The Best Reef-Safe Sunscreens For Divers And Mermaids

When it comes to reef-safe sunscreen, packaging can be confusing. Many brands advertise as reef-safe while containing ingredients that are anything but! The absolute best way to make sure your sunscreen is safe for the reef and your body is to check the ingredients.

The ideal reef-safe sunscreen has non-nano zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as the only active ingredients.

As consumers become more aware of the impacts sunscreen has on coral reefs, legislation has been passed in some locations to ban certain ingredients, but it's important to remember that not ALL ingredients are banned in these "reef-safe" locations. Hawaii passed a law banning oxybenzone and octinoxate but there are six others that still pose harm to both reef health and our personal health that remain legal. This means sunscreen brands can advertise themselves as "reef-safe" with any of those other ingredients. Again, check the ingredients.

Sunscreen ingredients to avoid:
1. Oxybenzone
2. Octinoxate
3. Octocrylene
4. PABA (Aminobenzoic Acid)
5. Enzacamene
6. Octisalate
7. Homosalate
8. Avobenzone

Here are some of my favorite products for both dive days and every day!

BEST FOR: Lathering on both face and body for long days on or in the water where you definitely won't be wearing makeup. Their products will keep you from getting burned! 

PROS: 23% Non-Nano Zinc Oxide is the only active ingredient. Has a skincare element as well, with the inactive ingredients green tea, black tea, coffee bean (caffeine is great for your skin), and Vitamin E (also great for your skin!).

Leaping Bunny certified cruelty-free, certified organic, non-GMO and biodegradable in a reusable plastic-free tin. 

Soy, gluten, and nut-free for those of you with allergies.

CONS: It is really thick and you're probably going to have to use a decent amount of coconut oil to get it off all the way. I recommend putting on a makeup primer underneath it. It'll act as a barrier to avoid it getting in your pores. For those that are vegan, this product contains beeswax, but some of their other products do not.





BEST FOR: Long days on and in the water where you won't be wearing makeup but still want an even skintone.

PROS: This is probably the product I use the most. It's a bit more heavy-duty than a BB cream, but still light enough that I've taken to using it instead of makeup for most outings. Bio-based tube made from recycled paper. Hand-crafted in small batches. It has skin-care elements like coconut oil, Vitamin E, antioxidants, shea butter, jojoba oil, and manuka oil. It comes in 50SPF, too. The only active ingredient is zinc oxide. They also carry this sunscreen in a reusable aluminum pump and offer refills to reduce plastic usage.

CONS: The tint can and will definitely rub onto clothing. So putting this on and then throwing on a white beach coverup is not going to go well. It has beeswax in it, if you're vegan.


BEST FOR: Daily face sunscreen that also works under makeup

PROS: Sunscreen isn't just for days on the water. It's the best thing you can do for your skin every day! I don't often wear makeup but on the days that I do, I used to be confused about how sunscreen would work with my other products. The ones I used for beach days and diving are thick and heavy so that they stay put underwater. Putting that underneath makeup was... challenging, but it is SO important to put on sunscreen EVERY SINGLE DAY. This is a great solution because not only is it lightweight and oil-free, it has a bit of a tint to it and can double as a primer to put underneath makeup! It also contains bentonite to absorb excess oil and impurities from pores.

The only active ingredient is zinc oxide!

If you want to go for a dip, don't worry. This sunscreen is, of course, also reef-safe and biodegradable. It's also vegan and cruelty-free.

CONS: Remember that putting this on under your makeup only once at the beginning of your day won't protect you from the sun the entire day, especially if you're jumping in the water. Like all sunscreen, it has to be reapplied every few hours. See our next product for a solution!


BEST FOR: When you have makeup on but need to reapply sunscreen.

PROS: Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every few hours, but how do you do that with makeup on? Rub it in on top and mess up your makeup or wash it all off and start again? This powder is a great solution. It's translucent and can be reapplied right on top of your makeup throughout the day without messing it up. It's non-nano mineral powder and, of course, reef-safe.

It's oil-absorbing but won't dry out your skin. It has skincare elements with Vitamin C and E with green tea.

The only active ingredients are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Vegan and cruelty-free.

CONS: Packaging is plastic. You'll definitely want to put heavier sunscreen on before jumping in for a dive.


BEST FOR: Those with sensitive skin and allergies. 

PROS: Vegan. Cruelty-free. Hypo-allergenic and free of fragrance, soy, gluten, peanut, walnut, and almonds. Safe for everyone, even children! Has skin-care elements with organic shea butter, avocado, aloe, and jojoba oils. The only active ingredient is non-nano zinc oxide.

CONS: The bottle is a bit misleading, the sunscreen isn't clear and goes on white. Plastic packaging.

What are your favorites?


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