The Best Reef-Safe Sunscreen for 2023

The best eco-friendly ways to protect your skin against the harmful rays of the sun.

Recent studies have proven that the traditional sunscreens that we have used in the past do more harm than good to the environment in the long run. These sunscreens have been linked to the degradation of marine life and the destruction of reefs, which are major breeding grounds for aquatic life. The chemicals and minerals in these traditional sunscreens wash up into the oceans and continue to serve their purpose there, where sun rays are needed.

In this day and age, more companies have put in the effort to manufacture reef-safe sunscreens that protect you and the environment, meaning everyone goes home happy!

How We Picked

  • Oxybenzone-free + non-nano

    Studies have shown that most conventional sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and other chemicals bleach and cause damage to the ocean’s coral reefs. Chemical sunscreens also absorb into the bloodstream, causing skin irritation, cell damage, or even hormone disruption.
    Non-nano particles aren't small enough to penetrate the skin and are therefore considered safer for your body.

  • SPF

    SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, as you may have seen on your product, and the number beside it indicates how well that sunscreen protects the skin against sunburn. With this factor, you can estimate how effective your sunscreen will be against harmful UV rays. Your skin will take longer to turn red when exposed to the sun when you are wearing sunscreen with a higher SPF number.

  • Water-resistant

    What is the use of sunscreen that will just wash off as soon as you dive into the ocean to take a swim while at the beach? You need an effective and water-resistant sunscreen that will keep you protected as you go about your activities at the beach.
    At the same time, it should be a sunscreen that will wash off easily as you take a bath.
    The selection of sunscreens that we have picked for you will not disappoint you when it comes to convenience and effectiveness of use.

  • Price

    We all have different budgets and amounts of money to spend on such products, and the last thing we want to do is offer you options that are not in line with your budget. Again, you need to get value for your money; what you buy should offer quality and effectiveness that are in line with its price. The list of options that we have outlined for you in this review is well within a manageable budget, and we can assure you that there is something for everyone on this list.

Our Top Picks

Best Pick

Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion

If your skin is highly sensitive and very prone to allergies, then this sunscreen will serve you well.

This sunscreen is hypoallergenic and free of oxybenzone, octinoxate, gluten, cruelty, and parabens! It is also water resistant and great for all types of skin. Its consistency is excellent, and it has the original formula scent that is pleasing to the nose. In addition to all this, it has vitamin E that nourishes your skin throughout the day!

Buy Now for $18.49 ($2.31 / Ounce)

This vegan and reef-friendly sunscreen comes with Vitamin E, is hypoallergenic, and blocks up to 98% of harmful UV rays.

Runner Up

CeraVe 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

This 100% mineral sunscreen is formulated especially for sensitive skin.

You no longer have to worry about having breakouts on your face after using sunscreen. It is a highly recommended brand of sunscreen by dermatologists and will surely keep your skin protected and moisturized too. This sunscreen is Oxybenzone free, avobenzone-free, and benzene free and contains physical filters for Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. With up to 3 ceramides and an SPF 50, you can be assured of maximum protection and zero cases of sunburn whenever you visit the beach.

CeraVe is a non-scented, oil-free, non-greasy broad-spectrum sunscreen that is highly recommended by dermatologists.

Most cost-effective

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion

It is a small and convenient bottle of sunscreen that you can carry with you at all times!

This 3-fluid-ounce bottle of Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Non-Greasy Sunscreen with SPF 55 helps defend against the signs of sun and decreases the risk of skin cancer when used as directed. A very effective cost-saving option for you that you can have with you at all times!

Buy Now for $7.97 ($2.66 / Fl Oz)

A travel-size pack of water-resistant, non-greasy, and reef-safe sunscreen that has a high SPF number of 55.

Almost made the cut

Safe Sea Jellyfish Sting-Blocking Sunscreen

This is an option that will serve you extremely well especially if you love taking a swim or a quick dip into the ocean.

If you are a surfer and this sounds like you, then you should consider this full-proof option. A sunscreen lotion that provides you with protection against the harmful rays of the sun and the stings of jellyfish or sea lice sounds like real heaven for a person who frequently visits the beach. It is a reef-safe option that is gentle on your skin and water-resistant too meaning you don’t have to worry about it washing off once you get into the water!

Buy Now for $18.95 ($4.74 / Fl Oz)

An anti-jellyfish and Sea-Lice sting protection package all rolled into a single, convenient pack.

Everything We Recommend

Best Pick

Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion

If your skin is highly sensitive and very prone to allergies, then this sunscreen will serve you well.

$18.49 ($2.31 / Ounce)

Buy Now

Runner Up

CeraVe 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

This 100% mineral sunscreen is formulated especially for sensitive skin.

Most cost-effective

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion

It is a small and convenient bottle of sunscreen that you can carry with you at all times!

$7.97 ($2.66 / Fl Oz)

Buy Now

Almost made the cut

Safe Sea Jellyfish Sting-Blocking Sunscreen

This is an option that will serve you extremely well especially if you love taking a swim or a quick dip into the ocean.

$18.95 ($4.74 / Fl Oz)

Buy Now

Who This Is For

This review is for anyone and everyone looking to purchase reef-safe sunscreen. It might be for personal use or use by your whole family, but all the options on this list are guaranteed to offer protection for your loved ones while protecting the environment and playing a major part in changing the world for the better.

 

Are reef-safe and reefer-safe the same?

The term “reef safe” on products refers to sunscreens that do not contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, which are the two common UV-blocking chemicals that studies have shown can lead to coral bleaching. They are a more eco-friendly way to protect you and the environment. Reefer safe, on the other hand, refers to a completely different topic that entails shipping containers, meaning products that can be safely transported in a reefer.

 

Does “reef safe” also mean “biodegradable”?

No, reef-safe sunscreen does not necessarily mean that it is biodegradable. Biodegradable sunscreen means that it breaks down naturally in the environment over time. This doesn’t mean that there are no biodegradable sunscreens that are reef-safe.

 

How is it different from normal sunscreen?

Reef-safe sunscreen is different from normal sunscreen in the sense that it is formulated with the safety of the environment in mind. Any residual chemicals that are present in normal and conventional sunscreens are not present in reef-safe sunscreens. These residuals that have been proven to bleach the ocean’s coral and reefs have been substituted with more eco-friendly ingredients to make sure the environment is protected and safe.

 

Is it worth splurging on?

It all boils down to the question of whether the environment is worth saving and protecting. In the same way that we are all looking for more ozone-friendly sprays and fuels, we should also find more eco-friendly sunscreens that do not damage ocean life. So in summary, yes, they are worth splurging on.

Why You Should Trust Us

We spent time reading many reviews and customer comments to better understand and have a clear perspective on the information about the products we have listed for you. We compiled a list of reef-safe sunscreens that are well worth your money by taking into account their safety, eco-friendliness, and not forgetting cost-effectiveness to make sure you get nothing but the best.

How We Picked

There are several factors we considered while compiling this list, which includes the following:

 

Oxybenzone free + non-nano

Studies have shown that most conventional sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and other chemicals bleach and cause damage to the ocean’s coral reefs. In addition to this, because chemical sunscreens absorb into the bloodstream, some people may experience skin irritation, cell damage, or even hormone disruption. Your product must be free of these ingredients. In addition to this, non-nano particles aren’t small enough to penetrate the skin and are therefore considered safer for your body.

 

SPF

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, and the number beside it on your bottle of a sunscreen indicates how well it protects your skin against sunburn. Keep in mind that this is not an indicator of how long you can stay out in the sun, but rather an indicator of how much longer it takes for untanned skin to start turning red with sunscreen applied compared to how long it takes to start reddening without it.

 

Quantity

Assuming you have a large family to consider or visit the beach more often, you will need a product that will last longer. Instead of frequently going back to the store to get a new bottle, a sizable quantity of sunscreen will go a long way to offer you cost-cutting and convenience.

 

Water-resistant

You need an effective and water-resistant sunscreen that will keep you protected as you go about your activities at the beach. At the same time, it should be a sunscreen that will wash off easily as you take a bath.

 

Price

The options we have listed for you will be friendly to your wallet. If you are spending on a budget, we also have you covered. The good and exceptional quality of the product you pick is assured when you pick a product we have listed for you.

 

Size + weight of packaging

You will appreciate a bottle of sunscreen that is easy to carry around whenever you need to put it to use. It should be a pack that does not make your bag extra heavy to carry. A convenient option that you can stash in your bag or have easy portability.

 

Consistency

A sunscreen of good consistency will not give you a hard time trying to spread or apply it on your skin. Good consistency also means that it does not leave any whitish marks or cease lines on your skin. With the products we offer on this list, you are assured of fast absorption and ease of application.

Our Picks For You

Best Pick - Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion

Best Pick

Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion

If your skin is highly sensitive and very prone to allergies, then this sunscreen will serve you well.

This sunscreen is hypoallergenic and free of oxybenzone, octinoxate, gluten, cruelty, and parabens! It is also water resistant and great for all types of skin. Its consistency is excellent, and it has the original formula scent that is pleasing to the nose. In addition to all this, it has vitamin E that nourishes your skin throughout the day!

Buy Now for $18.49 ($2.31 / Ounce)

Who it is for

This sunscreen is great for you, especially if you have sensitive skin that is prone to allergic reactions. Let this top pick put your heart at ease when it comes to effective and sure protection against sunburn.

Why it is great

This option offers you much more than just protection against harmful UV rays, you also get to nourish your skin with vitamin E added to it. The Sun Bum sunscreen is hypoallergenic and free of oxybenzone, octinoxate, gluten, cruelty, and paraben! It is also water resistant and great for all types of skin.

Potential flaws

A potential flaw to keep in mind with this product is that it has a very short expiration date. This means you have less time to use it, and if you're not keen, it might expire without being put to use.

Other features

This original formula sunscreen lotion is just what you need for your daily use. It’s the formula that started it all; with a very pleasing scent that we can only describe as smelling like summer. This sunscreen is formulated with the safety of your skin as its number one concern. It is dermatologist- and Sonny-approved and offers you both moisturizing benefits and sun protection. It is non-comedogenic, meaning it will not cause any dark spots or blackheads as a result of blocking your skin pores. It is packed with Vitamin E, meaning you also get to nourish your skin! It is hypoallergenic, meaning it has extremely low chances of reacting with your skin; it is formulated for use by all skin types. In addition to this, this sunscreen is free of oxybenzone, octinoxate, gluten, and cruelty, and some of these chemicals have been proven to contribute to the degradation of reefs, so the manufacturer has ensured that they are not used in the formulation of this product. By choosing this product, you and thousands of others are choosing a better and safer planet for marine life.

This sunscreen delivers protection against harmful UVA and UVB sun rays that majorly contribute to sunburn and skin cancer in the long run. You get protection against up to 98% of these rays. It is oil-free and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, meaning you can take a swim in the ocean as you please with full protection. You just need to apply it 15 minutes before sun exposure; apply it to all areas of the skin and avoid the eye area. For best results, you should reapply after 80 minutes of swimming or sweating and also apply every 2 hours for maximum sun protection.

Runner Up - CeraVe 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

Runner Up

CeraVe 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

This 100% mineral sunscreen is formulated especially for sensitive skin.

You no longer have to worry about having breakouts on your face after using sunscreen. It is a highly recommended brand of sunscreen by dermatologists and will surely keep your skin protected and moisturized too. This sunscreen is Oxybenzone free, avobenzone-free, and benzene free and contains physical filters for Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. With up to 3 ceramides and an SPF 50, you can be assured of maximum protection and zero cases of sunburn whenever you visit the beach.

Who it is for

If you have very sensitive skin and only trust approved brands of products, then this is the best option for you! Put your heart at ease by purchasing an approved and recommended brand of sunscreen that you can trust.

Why it is great

This sunscreen is great because it is formulated especially for people with sensitive skin. It is hypoallergenic and keeps your skin moisturized, too. It is unscented, non-greasy, and comes in a small, convenient pack that is travel size and can easily be carried around in your bag.

Potential flaws

A potential flaw to keep in mind with this product is that it leaves a white cast when applied in thick layers. This generally means that you might not find it suitable to use daily basis, especially at work, due to the visible white cast left behind after use.

Other features

This product is a 100% mineral-based sunscreen, also known as a physical sunscreen, that works by reflecting UVA and UVB rays to help protect the skin. Developed with dermatologists by CeraVe Skincare, it is a highly recommended product for people who are prone to breakouts or have very sensitive skin. Physical sunscreens such as this can often leave a white cast when applied in thick layers. For best results, it is recommended that you apply CeraVe Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen evenly to the entire face and neck in thin layers and thoroughly massage it into your skin to avoid a white cast. It is mostly suitable for use under foundation and face makeup. This sunscreen is oxybenzone-free, avobenzone-free, and benzene-free and contains physical filters such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Play your part in the protection of reefs by opting for safe products such as these.

Ceramides are lipids that are found naturally in the skin and can often become damaged with prolonged sun exposure. This sunscreen is formulated with three essential ceramides (1, 3, and 6-II) to help restore and maintain your skin’s natural barrier. This sunscreen’s formula is oil-free, fragrance-free, non-comedogenic, and suitable for sensitive skin.

Most cost-effective - Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion

Most cost-effective

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion

It is a small and convenient bottle of sunscreen that you can carry with you at all times!

This 3-fluid-ounce bottle of Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Non-Greasy Sunscreen with SPF 55 helps defend against the signs of sun and decreases the risk of skin cancer when used as directed. A very effective cost-saving option for you that you can have with you at all times!

Buy Now for $7.97 ($2.66 / Fl Oz)

Who it is for

Get this sunscreen if you are looking to purchase one on a budget. This option is pocket-friendly, and it offers you amazing quality and effectiveness when it comes to the protection and nourishment of your skin.

Why it is great

This broad-spectrum SPF 55 UVA/UVB protection sunscreen is light, water-resistant, non-comedogenic, and comes in a very convenient travel-size pack of only 3 fluid ounces. It is oil-absorbing with Dry-Touch technology that gives you a non-greasy, matte finish. You can apply it at any time of the day without leaving a white cast!

Potential flaws

A potential flaw to keep in mind with this product is that when applied too close to the eyes, it leaves you with a burning sensation, which is painful. You should avoid contact with the eyes just to be safe.

Other features

This is a 3-fluid-ounce bottle of Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Non-Greasy Sunscreen with SPF 55, which greatly helps to defend against the harmful rays of the sun and hence decreases the risk of skin cancer when used as directed by the manufacturer. It is a lightweight and sheer sunscreen bottle that offers you the convenience of carrying it whenever you are in need of it. This sunscreen is fast-absorbing and formulated with Dry-Touch technology for a non-greasy, matte finish with Helioplex for superior sun protection for your skin against damage. This new formula features an oxybenzone-free formula that is still effective and helps prevent sunburn. It is both PABA-free and non-comedogenic providing powerful face and body sun protection without the heavy finish, making it great to use for daily sun protection to keep skin protected during outdoor activities

It is water-resistant with an SPF of 55, meaning you can enjoy longer walks out on the beach even on the sunniest days with protection against sunburn even when you go swimming!
Finally, it has a pleasing scent that is not too strong and is suitable for use with makeup and foundation.

Almost made the cut - Safe Sea Jellyfish Sting-Blocking Sunscreen

Almost made the cut

Safe Sea Jellyfish Sting-Blocking Sunscreen

This is an option that will serve you extremely well especially if you love taking a swim or a quick dip into the ocean.

If you are a surfer and this sounds like you, then you should consider this full-proof option. A sunscreen lotion that provides you with protection against the harmful rays of the sun and the stings of jellyfish or sea lice sounds like real heaven for a person who frequently visits the beach. It is a reef-safe option that is gentle on your skin and water-resistant too meaning you don’t have to worry about it washing off once you get into the water!

Buy Now for $18.95 ($4.74 / Fl Oz)

Who it is for

This sunscreen is best for surfers and divers, or generally anyone who loves to spend a lot of time in the ocean. It is an effective safety measure against jellyfish and sea lice stings, not forgetting the harmful UV rays of the sun too!

Why it is great

This sunscreen lets you bask in the sun and waves with SPF 50+ sunblock. It is a reef-safe sunscreen that helps you guard against jellyfish stings, sea lice, swimmer's itch, and UV radiation all in one! This is such a great benefits package all rolled into a single convenient pack of just 4 ounces at such an amazing price.

Potential flaws

A potential flaw to keep in mind with this product is that it doesn’t necessarily protect you against all jellyfish stings; it is not a 100% guarantee or assurance against jellyfish stings.

Other features

With this highly effective sunscreen, you can now bask in the sun and waves with SPF 50+ sunblock. It is a reef-safe sunscreen that helps guard you and your family against jellyfish stings, sea lice, swimmers’ itch, and harmful UV radiation. You can now enjoy your beach day fully protected. This sunscreen is paraben-free, non-irritating, moisturizing body and face sunscreen that is hypoallergenic and gentle on sensitive skin. Upgrade your skin protection on the beach and in the sea with this powerful, safe SPF 55 sunscreen. It has a unique design formulated with sting-blocking chemistry that keeps you safe from stings while exploring the ocean. It is very long-lasting and water-resistant too! You can rely on Safe Sea sunscreen for guaranteed protection. You don’t need to reapply as often as with other sunscreens, so you can worry less.

By choosing this product, you are protecting your skin and safeguarding the ocean with your reef-safe sunblock. This is because this sunscreen is biodegradable and free of oxybenzone and octinoxate, which damage marine life. Finally, this is a sunblock developed by scientists, used by world record-breaking athletes, and trusted by families around the world!

Care and maintenance

How much to apply + how often
When it comes to the application of sunscreen, there is a recommended frequency for it and specific instances when you should apply it. On your face, about two finger lengths of sunscreen are enough. Depending on the consistency and texture of your lotion, you can always adjust. As for your body, you can apply it as you normally would with lotion, especially in the exposed areas that are directly exposed to the sun. Take care not to over-apply sunscreen, as it is just a waste of your precious sunscreen!

On the question of how often, when engaging in regular activities that don’t involve contact with water, we recommend that you apply sunscreen every two hours or so. This replenishes the sunblock barrier on your skin to ensure continued protection. When swimming or diving in the water, you should reapply sunscreen immediately after getting out of the water. If you sweat a lot, then you should reapply it more often.

Where and how to store when not in use
When not in use, store your sunscreen in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight for the best results. It follows that you should store it away from the reach of children because these products are not meant to be ingested or come into contact with eyes since they cause serious irritation.

It would be best if stored away from food products or anything edible, preferably in a designated cabinet.