The Best Reef-Safe & Reef-Friendly Sunscreens to Protect Your Skin & the Environment

Enjoy the sun and the water this Earth Day with these sunscreens that are good for you (and the ocean).

By Megan Gray Apr 22, 2024 10:18 AMTags
shop_reef safe sunblock_heroPhoto Courtesy of Getty Images

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If you're planning a trip to a place with water and sun, of course you want to pack sunblock to protect your skin. But, some sunscreens contain chemicals that can be harmful to the delicate ecosystem of the ocean. So, if you want to protect your skin, and the environment, it's important to look for products that contain certain ingredients. That's why we've rounded up a list of the best reef-safe and reef-friendly sunscreens that you can feel confident wearing on your next vacation. Let's break down what you should look for and get shopping

What does "Reef-safe" or "Reef-friendly" Sunscreen Mean?

Sunscreens that are called "reef-safe" or "reef-friendly" typically do not contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, two common UV-blocking chemicals which have been shown to cause damage to coral reefs, and the state of Hawaii has even banned the sale of sunscreens containing these ingredients. 

However, these terms are not regulated or managed by any organizations, so you can't always trust products that say they're "safe." Reports have shown that additional chemicals, like octocrylene, homosalate, avobenzone and oxybenzone, may also contain damaging effects, so read your labels. None of the picks below contain any of these ingredients.

What Else to Consider When Choosing a Sunscreen

Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States, according to the American Association of Dermatology, so it's important to reduce your risks and look for sunscreen with an SPF 15 (at least). Additionally, consider the water-resistance of your sunblock. A sunscreen  that stays on your skin longer is less likely to wash off when you're swimming.

So, keep on scrolling for the best reef-safe and reef-friendly sunscreens that will have a positive impact this Earth Day and beyond. Protect your skin (and the ocean, too), and enjoy your time in the water.

The Overall Best Reef-Friendly & Reef-Safe Sunscreen

Badger Reef Safe Sunscreen

According to the brand, Badger's reef-safe sunscreen is made with just 4 ingredients: zinc oxide, sunflower oil, beeswax, and vitamin E. It's easy to apply, will moisturize your skin while it's protecting it from harmful UVA and UVB rays, and it doesn't contain any synthetic ingredients.

  • Size: 2.9 ounces
  • SPF Level: SPF 40
  • Water Resistance: 80 minutes

The Best Budget-Friendly Reef-Safe & Reef-Friendly Sunscreen

BLUE LIZARD Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen

A whole 5-ounce tube of Blue Lizard mineral sunscreen costs just $14, making it the best budget-friendly pick on our list. It's also free of active chemical ingredients, protects your skin from UVA and UVB rays, and it's fragrance-free.

  • Size: 5 ounces
  • SPF Level: SPF 50
  • Water Resistance: 80 minutes

The Best Reef-Safe & Reef-Friendly Sunscreen for Kids & Babies

Thinkbaby SPF 30 Sunscreen Stick

It's not easy applying sunscreen to kids and babies, which is why I love using this Thinkbaby sunscreen stick. Not only does it make application less challenging, it also offers UVA and UVB protection without harmful chemicals and ingredients, and glides on easily.

  • Size: 0.64 ounces
  • SPF Level: SPF 30
  • Water Resistance: 80 minutes

The Best Reef-Safe & Reef-Friendly Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin

California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen Lotion

Designed for sensitive skin and those with allergies, California Baby sunscreen is free of irritating chemicals and fragrances. It'll protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays and reviewers report that it goes on thick, but it's effective in preventing sunburns.

  • Size: 1.8 ounces
  • SPF Level: SPF 30
  • Water Resistance: 80 minutes

The Best Non-Greasy Reef-Safe & Reef-Friendly Sunscreen

Babo Botanicals Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Lotion

Formulated with 24 plant-based ingredients, including soothing and moisturizing shea butter, Babo Botanical's sunscreen is non-greasy for your face and body. One reviewer broke it down: "applies easily, doesn't irritate my skin, isn't greasy, doesn't transfer to clothes, and doesn't have a noticeable cast. This sunscreen checks all those boxes."

  • Size: 3 ounces
  • SPF Level: SPF 50
  • Water Resistance: 80 minutes
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The Best Moisturizing Reef-Safe & Reef-Friendly Sunscreen

Raw Elements Face and Body All-Natural Mineral Sunscreen

Containing hemp seed oil, beeswax, sunflower oil, and more, Raw Elements is a solid pick if you want your sunscreen to give you a little moisture. It even comes packaged in a bio-resin tube that's made from sugarcane waste, so it cuts down on plastic use.

  • Size: 3 ounces
  • SPF Level: SPF 30
  • Water Resistance: 80 minutes

The Best Smelling Reef-Safe & Reef-Friendly Sunscreen

Suntegrity Mineral Sunscreen For Body

Not only does Suntegrity apply easily to your skin and keep it moisturized, it also smells like fresh oranges. Plus, it's free of UV blocking chemicals and packed with certified organic ingredients like aloe vera, jojoba oil, sunflower seed oil, green tea extract, and more. 

  • Size: 3 ounces
  • SPF Level: SPF 30
  • Water Resistance: Recommended to reapply every 2 hours

The Best Hawaiian-Made Reef-Safe & Reef-Friendly Sunscreen

Maui Surfer Honey All Natural Sunscreen Lotion

Initiatives for reef-safe and reef-friendly sunscreens originated in Hawaii, so having a sunscreen that's made there and formulated with Maui grown essential oils, is a plus. Maui Surfer protects your skin from UVA and UVB rays, smells like fragrant rosemary and lemongrass, and includes natural oils that moisturize your skin at the same time.

  • Size: 3 ounces
  • SPF Level: SPF 30
  • Water Resistance: 80 minutes

The Best Lightweight Reef-Safe & Reef-Friendly Sunscreen

Coral Safe Reef Safe Sunscreen Travel Lotion

According to Coral Safe, its sunscreen is approved by Hawaii and Mexico for eco-friendly sun protection. The lightweight formula is free of harsh chemicals, packed with organic ingredients, and reviewers report that it leaves your skin feeling silky smooth and moisturized.

  • Size: 3 ounces
  • SPF Level: SPF 50
  • Water Resistance: 80 minutes

The Best Reef-Safe & Reef-Friendly Sunscreen That Comes in a Travel-Friendly 2-Pack

Reef Repair Reef Safe Sunscreen, 2-pack

If you're planning a trip, you'll want to pack these travel-friendly sunscreens. They won't leave a white cast, will protect your skin from UV rays, and having a 2-pack means you'll always have an extra on hand.

  • Size: 1.7 ounces
  • SPF Level: SPF 30
  • Water Resistance: 40 minutes

Looking for sunscreen that you can wear over your makeup? Check out these picks.