A little girl applying sunscreen in the ocean

A little girl applying sunscreen in the ocean (Photo by Sunny studio on Shutterstock)

Before you lather up with sunscreen this summer, you may want to consider the impact on the world’s coral reefs. The push for reef-friendly sunscreens is a response to the damage caused by chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate, which lead to coral bleaching and threaten marine biodiversity. Some places like Hawaii and Palua have banned sunscreens containing these harmful chemicals. Switching to mineral-based options, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, still provides UV protection while minimizing harm to marine life. We turned to skincare and environment safety experts to unearth the best reef-safe sunscreens available today.

Zinc-oxide formulas may conjure up images of white-nosed lifeguards of the past, but these updated formulas aren’t what they used to be. Today’s mineral sunscreens blend seamlessly into the skin, offering protection without the pasty residue. Identifying the best reef-safe sunscreens depends on several factors, such as personal preference and skin type. StudyFinds has created a list of the most recommended options by dermatologists and testers across nine websites. Did we miss your favorite? Comment below.

Woman at beach applying sunscreen
Woman at the beach applying sunscreen (© Rido – stock.adobe.com)

The Best Reef-Safe Sunscreens for You and the Environment


1. Thinksport SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen

Thinksport SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen
Thinksport SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen

Think of this sunscreen as an everyday body lotion. It uses a non-nano formula that won’t harm the reef ecosystem. Eating Well says it goes on smoothly and doesn’t feel greasy, but it is a bit runny. You can hang out in the water for up to 80 minutes before you need to reapply.

Thinksport is perfect for surfers and divers. Travel + Leisure says it won’t run on sweaty or wet faces. It also has a slight citrus smell that most find pleasing and it’s great if you have sensitive skin. The only downside? Since it’s made with zinc oxide, it can leave a white residue on the skin. Diveinto says this reef-safe option is safe for all ages and skin type. It’s also quite affordable!

2. Hawaiian Tropic Mineral Sun Milk Body Lotion SPF 50

Hawaiian Tropic Mineral Sun Milk Body Lotion SPF 50
Hawaiian Tropic Mineral Sun Milk Body Lotion SPF 50

Want to smell like a tropical breeze? This reef-safe sunscreen has you covered. Travel + Leisure says the milky texture absorbs quickly into the skin and doesn’t leave any residue behind. It is water resistant for up to 80 minutes and has a button applicator that is easy to use.

This drug-store brand, infused with coconut oil, ranks highly with Good Housekeeping because it’s affordable and has an amazing scent. Testers thought it was easy to apply, but some did think it felt a bit greasy on the skin.

Hate having to pack body and face sunscreen in your beach bag? This reef-safe sunscreen is billed as a body sunscreen, but Byrdie says it can also be used on the face without causing you to break out. Despite its thick texture, it lasts for even the most active person.

3. Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Sensitive SPF 30+

Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Sensitive SPF 30+
Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Sensitive SPF 30+
Leave it to the Aussies to design a reef-safe sunscreen without harsh chemicals, parabens, or fragrances. Prevention says it’s perfect for sensitive skin and scored high in a safety rating from the Environmental Working Group. Another cool feature? The bottle turns blue in the sun to remind you to reapply the sunscreen every two hours.

Yahoo! loves the zinc oxide stick version of Blue Lizard saying it’s easy to apply without being sticky or greasy. It’s safe for kids and like the other is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. It’s also price-friendly and easy to pack in your bag to take on the go.

Sick of sunscreens spilling everywhere? Eating Well says you won’t have that problem with the stick version of Blue Lizard. It has a 100% non-nano formula and is made with soothing ingredients such as aloe vera, shea butter, and vitamin E.

4. California Baby

California Baby
California Baby Super Sensitive SPF 30+ Sunscreen

This option is not only reef-safe, but also baby-safe! According to Travel + Leisure, it doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals and it’s safe if your child has any allergies to gluten, soy, or nuts. It does take a bit of work to rub in, but it’s not greasy and moisturizes the skin.

Be prepared to spend a little more on this sunscreen because of what’s not in it. However, it’s still a fan favorite with parents. InStyle says it “feels a bit sticky” when it comes out of the tube, but it blends well into the skin. The one downside is that it’s not water-resistant.

California Baby is not just for babies. Byrdie says it’s perfect for anyone who has an allergy or sensitive skin. You won’t find it greasy, but it does take some elbow grease to rub in.

5. Suntegrity Skincare Natural Mineral Body Sunscreen

Suntegrity Skincare Natural Mineral Body Sunscreen
Suntegrity Skincare Natural Mineral Body Sunscreen

Next up is a mineral sunscreen from Suntegrity. InStyle finds the mineral base formula “spreads like a dream” and isn’t dry or oily. It has a slight citrusy scent and while it’s not technically water-resistant, testers said it didn’t run or drip. Plus, the brand makes a three-ounce size that makes it easy to travel with and TSA-friendly.

This sunscreen “melts” into the skin without any effort according to Byrdie. Thanks to its “squeaky clean” formula it’s the website’s top pick for those with sensitive skin. It doesn’t contain oil, making it the perfect choice if you have acne or oily skin.

If you seek adventure, you won’t have to worry about your sunscreen staying put with Suntegrity. Travel + Leisure reports the mineral body sunscreen is ideal for swimmers, hikers, runners, and tennis players. It has a slight white case after applying, but nothing too crazy.

6. Thrive Bodyshield SPF 50+

Thrive Bodyshield SPF 50+
Thrive Bodyshield SPF 50+

This zinc oxide-based sunscreen doesn’t leave behind any white residue. Once on, The New York Times says it “feels less greasy than many other sunscreens.” It’s not the cheapest brand, but certainly not the most expensive reef-friendly sunscreen. Be prepared for a strong fruity scent.

Dive In reviewers recommend this brand for “adults wanting anti-aging properties and a scented sunscreen.” Thrive’s BodySheild is more of a beach lounging sunscreen and not a full-proof 80-minute water-resistant ocean swimming lotion.

Not only is Thrive reef safe, but it also comes in a recycled tube. Yahoo! says the “potent zinc oxide” formula doesn’t leave a white cast, but if you love odorless sunscreens, this one does have a strong citrus smell.

7. Pipette Mineral Sunscreen

Pipette Mineral Sunscreen
Pipette Mineral Sunscreen

Originally made for kids, this reef-friendly sunscreen is fragrance-free, gentle, and doesn’t leave an ugly white cast. InStyle reports it feels lightweight and blends easily into the skin. Another plus — it won’t get your clothes all messy.

Pipette may be white when it comes out of the tube, but not after you rub it into your skin. Byrdie loves this zinc oxide-based sunscreen because it’s well-priced. It’s perfect if you have sensitive skin or other formulas irritate your eyes.

Travel + Leisure says Pipette is not overly “thick and pasty.” The website says due to its non-nano formula you can swim to your heart’s content without hurting the coral reefs. It’s also gentle enough for babies and kids.


Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links in which we receive a commission if you make a purchase.

About Amy Chodroff

Amy Chodroff is a recovering Morning Radio Show Host and award-winning broadcaster who recently retired from DFW’s Morning News on KLIF in Dallas. Fondly known as the “Chief Googler” by her friends, it was a seamless transition for StudyFinds to enlist her expertise for their “Best of the Best” franchise. Amy has an innate curiosity and a penchant for thorough research before any purchase and she’s constantly on the hunt for top-notch products. Outside of her digital explorations, Amy loves to explore the world with her husband and is the proud mother of two adult daughters. You can also find Amy on the pickleball court, perfecting her dink and drop shots.

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