Image Credit: Utu Skincare
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I don’t have many non-negotiables in life, but wearing sunscreen everyday is one of them. My parents have been stressing the importance of SPF ever since I was a young, pale girl. So rain or shine, this routine endures.
It wasn’t until recently that I started to do my own due diligence on skincare products and realized there’s a lot more to sunscreen than just the SPF number. There are two different types of sunscreen: physical and chemical. Chemical sunscreens use chemical UV filters to absorb the sun’s rays and protect your skin. Chemical sunscreens blend into your skin effortlessly, but there’s research that suggests the ingredients that make that possible may be harmful to our health. If that isn’t enough to make you choose a physical sunscreen instead, chemical sunscreens can also be very harmful to our ocean’s delicate ecosystem, particularly coral reefs. This brings us to our preferred type: physical sunscreens. Often referred to as mineral sunscreens, they create a physical barrier on your skin to block UV rays.
As ocean lovers and aquatic adventurers, it’s only right that we do our part to keep our waters safe, healthy, and clean. Choosing mineral sunscreens free of chemicals that can harm marine life is an easy way to protect our skin and our oceans simultaneously.
Before your next surf, swim, scuba, snorkel, or sail, lather on one of these reef-safe sunscreen picks we love.
Our Favorite 10 Reef-Safe Mineral Sunscreens:
- Utu Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Stiq, $38
- Utu Broad Spectrum SPF 30 , $44
- Vacation Mineral Lotion SPF 30, $20
- Kinfield Cloud Cover SPF 35, $34
- Kinfield Daily Dew SPF 35, $26
- Zoca Lotion SPF 36, $24
- Humanrace Ozone Body Protection Cream SPF 30, $52
- Humanrace Ozone Face Protection Daily Moisturizer SPF 30, $58
- Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30, $34
- Zinka Colored Facesticks SPF 50+, $10
For the early adopters out there who love clean beauty brands, Utu is for you. They recently launched with a commitment to make clean skincare without any of the gross stuff: no chemical UV filters, parabens, PEGS, phthalates, silicone, petrolatum, synthetic fragrance, sulfates, phosphates, synthetic fragrance or formaldehyde. This Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen Stick is lightly tinted, so your skin won’t be covered in the infamous white film that typically comes with a mineral sunscreen.
Not feeling the stiq? Opt for the tube instead! This formula has hyaluronic acid, squalane and sea buckthorn “for advanced hydration” and astaxanthin and aloe “to soothe and brighten all skin.” Oh and just like the rest of Utu’s products, this ‘screen is reef-safe, biobased, and plastic-free. What’s not to love?
Vacation’s irreverent branding and packaging are enough to get me excited about putting on sunscreen before any beach day. The non-nano zinc formula is enriched with niacinamide and shea butter for a smooth feel that rubs in easily and doesn’t leave behind much of a white cast. But that doesn’t mean the formula is skimping on protection— it’s formulated with a high dose of zinc to keep your skin not just soft, but safe. This ’screen is dermatologist-tested and safe for use on your face and body. It’s water-resistant for 80 minutes, so make sure to reapply a few times throughout the day. We also love that the packaging is made from recycled materials; certainly not a must, but definitely a nice to have.
Kinfield is all about providing people with the products they need to enjoy the outdoors, whether that looks like a picnic in the park or a week-long backpacking trip. From a commitment to sustainability to clean and cruelty-free product formulations, the brand ethos is evident and we’re totally on board. Cloud Cover is a 100% mineral block made with protective non-nano zinc oxide, soothing aloe, and moisturizing sea kelp. It won’t melt off on even the hottest of summer days, so it’s perfect for land and water sports alike, but it works just as perfectly for a relaxing day by the shore too.
While Kinfield’s body sunscreen could pull double duty and work for your face in a pinch, your skin may prefer Daily Dew. Imagine your daily moisturizer and sunscreen had a baby—that’s Daily Dew. The zinc sunscreen is loaded with other nourishing ingredients like rice bran extract, sunflower extract, aloe vera, sea kelp, and glycerin, to keep your skin looking and feeling fresh. Sensitive and acne-prone skin will appreciate the gentle formula. Plus, it’s water- and sweat-resistant so it’s ready to take on whatever your day brings.
Zoca Lotion SPF 36, $24
Plant-based sunscreens with cold-pressed ingredients—can you say that five times fast? Well, that is what Zoca Lation is all about: creating ethically-sourced, environmentally-responsible, plant-based suncare. The brand has a very small product offering, with just four sunscreens and salves on their roster, but each one packs a punch. An aluminum squeeze tube makes for a more sustainable alternative to plastic. Since plastic waste in the ocean is such a huge problem, we think it’s super cool that Zoca made a point not to use that material. The formula does leave behind more of a white cast than many of the other options on this list, but we support showing your SPF stripes.
White cast is a reason many people are deterred from mineral sunscreen. It can be hard to find physical sunscreens that fully blend in, especially for people of color. Humanrace’s water-resistant, non-nano zinc oxide formula was created for all skin types. It even comes with a white-cast free promise. Hydrating ingredients like jojoba oil, aloe, and squalene do the work of your favorite body cream, while the zinc gives your skin the sun protection it needs. Because suncare’s for everyone.
The skin on your face is thinner and more gentle than the skin on your body, so it’s always a good idea to use face-specific products from the neck up. This everyday moisturizer boosts skin elasticity and boasts SPF 30 to boot. It’s a wonderful final step in your skincare routine, offeringa layer of protection and a healthy, shiny finish. This sunscreen is not water-resistant though, so we don’t suggest it for any heavy sweat or water activities.
Drunk Elephant’s Daily Defense has had a permanent spot in my skincare routine for the past few years. It melts into skin and leaves barely any white cast (on my fair skin), instead leaving me with a dewy, glowy finish. This is all thanks to a formulaloaded with antioxidants to plump and hydrate skin, as well as zinc for that necessary sun protection. I love how this product makes my skin look and feel; since Drunk Elephant started out as a (super popular) affordable skincare company, it’s no wonder they gave extra thought to possible benefits beyond SPF. Pro tip: add some of the brand’s bronzing drops into the lotion for a sunkissed glow.
When I was a lifeguard, a swipe of colorful zinc on your nose was like a badge of honor. While not blending in is usually a bad sign for mineral sunscreen, it’s exactly the point with Zinka. The brightly colored block is meant to stand out—and it makes sunscreen application a lot more fun. The sticks make application easy and mess-free. Don’t let the fun colors fool you, this product does an awesome job of protecting your skin too. It’s even water- and sweat-resistant.