Reef safe sunscreen: The best SPFs for face that are kind to the environment

Posted by for Beauty

Coral reefs are being bleached – and killed – as a result of our SPF usage. But there is a way to protect yourself and the future of our oceans.

Ask any dermatologist and they’ll tell you that wearing SPF every single day is one of the most important things you can do to protect your skin against UV rays (which can cause cancer and account for 90% of skin ageing). But what happens when the very thing that’s defending you is also harming the environment?

Scientists estimate that up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen washes off us and into the oceans every year. Two chemicals in particular – oxybenzone, which absorbs UV rays and is found in 3,500 brands of sunscreen, and octinoxate, which soaks up UVB rays – have been found to seriously harm coral. In 2018, Hawaii became the first US state to pass a bill banning the sale of products containing the chemicals.

“[Chemicals] can disrupt coral endocrine systems, causing baby coral to encase themselves in their own skeletons and die,” says Emma Whittle, senior biologist at the National Marine Aquarium. “They can also cause damage to coral DNA, making them unable to reproduce. This can trigger a widespread decline in coral populations, as well as making them more susceptible to bleaching and putting marine life that depends on the habitats at risk.”

In response, mineral-based, reef-safe SPF is now at the forefront of the beauty industry, so you can care for your skin without harming our ecosystem.

Keep scrolling to discover the formulas you’ll want to stock up on.

The best environmentally-friendly SPF sunscreen

  • Best reef-safe SPF for sensitive skin


    A scent-free SPF contains 84% certified organic agricultural ingredients and is free from silicones, emulsifiers and artificial fragrance, making it perfect for people who suffer from sensitive skin. It’s also non-comedogenic so won’t clog pores, which also means prickly heat is less likely to occur. 

    Green People Scent Free Sun Lotion SPF 30, £24

  • Best reef-safe SPF for extra hydration


    Especially good for those who suffer from heat rash, this gentle sunscreen is hypoallergenic, sinks into skin quickly and sits well under make-up. Its photostable formula protects for hours and is packed with Uriage thermal water to soothe and hydrate skin.

    Uriage Bariésun Fragrance-Free Cream SPF50+, £11.90

  • Best reef-safe spf with antioxidants

    Super lightweight and enriched with a blend of both antioxidants and physical sun filters, this SPF protects skin against UV rays and environmental damage like pollution and free radicals. It’s completely non-greasy, too, and leaves an almost-matte finish. 

    Coola Mineral Cucumber Face SPF 30, £36

  • Best reef-safe SPF for a matte finish


    This is the world’s first scientifically proven and patented coral-safe SPF, where every ingredient has been tested to make sure it’s safe for both fish and coral. The lightweight lotion absorbs easily and leaves skin looking matte.

    Aethic Sôvée Triple Filter Eco-Compatible Sunscreen SPF40, £53

  • Best reef-safe SPF for acne-prone skin


    This non-sticky, silicone-free cream absorbs quickly and easily into skin without leaving a white cast. It won’t clog your pores, and the formula is so biodegradable that 98% of it will have vanished from the environment in the first 28 days after use.

    Caudalie Anti-Wrinkle Face Suncare SPF50, £18

  • Best reef-safe SPF for an extra glow


    As well as being a hydrating, broad spectrum formula, this SPF contains clever light-activated technology that helps boost skin’s luminosity for a natural glow. It’s also packed with antioxidants to protect against pollution and free-radical damage.

    Dermalogica Prisma Protect SPF30, £58

  • Best reef-safe SPF for vegans


    A mattifying vegan formula that’s made with 99% natural ingredients, such as rice starch and passion fruit extract. It protects from both UVA and UVB rays and also helps shield skin from blue light emitted by laptops, tablets and phones.

    Ren Clean Screen Mineral SPF30, £32

  • Best reef-safe SPF for even skin tone


    Made with a unique EcoSun complex, this SPF promises to fight skin damage caused by free-radicals, as well as helping reduce fine lines and wrinkles and even out skintone. Even better, the brand is also carbon-neutral.

    Soleil Toujours Extrème UV Mineral Sunscreen SPF45, £45

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Main image: Pixeleyes

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Lucy Partington

Freelance beauty editor Lucy Partington is obsessed with all things skincare, collecting eyeshadow palettes that she'll probably never use, and is constantly on the hunt for the ultimate glowy foundation.

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