How to Find The Best Sunscreens: Reef Safe, Non-Toxic, and Effective

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What factors should you consider when choosing the best natural sunscreen? We all have different priorities, but below are a few options that include what should be priorities for everyone: reef safe, non-toxic, and effective sunscreens.

Before we jump into the products, why should you care about mineral sunscreen, and why are they preferable over chemical ones, you may be wondering? Mineral sunscreens are by definition products that use minerals as the active sun-busting ingredient, as opposed to chemical ingredients. 

The chemicals used in mainstream sunscreens are mainly oxybenzone (or abobenzone) and/or octinoxate. These two ingredients have been proven to be particularly harmful to coral reefs, even in extremely low concentrations—both Palau and Hawaii are banning them. 

The two main mineral ingredients used in reef-safe sunscreens are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Both are effective at protecting against UVA & UVB rays (meaning they are broad-spectrum) and they work from the moment you put them on, unlike chemical sunscreens, which can take 20 minutes to come into effect. 

The issue many people find with mineral sunscreens is that they can be thick and difficult to rub in. The good news is that they don’t have to be. These are the best to try.

Best For Face

Honua Malu SPF 30

Honua Malu SPF 30 is a protecting day cream that is suited to everyday use. Honua is a Hawaiian brand with glass and cardboard packaging. It is easy to apply (comes with a pump) and not thick at all. It goes in very easily. It smells delicious too – giving you a bit of that beachy-feel every day.

Available on Credo Beauty.

Avasol Surfer’s Barrier Sunscreen *Zero Waste Option*

Surfer’s Barrier Sunscreen is a stick option made with great natural ingredients that comes in three shades, ideal for those who want a one-stop foundation-free solution. Its active ingredient is zinc oxide. It’s the most zero waste option on the list with its biodegradable-friendly paper packaging. The application is a little fiddlier, as it is a tube, but it is the lowest waste option.

Available locally at Live Zero.

Best For Body

Thinksport SPF 50 *Vegan Option*

Thinksport sunscreens are very popular, they have a particularly strong social angle, donating 10% of their revenues to key charity partners. In our house we use thinkbaby sunscreen, as everything revolves around the little one! The only difference in the formula is Papaya vs. Currant – Papaya is particularly good for baby’s skin and current is supposed to help with masking sweat – deodorant still needed! I think this is the best in terms of ease of application – no white streaks.

Available on iHerb.

Goddess Garden SPF 50 *Baby & Kids Option*

Goddess Garden is a family-owned business and they make good vegan mineral sunscreen with recyclable packaging. It also contains certified organic, skin feeding ingredients like aloe vera and sunflower oil. They have versions for adults, kids and babies, as well as for sports, all of which are SPF 50.

The tubes are made from polypropylene (number 5 on the recycling scale) – tube, cap – everything is recyclable. Only downside: it’s a bit more difficult to rub in than other options like thinksport.

Available on iHerb.

READ MORE: See all Allie Rooke Natural Beauty Columns

All product images from brand websites, lead photo from Pexels.


  • Allie Rooke

    British Australian beauty-addict Allie Rooke has spent most of her career in Asia working for the likes of Chanel, L’Oreal and Burberry, building up her extensive industry experience. A clean beauty convert, Allie founded a business strategy consultancy to help her favourite brands enter and expand across the Asian region.

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