Save Your Skin AND The Environment: Everything You Need To Know About Reef-Friendly Sunscreens

Save Your Skin AND The Environment: Everything You Need To Know About Reef-Friendly Sunscreens

A great way to beat the heat during summer is to chill by the beach sipping on a Long Island ice tea in your polka dot bikini. While that idea seems blissful by itself, your skin, unfortunately, can’t share the same vision. If you’re not wearing sunscreen, your skin will start to get damaged within 15 minutes of sun exposure. Remember ladies, from 10 am to 4 am, the sun’s rays are the strongest. Even if you’re applying sunscreen, it’s important to reapply it every 2 hours. If you don’t, you could experience a sunburn, acne or dark spots! While there are plenty of sunscreens available in the market, it’s difficult to find one that’s reef-friendly screen. We're here to help!

How Do Sunscreen Destroys Ocean's Reef
What Happens If The Ocean Reefs Die
Reef Safe Sunscreens

How Do Sunscreens Destroy The Ocean’s Reefs?


The sunscreens available today fall into two categories: Chemical and Physical. Tiny minerals found in physical sunscreens help to deflect the rays of the sun. While synthetic compounds found in chemical sunscreens absorb the harmful UV rays without giving it a chance to get absorbed into the skin. A small amount of sunscreen product is enough to cause the reefs to bleach at lower temperatures, stunts their growth and makes them vulnerable to viral infections. Sunscreen chemical ingredients like oxybenzone, homosalate, avobenzone, and octocrylene, is considered as toxic to fish, sea urchins, reefs and mammals. To preserve the ocean’s underwater life, places like Palau, Bonnaire, Hawaii and Mexico’s nature reserves have banned and limited the usage and distribution of certain sunscreens. When picking up a sunscreen, keep an eye out for ones that are mineral-based like zinc oxide or non-nanosized titanium oxide. It’s the least we can do for the environment.

What Happens If The Ocean Reefs Die?

In the last 30 years, we’ve lost almost 50% of our reefs all thanks to human interference, overfishing, and global warming. What’s troublesome is that if all the reefs die, our whole ecosystem and global economy could take a hit. Reef-watching is a tourist activity and if there are no reefs to spot, many hotels, airlines and tour guides can go out of business overnight. Food chains have been wiped out because of overfishing. Algae and parasites have caused corals to decompose. Also, the burning of fossil fuels has caused the land and ocean beds to heat up, indirectly destroying corals and life underwater.  

Reef Safe Sunscreens To Purchase

Here is a list of some of the best reef-friendly sunscreens you can surely try.

  • Coola SPF 30 Face Classic

  • Clinique SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen

  • Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Sunscreen

  • Thinksport SPF 50 Plus Sunscreen

  • Kama Natural Skin Protection

  • Alba Botanica Sunscreen Sport Mineral SPF 45

  • Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen

1. Coola SPF 30 Face Classic Sunscreen Cucumber Moisturizer

reef-safe-sunscreen-coola cucumber sunscreen

Looking for a reef safe sunscreen? This is the perfect choice for you. This organic sunscreen will not only moisturize your skin but also provide UVA/UVB protection to it. Packed with cucumber, clove, rose hips and bergamot extracts, your skin is going to be in for a treat. Plus, the packaging is too cute to not pick up. 

Pros: Has Titanium Dioxide – 3.2%, Zinc Oxide – 1.8%, sleek packaging

Cons: Slightly expensive as compared to other sunscreens.

Price: Rs 2,590. Buy it here.

2. Clinique SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Fluid For Face

reef-safe-sunscreen-clinique spf sunscreen

Once you start using this sunscreen, you will get hooked on it for life! This sunscreen is a 100% mineral, ultra-lightweight product and is perfect for sensitive skin types. Also, it’s fragranced and paraben free! 

Pros: Allergy tested, ultra-lightweight texture, mineral sunscreen, doesn’t break skin out. 

Cons: Slightly expensive and bulky packaging. 

Price: Rs 2,400. Buy it here.

3. Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50

reef-safe-sunscreen-sheer neutrogena

This sunscreen tube is gold! It's an SPF 50 product that contains minerals, zinc oxide, and antioxidants. Before applying your makeup, apply this sunscreen. It will protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays. The product is also free of dyes, parabens, phthalates, and chemicals.

Pros: Can be used on body and face, free from chemicals, safe for children, 99.3% natural.

Cons: Unavailable at local drugstores in India, you have to purchase it online or ask an NRI friend to buy it. 

Price: Rs 550. Buy it here

4. Thinksport SPF 50 Plus Sunscreen

reef-safe-sunscreen-Thinksport SPF 50 Plus Sunscreen

The sunscreen is non-toxic in nature and shows the highest levels of water resistance. It’s free from chemicals, no PABA and parabens. The best part is that the active ingredient is 20% zinc oxide 

Pros: Free from chemicals, contains 20% zinc oxide and contains no parabens. 

Cons: Expensive and can be only bought online or abroad. 

Price: Rs 1,227. Buy it here

5. Kama Natural Skin Protection

reef-safe-sunscreen-Kama Natural Skin Protection

Loaded with Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Dioxide, this sunscreen claims to reflect the sun rays back from the skin. It also contains natural glycerine, shea butter and olive oil that help to keep skin moisturized and nourished. If that's not convincing enough, you must know that it contains pure essential oils too like - ginger, nutmeg and lime.

Pros: perfect for everyday use, great for sensitive to oily skin, affordable, non-nanoformulation.

Cons: the white cast that forms immediately after applying the product to the skin.

Price: Rs 1,350. Buy it here

6. Alba Botanica Sunscreen Sport Mineral SPF 45

reef-friendly-sunscreen-Alba Botanica Sunscreen Sport Mineral SPF 45

Made from 100% vegetarian ingredients, this sunscreen is worth every penny. It’s biodegradable, reef-safe and water resistant. If you’re living close to the sea or visit the beach often, consider bringing home this sunscreen. The corals will thank you. 

Pros: Biodegradable, reef-safe, water resistant and made from vegetarian ingredients. 

Cons: only available online. 

Price: Rs 1,249. Buy it here

7. Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen

reef-friendly-sunscreen-Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen

This sunscreen was designed especially to protect the reefs. It’s mineral-based and almost every dermatologist recommends it. It serves up to 80 minutes of water resistance and you’ll have to reapply it again once times up. 

Pros: Mineral-based, reef-friendly, water-resistant

Cons: Sunscreen pours out of the bottle quickly so be careful.

Price: Rs 1,111. Buy it here

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can body sunscreens be used on the face?

Not recommended. The texture of facial sunscreens is lighter and get easily absorbed into your skin. Using a thicker textured sunscreen can clog your pores and cause breakouts.

2. Can A Sunscreen Replace A Moisturiser?

It depends. Moisturizers today already have SPF in them. If they don’t then you could apply a little bit of moisturizer on your face, wait for the product to get absorbed into your skin and then, layer it with sunscreen.

3. What Do These SPF Numbers Mean?

Knowledge is power here. If you’re new to sunscreens, you must have noticed that they have a number next to the word SPF. It basically means that if your sunscreen is SPF 15, it will protect your skin against the 93 % of UVB rays. SPF 30 protects your skin against 95% of UVB rays and SPF 50 provides 98% of skin protection. Depending on your environment, pick an SPF. If you’re spending the day by the beach, you might need an SPF 50 with you. If it’s a confined space like your office, nothing but SPF 30 should be on your mind.

4. How Often To Reapply Sunscreen?

Every two hours, you should be reapplying sunscreen. 30 minutes before you step out of your home, apply sunscreen. That way, it absorbs into your skin better and is more effective.

5. Does Sunscreen Destroy Coral Reefs?

Yes, they do. While sunscreens help protect you outdoors, wearing them when you’re swimming causes some of the sunscreen product to come off and dissolve into the water. This causes the coral reefs to bleach and later results in death.

6. What Sunscreens Are Not Allowed In Hawaii?


Any sunscreen that contains octinoxate and oxybenzone would be prohibited in Hawaii. If you have a special prescription for your sunscreen then your case could be considered. However, the chances are still very slim.

7. Which Sunscreen Ingredients Are Harmful?

Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, PBA, Octisalate, Avobenzone, and Homosalate.

8. What Does Environmental-Friendly Sunscreen Actually Mean?

Any sunscreen that has biodegradable on the packaging is considered to be environmentally-friendly. The product breaks down naturally when exposed to the environment labeling it as eco-friendly.   

9. Which Sunscreen Is Safe For The Ocean?

To be honest, none. No sunscreen product is 100% safe. However, those products that do not contain oxybenzone and octinoxate are far better than the ones that do and have other harmful ingredients in them.

10. Besides Wearing Sunscreen How Else Can I Protect My Skin?

In the sun, the more you cover up, the better. Put on a hat, wear long-sleeved outfits, wear sunglasses and slip into a closed pair of shoes. You can also plan your day according to the sun. Step out before 10 am or after 6 pm. The time in between these hours is when the sun rays are the strongest and harshest. 

Image: Shutterstock

POPxo is now available in six languages: English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathiand Bangla.

AWESOME NEWS! POPxo SHOP is now Open! Get 25% off on all the super fun mugs, phone covers, cushions, laptop sleeves, and more! Use coupon code POPXOFIRST. Online shopping for women never looked better!