Reef safe sunscreen tried and tested

Help to save the oceans with reef safe sunscreen

As the heatwave in the UK continues, it’s essential to use sun cream so you can enjoy the outdoors safely, but many contain chemicals that are damaging to the oceans and your health because they’re not reef safe sunscreen.

Around 14,000 tons of sunscreen makes its way into our oceans every year and this is damaging coral reefs across the world , including the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the reefs in Hawaii and the Caribbean.

Since January 2021, sun creams containing oxybenzone and octinoxate have been banned in Hawaii. These chemicals are particularly damaging to our seas and are toxic to coral reefs, fish, sea urchins and mammals. Just one drop of oxybenzone in the ocean is enough to cause damage.

Oxybenzone is an endocrine disruptor and octinoxate is a known allergen so both can have a detrimental effect on your personal health as well as harming sea life.

I tried and tested several reef safe sunscreens that are free from oxybenzone and octinoxate and I’ve included a range of prices so there’s something everyone can afford. While the more expensive ones have more favourable ethical credentials, I know that not everyone can afford them and switching to an affordable better sunscreen is better than not switching at all.

Green People

I tried the Edelweiss Sun Cream by Green People Factor 15, which is reef-safe, 86% organic and vegan. It’s also fair-trade and cruelty free and offers protection from UVA and UVB rays. This cream is water-repellent but it feels lightweight and absorbs into the skin easily while offering good protection. It contains aloe vera, avocado, edelweiss, inositol and green tea and has a natural tan accelerator that claims to help you tan 28% times faster. The packaging is plant-based and fully recyclable and the eco sun screen is free from oxybenzone and octinoxate.

It’s on the pricey side at £24.50 for 200ml but that’s because it ticks so many eco credentials. If you can afford it, it’s an excellent reef safe sunscreen and it is suitable for those with eczema, prickly heat and sensitive skin. While this sun cream contains palm oil, Green People maintain that it is organic and sourced sustainably from the Philippines and Ecuador, away from the orangutans’ habitat.

Green People’s range also includes children’s and adult sun cream in SPF 15 and 30 as well as facial sun cream and after sun.


My family tried the Kids’ Sunscreen by Jasön SPF 45. This ocean friendly sun screen is water-resistant, vegan, hypoallergenic and offers UVA and UVB protection. The ingredients include chamomile and calendula extracts and it is free from oxybenzone and octinoxate. Considering this is such a high factor, it was easy to apply and absorbed with ease.

If you’re wondering why Jasön and Green People don’t carry a UVA star rating, it’s because this accreditation is only used with brands that are stocked by Boots.

The RRP is £12.99 for 113g and Jason’s range also includes a Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 and Family Sunscreen SPF 45.

Hawaiian Tropic

Well-known sunscreen brand Hawaiian Tropic have launched a range that’s kind to the oceans. I tried the Mineral Skin Nourishing Milk SPF 30, which offers protection from UVA and UVB rays and has three UVA stars.

The cream is thick but spreads evenly and absorbs with ease. It also smells like holiday thanks to that Hawaiian Tropic fragrance. This ocean-friendly sun cream is vegan, reef-friendly, water-resistant and cruelty-free, while the packaging is 25% recycled. It uses natural ingredients such as zinc oxide and is free from oxybenzone, octinoxate and parabens.

Available in Boots for £10.33 per 100ml. A face sunscreen and SPF50 are also available.


Garnier Ambre Solaire Eco Designed

Whilst every eco-minded person would love to use the most ethical sun cream, I’m aware that not all of us can afford it, especially in the current economic climate. So, here’s a cream that is affordable and still much more reef friendly than most popular creams.

I tried Ambre Solaire Eco Design Sun Protection SPF 30, which offers UVA and UVB protection and is free from oxybenzone and octinoxate. This cream absorbs easily, hydrates the skin and is cruelty free, while the bottle is 100% recycled and recyclable. This sun cream also has four UVA stars.

A closer look at the ingredients shows that this contains isopropyl palmitate, which is made from palm oil and animal fats, so I personally would give this one a miss in future. However, I’m still including it for those who are looking for an affordable reef safe sunscreen.

It is available for £7 for 200ml from Boots. The range also includes adult and baby SPF50 creams.


Nivea Sun

Nivea also produce an affordable ocean-friendly range, which is good news for those who can’t afford the more expensive brands.

My family tested out the Nivea Sun Protect and Moisture Sun Spray SPF30, which offers UVA and UVB protection and has four UVA stars. It is easy to apply and absorbs in seconds and didn’t leave any marks on our clothes. This cream is water-resistant and free from microplastics, octinoxate and oxybenzone, while the bottle is 95% recycled and fully recyclable. This cream isn’t vegan and also contains isopropyl palmitate (see review above).

It is available at Boots for £6 per 200ml and the range also includes a variety of sprays and creams in SPF 15, 30 and 50, face creams and after sun.



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