. The lotion also absorbs quickly and leaves no white cast, making it an all-round winner from the Aussies. Here are some sunscreens for dark skin that also won’t leave a white cast.

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Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Stick Spf 50 Ecomm Via Amazon.com
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Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 50

The Cetaphil sunscreen stick makes for a no-mess application with a sheer finish. Keep it sand-free this summer with an easy-glide formula that’s also dermatologist recommended. The compact-sized and nondrip sunscreen stick means it also works great for those delicate areas like ear lobes, lips and eyes.

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About the expert

  • Julie Andersen: Julie Andersen is the Global Director of Brand and PR at Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). She has over 25 years of experience working to build ocean-saving initiatives and has founded four marine conservation nonprofits to fuel positive change for the future of oceans, sharks and society.

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Clare Holden
Forever curious and endlessly creative, ever since graduating from my BA (Hons) in Journalism and Communications 15 years ago I have worked as a freelance writer - covering beauty, skincare, health, events, nutricosmetics, wellness, yoga, interiors, luxury fashion and jewellery as well as tech advancements and apps within these sectors. I write engaging content for the reader while organically integrating keywords for SEO and product recommendations. I also trained and worked as a makeup artist in London and have a background in fashion.