The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen Options
Summer is just around the corner! I can’t wait for mornings spent in the garden and afternoons at the swimming pool. Summer is my favorite time of year! With the summer fun also comes powerful sunshine, and the sun is something we don’t mess around with in my home. With a family history of skin cancer, I’ve always been taught the importance of staying out of the sun and wearing sunscreen. However, over the past few years, my interest in living a more natural lifestyle sent me on a wild goose chase, hunting for the best zero waste sunscreens.
Are Traditional Sunscreens Harmful?
What I’ve learned is, yes and no. It’s very important to protect yourself from the sun especially between 10am-4pm when the sun’s rays are the strongest. However, a lot of the conventional sunscreens on the market today contain nasty chemicals that we probably don’t want on our bodies.
I did a little internet research and learned that basically there are two types of sunscreens: mineral sunscreen and chemical barrier sunscreen. Chemical-based sunscreens usually contain oxybenzone, while mineral barrier sunscreens usually contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Mineral sunscreen create a physical barrier from the sun while chemical based sunscreens penetrate the skin to protect us from the sun.
What is Oxybenzone?
The Environmental Working Group considers oxybenzone a known endocrine disruptor which can interfere with hormone processes in the body. An endocrine disruptor is a chemical that can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, lower sperm count, increase risk of endometriosis, and cause developmental disorders.
Not only that, oxybenzone damages coral reefs. Scientists have found that corals absorb oxybenzone from sunscreen and convert it into phototoxins which become harmful when exposed to sunlight. It causes coral bleaching.
What is Benzene?
Since originally posting this blog post back in 2016, there has been a recent recall of many popular sunscreen brands because they contained the ingredient benzene.
Benzene is a fundamental building block of many chemicals, including plastics, synthetic fibers, dyes, and pharmaceuticals. It is also an important industrial solvent and is used in gasoline production. However, benzene is toxic and carcinogenic, and prolonged exposure to high levels can cause serious health problems, including leukemia and other cancers.
I decided after researching sunscreens on my own, which I encourage you to do as well, that I wanted a more natural alternative in hopes of avoiding toxic chemicals for my own skin and for the safety of marine life. I started using a mostly organic mineral based sunscreen last year which I really liked. However, I’ve been frustrated that although there are several good natural sunscreen options, there are not many available in non-plastic packaging.
Natural, Zero Waste Sunscreen
So over the past few months, I’ve been hunting for not just a great natural sunscreen. In particular, I wanted a non-plastic, zero waste sunscreen. And I’ve found there are several really wonderful solutions to finding zero waste sunscreen.
DIY Zero Waste Sunscreen
UPDATE: Since posting this blog post back in 2016, more research shows that homemade sunscreen is risky. Although making your own plastic free, personal care products is fun and easy, it is not the best option when it comes to sunscreen. It’s important to use sunscreens that are tested and proven to be effective.
I haven’t tried this myself, because my city unfortunately doesn’t have massive bulk shopping stores with zinc oxide and shea butter sans packaging readily available. More importantly, I’m not interested in testing out several different sunscreen recipes until I find one that works for my skin. I don’t really have the time for that and prefer purchasing a trusted brand than experimenting on my own skin.
If you’re on the look out for a good DIY recipe with natural ingredients though, the Kind Planet blog just recently posted one. It’s a zero waste Vanilla Blossom Sunscreen recipe that sounds absolutely divine. Check it out!
I also spotted another recipe for homemade sunscreen over on the Going Zero Waste blog!
Organic SPF30 Zero Waste Sunscreen! We finally have a fantastic sustainable sunscreen available in the Tiny Yellow Bungalow online shop that I chose myself and highly recommend! It comes in a recyclable/reusable glass jar. It is safe, natural, and effective so no need to worry about harming your body or the environment.
It’s reef safe, vegan, and also not tested on animals. The main ingredient in this organic sunscreen is non-nano zinc oxide.
This really is the most affordable, environmentally friendly, healthful choice I could find available on the market. I am so happy to share it with you! I’ve found several zero waste sunscreens in stick form, but I really prefer a lotion type sunscreen for my skin.
I also like that just a pinch of this cream goes a long way. I keep a jar of this vegan sunscreen in Vasco’s diaper bag, in case we go on an impromptu outdoor adventure during the day. It’s worked just great for his sensitive baby skin! << Find my other zero waste baby essentials here >>
Other Plastic Free Sunscreens To Try
I’ve found a few other plastic free sunscreen brands since publishing this blog post a couple of years ago. How cool that more companies are jumping on the plastic free train and offering their sun lotions in sustainable packaging. I honestly haven’t tested these other brands myself since I use the Taylor’s Sunscreen exclusively but I wanted to give these brands a mention!
Be sure to check out the reviews for these sunscreens first before making a purchase. Oh, and if you do use one of these plastic free sunscreen, please let me know how you like it in the comments section below!
Update: We no longer recommend using Raw Elements brand. In a recent study, researchers found unsafe levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, in this product.
This sunscreen butter comes packaged in a small metal tin and is perfect for use on your face and ears. It is water resistant (SPF 50) and the main ingredients include zinc oxide, coconut oil, jojoba oil, beeswax, and vitamin E. They also make a larger lotion size in a plastic tube in both sport and kid formula. Their sunblocks are great for sensitive skin.
This is another wonderful plastic-free sunscreen for sensitive skin to be used on the face. It’s oxybenzone and octinoxate free. The beeswax in this product makes it water resistant, perfect for a fun day at the beach or pool.
Another small business to support! This is a Hawaii based brand that makes safe sunscreen packaged in a metal tin. They have an original version and also a variety of tinted version for various skin tones. It is sensitive skin approved and won’t burn your eyes.
Yet another reef safe sunscreen in a plastic-free tin! This is an Australian based brand. It’s so nice to see there are many options for plastic free sunscreen available on the market these days. When I first wrote this blog post back in 2016, our options were pretty limited. This brand is a 50% Profit for the Planet brand. They’re vegan and palm oil free.
Other Natural Sunscreen Brands To Try
While I love the Taylor’s sunscreen you can find in the Tiny Yellow Bungalow shop, I’ve found that now with two kids, I really just need MORE sunscreen. While I continue to use Taylor’s on my face, my husband’s face, my five year old’s face and any exposed skin on our 8 month old, I went hunting for a safe sunscreen we could use for the rest of our bodies for beach vacations. Jumping in and out of the pool, we go through a lot of sunscreen in a trip! We needed something affordable and in a larger quantity. Although these brands are packaged in plastic bottles (ugh!), they do have safer ingredients. And the most important thing is to protect our skin with safe ingredients!
Here’s a great reef-safe sunscreen for you to try! Yes, it comes packaged in plastic which isn’t great but the ingredients seem much better than those in conventional chemical sunscreens you find at big box stores. Badger sunscreen is a gentle mineral-based sunscreen with SPF 40 that will protect you from UVA and UVB rays. It offers 80 minutes of water resistance. It’s 97% ingredients and made with just 9 simple, natural ingredients.
No it’s not a completely zero-waste sunscreen, but again, this brand has ingredients you can feel good about. The active ingredient is zinc oxide, another awesome mineral based sunscreen. It’s water resistant and perfect for sensitive skin especially for little ones. Safe for your skin, safe for coral reefs! It’s one of the EWG top rated sun creams.
This sheer 100% mineral sunscreen seems like another great option for the whole family! It’s a lightweight and hypoallergenic sunblock made with nourishing shea butter and organic cocoa butter. This sunscreen was formulated by a mom of three 🙂 It’s water and sweat resistant and broad-spectrum protection with SPF 50.
CocoKind Daily SPF
If you’re looking for an eco-friendly sunscreen that’s more for everyday use than a beach day kind of cream, I think this Cocokind Daily SPF looks pretty good. It’s a non-irritating mineral based formula with broad spectrum SPF 32. It’s fragrance free and matte finish – perfect for sensitive skin.
Protect Your Skin Naturally
Another important note to remember, sunscreen isn’t the only way to protect your skin from the sun. Don’t forget to cover up! This is really the easiest, most sustainable way to protect yourself from those powerful rays.
Using a hat, wearing a cute cover up or t-shirt, and putting on your shades are all excellent ways to stay safe from the sun this summer. Sitting in the shade is undoubtedly the best option for protecting your skin!
Silly me, I thought rash guards were only made for children, but I saw a woman wearing one of these sweet, long sleeved rash guards at the beach last summer. I think these would be a good option for sun protection as well! Also, using a rash guard or some sort of long sleeved shirt would mean you could use less sunscreen, which would also save you some money. Just a thought guys! 🙂
How do you stay safe from the sun, plastic free?!
Author’s Note: This blog post was originally posted in July 2016. I’ve updated some information and want to share it with my newest Tiny Yellow Bungalow followers. Enjoy y’all!