wellness

Your Guide to Vegan Sunscreen

Lately I’ve been diving into the world of vegan sunscreen to find the brands that seem to go above and beyond when it comes to quality and environmental friendliness. There are many “vegan” sunscreens out there, but are they also cruelty-free? Are they non-toxic to humans and marine life? Are they some, but not all of these things? Do they actually work?

Whew! We have a lot to get into. I’ve unearthed a few products that are safe, effective, and meet the environmental standards that vegans value. I’ll explain why some ingredients are better than others, and which to avoid completely. You might even learn a few surprising facts about sunscreen – I know I have! 

What Is SPF?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The higher the SPF the longer it will take for your skin to absorb enough sun to burn.

For example: An SPF of 30 will allow 1/30th (or 3.3%) of UV rays to reach your skin. This means a sunscreen with SPF 30 will block 96.7% of UV rays.

 Put another way: if your skin normally burns within 10 minutes of being exposed to full mid-day sun, applying SPF 30 protects your skin 30 times longer, or 300 minutes. 

Of course, this calculation only applies in a perfect scenario. You should monitor your sun exposure carefully and reapply sunscreen or seek shade if necessary (especially if you have sensitive skin). 

What Is The Difference Between UVA And UVB?

The sunlight that reaches Earth is made up of two ultraviolet rays; UVA and UVB. UVA is a longwave ultraviolet ray that can penetrate deep under the skin’s surface, which ultimately causes wrinkles and damage to deeper skin tissues. UVA rays can penetrate glass while UVB rays cannot. UVB short rays affect the surface of the skin, which causes sunburn and sometimes skin cancer.

What Is The Difference Between Mineral And Chemical Sunscreen?

Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays with active ingredients like oxybenzone or octocrylene. Both chemicals have been known to cause damage to reefs and marine life. 

Mineral sunscreen (physical sunscreen) deflects sun rays like a mirror with ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Mineral sunscreen is supposedly better for those with sensitive skin. 

What Makes Sunscreen Vegan Or Not?

No Animal Products

The first thing we want to look for in any sunscreen is the use of animal products. Some waterproof sunscreens contain ingredients like beeswax to repel water away from the skin. candelilla wax is an alternative to beeswax and has a higher melting point, making it a great stabilizer and water repellent. Candelilla wax comes from the shrub Euphorbia Cerifera, a plant native to Northern Mexico. 

Cruelty-Free

Be aware that many brands will label their sunscreen as vegan but will actually test their products on animals. Sometimes it takes a bit of extra research to find out whether or not products have been tested on animals. If their animal testing policy isn’t clear and you’re not able to contact a representative, take a hard pass. 

What is Eco-friendly Vegan Sunscreen? 

Now that you have the vegan and cruelty-free boxes checked, there are a few other factors you should consider when choosing an environmentally friendly vegan sunscreen. Lately there has been a significant movement to ban sunscreens that cause damage to coral reefs and marine life. Make sure your sunscreen of choice causes little to no impact on the ocean by looking for the following labels:

Reef-Safe

This term is used to identify sunscreens that do not have chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate – two chemicals that block UV rays but are also known to cause bleaching of coral reefs. In 2018 Hawaii actually banned the sale of sunscreens with these chemicals!

Non-chemical

Mineral sunscreens seem to be far better for the environment and the ocean than chemical sunscreens. Look for active ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. 

Non-nano

But wait! There is a caveat when choosing a mineral sunscreen, let me explain. Nano minerals are small enough to be ingested by coral, which makes them not so friendly to reefs! Be sure to find mineral sunscreen that is labeled non-nano. 

Paraben-free

Parabens have been known to cause reef bleaching and overall health problems for humans. Many products used to use Butylparaben as a preservative, but many have chosen to discontinue these ingredients.

Zero Waste

I love when I can reuse or compost packaging. A vegan, cruelty-free, reef safe sunscreen that is ALSO zero waste is hard to come by, but I’ve found a few that are definitely worth a try. Check them out in my list below!

The Best Vegan Sunscreens

Now that we’ve established the criteria for the best vegan sunscreens, here are just a few options out there that meet or exceed our standards. All of the following sunscreens are vegan, cruelty-free, mineral, non-nano, reef-safe, and paraben-free. Check ’em out!

(in no particular order)

Solara – Glow Getter

After reading through Solara’s website I feel super confident recommending their products. Right on the home page they offer up their values and clearly state that all of their products are vegan and cruelty-free. Their packaging is recyclable and they make sure all of their ingredients are ethically sourced. The Glow Getter has green coffee extract, which helps build collagen, and it also contains mica for a glittery glow. This vegan sunscreen is also loaded with omegas and antioxidants.

Check out the full description and breakdown of ingredients at the detox market

Sun Tegrity – Unscented Body Sunscreen

Sun Tegrity’s has a large line of sunscreen products. This specific sunscreen is vegan, however, some of their products do contain beeswax. Be sure to read all ingredients when selecting one of their products. This vegan sunscreen is highly rated and well-known.

Check out more information at the detox market

Babo Botanicals – Clear Zinc Sunscreen

As the cute bunny on the label might suggest, this product is cruelty-free and vegan certified. Most of Babo Botanical’s products are vegan, with a few exceptions, including their lip balms and SPF 40 sheer sunscreen.

More info and ingredients listed at the detox market

Love Sun Body – Fragrance Free Sunscreen

Love Sun Body is a completely vegan and cruelty-free company! Yay! This makes me feel even better when purchasing a product. I want to support companies who value the vegan lifestyle. This is a great everyday sunscreen. It comes in various sizes and scents.

See all the good stuff inside this vegan sunscreen at the detox market

Apothecary Muse – Woodsy Warrior

Okay, I’m taking this one backpacking! The push-stick design is perfect for using when you’re on the move, plus, the packaging is zero-waste! This vegan sunscreen doubles as a bug repellent. The sunscreen stick includes lemon eucalyptus oil, which keeps mosquitoes away. This sunscreen is my top pick.

Get a stick here on Etsy!

Little Tree Naturals – Raspberry Seed Sunscreen

The vegan sunscreen from Little Tree Naturals comes in a reusable glass jar. Another zero-waste sunscreen! The ingredients in the formula are organic and all natural. The jar is not as portable as a stick, but this would be great for everyday use at home.

Get yourself a jar on Etsy!


What sunscreen do you use? What are your favorite vegan brands? Did you learn anything new about sunscreens? What did I miss? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

If you liked my round-up of the best vegan sunscreens, you’ll probably like my article about the best vegan deodorants too!

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