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Latest update: 4 May 2022

Nowadays, more and more brands are marketing sustainable, eco-friendly, reef-safe sun products. Which is very cool because it is good for the environment and good for ourselves. In this blog, I’ll explain why. And, I’ll also tell you what the best eco-friendly sunscreens, lotions, and sticks are – if you can’t figure out which one to choose.

Warning: sunscreen prohibited

I first saw it in Mexico: a sign asking not to use sunscreen if I wanted to go into the water. I had already applied it generously in my hostel, so too bad; I went in anyway. But the sign got me thinking. Why wasn’t I allowed to use sunscreen if I wanted to swim in that beautiful cenote?

Dying coral – partly thanks to sunscreen

Actually, it is very logical. The sunscreen that we put on our skin ends up in the water. The ingredients of our sunscreens are often harmful to marine life. Sunscreen destroys plankton, is toxic to fish, and the coral dies. The growth of the coral is hampered, the coral cannot recover well, it fades, and the algae that live on the coral get all kinds of viruses. When those algae die, they can no longer provide the coral with oxygen, nutrition, and color. And so the coral also dies. In this way, we unintentionally and unconsciously destroy the underwater world.

How to sunbathe safely and eco-friendly?

Hmm, that’s not what we want, of course. I can’t deny that an oily film appears around me every time I go into the water. That can’t be good, right? Indeed, that is not okay – according to today’s standards. Fortunately, there are alternatives to old-fashioned sunscreen.

Yes, the promotion machine for sustainable sunscreen is currently working overtime! However, it still remains difficult for the average person to determine what really is an environmentally-friendly choice. The lists of ingredients still remain difficult to comprehend. On top of that, there are various aspects to sustainability or eco-friendliness. Naturally, it is about the ingredients in the sunscreen – but also about plastic and biodegradable packaging, sunscreen spray versus sunscreen cream, and cruelty-free or even vegan products. Phew, so many things to keep in mind! Let’s go through them one by one.

Sun sea sustainable sunscreen: terrific view over the ocean with a palm tree

SPF: the protection factor

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The SPF tells you how long you can stay in the sun without burning. So if your sunscreen has SPF 15 on it, you can spend fifteen times longer in the sun than without sunscreen. How long that exactly is, depends on your skin. One person can sit in the sun for fifteen minutes without getting burned, while another can’t even last for five minutes. The calculation goes like this: normal duration * factor. So 15 minutes * factor 15 = 225 minutes.

The higher the factor, the longer you can stay in the sun. Did you know many sunscreen brands stop at SPF 30? The difference in protection between SPF 30 and SPF 50 is around 1 percent. With SPF 20, you get about 95% protection, 97% protection with SPF 30, and 98% with SPF 50. So the sun products with SPF 50 don’t do much more for you, but it does give the false impression that you’re safe for an endless amount of time. This way, you still run the risk of getting sunburn and skin cancer.

UVA and UVB

The SPF indicates how long you are protected from UV rays. There are two types: Ultraviolet Aging (UVA) and Ultraviolet Burning (UVB). The UVA rays penetrate deep into your skin and can age your skin, and increase the risk of skin cancer. UVB rays burn you; these rays penetrate less deeply. Most sunscreens protect against all UV rays, but you would do well to check this.

We often think that we only need to protect ourselves from direct sunlight. But did you know that UVA rays simply go through glass? And that the radiation is also present when it is not sunny? That’s why it’s recommended to protect your skin all year round.

UV filters: mineral vs. chemical

Every sunscreen contains UV filters to protect your skin from the sun. A filter actually traps and absorbs the sun’s rays before they can damage your skin and skin cells. You have roughly two choices: chemical filters or mineral filters. We also call mineral filters physical filters or natural filters. But which are the most sustainable? That is actually very difficult to say. There are good and bad filters in both categories. The tendency is to say that it is better to go for mineral filters, but unfortunately, it is not that simple.

There is quite a discussion about what is good for you and nature. Researchers are not yet in agreement, and the different brands aren’t either. However, everyone seems to agree that chemical filters penetrate your skin and can therefore end up in your bloodstream and even in your urine. The chemical filter converts the UV radiation in the deep layers of the skin into heat.

But does a mineral filter do that too? The last word has not yet been said. A mineral filter reflects the sun (and therefore the UV radiation) by placing a layer on the skin instead of being absorbed into the skin. But some researchers and brands indicate that these mineral filters also absorb, just like the chemical filters. The difference seems to be that mineral filters absorb with metal oxide, and chemical filters absorb UV radiation with carbon. Unfortunately, the layer that the mineral filter leaves on your skin often produces a white haze. And that is somewhat… less charming.

Oxybenzone is a widely used chemical filter, as well as octinoxate and PABA. And then you also have Tinosorb S and Tinosorb M. These are chemical filters that both absorb and reflect sunlight (just like the mineral filters). The more popular mineral filters are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Zinc oxide is said to offer better protection – but titanium dioxide is better for marine life. So it’s nearly impossible to get it 100% right! As mentioned, a lot of research is still being done, and there are always new research results. For example, this report says that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide may not be the best options for the ocean after all. Difficult!

Eco-friendly safe tanning: Kim watching over the rocks towards the ocean

Nanoparticles and microplastics

Producers of sunscreen creams try to prevent the infamous white layer created by the mineral filters by adding nanoparticles to the product. A nanoparticle is a tiny particle that makes the creams more easily spreadable. In the case of titanium dioxide, it simply means that they made the titanium dioxide extremely small and should thus be referred to as nano. A nanoparticle is not necessarily microplastic, but it could be.

No white haze, better spreadability: that sounds good, but the smaller the particles, the more likely they are to penetrate your skin. If you go swimming in the sea with such a sunscreen, those nanoparticles also end up in the gills and brains of fish, for example. That is, of course, not what you want.

Starting from a certain quantity or composition, producers are obliged to put “nano” on the list of ingredients. Limited amounts do not have to be mentioned, so there can still be nanoparticles in non-nano sunscreens. These products often have a coating to enlarge the nanoparticles so that they remain on your skin. But, it doesn’t seem entirely fair to put it on the packaging as a non-nano sunscreen, does it? Regulations from the EU have therefore become stricter. As a result, sustainable sunscreen creams that were recently non-nano now suddenly contain nanoparticles. While nothing has changed in the substance. According to European guidelines, the nanoparticles should no longer be in sprays, because they can be carcinogenic if you inhale them – yikes. They are safe to use on your skin.

But the health risk with nano and non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide is very low, according to the Environmental Working Group. The Environmental Working Group says that titanium dioxide sunscreens don’t even exist without nanoparticles. According to them, nanoparticles and titanium dioxide go hand in hand. However, the nanoparticles from one brand may be larger or smaller than those from another brand. The Environmental Working Group also says titanium dioxide filters (including nanoparticles) are still the best option for the ocean. They claim that they barely penetrate your skin.

Conclusion? One nanoparticle is not the other. How such a nanoparticle works and whether it is safe depends on many things (reaction to sunlight, size, shape, effect on the cell, and so on). Nanoparticles are, therefore, not necessarily bad – but they definitely are confusing!

About those microplastics: a nanoparticle is not by definition a microplastic, but it could be. Microplastics are tiny, solid pieces of plastic that dissolve poorly in water and are not biodegradable. It has not been officially established what is and what is not microplastic. So it just depends on who you ask. Therefore, one environmental organization can qualify something as microplastic while another does not see the same substance as microplastic. A good starting point to take a closer look at all your care products is the Beat the Microbead app. Scan your product and find out if it contains microplastics.

Eco-friendly sunscreen for your skin and body

In addition to eco-friendly ingredients for nature, you naturally also want friendly ingredients for your skin and body. With that in mind, you are going to get confused once again. First of all, because every skin is different. The perfect sunscreen for your friend may result in rashes for you and the other way around. In that respect, it is, unfortunately, trial and error.

Many people don’t tolerate alcohol and perfumes in sunscreens, for example. Itching, bumps, chapped skin: it can all happen. For example, some people are also sensitive to oil, so it is better to opt for a natural water-based sunscreen. Those are usually the lotions.

I also noticed more brands proudly mention that their products don’t contain parabens. If you secretly have no idea what parabens are – like most of us. It is a preservative that keeps your sunscreen from spoiling. It is a chemical and may be carcinogenic, which is why it is so controversial, and producers are proud to say their product is free of it. Justly!

Bluntly put, chemical filters can trigger allergic reactions, disrupt hormones, and be carcinogenic. However, this is really very black and white! Not ALL chemical filters are equally bad and not ALL mineral filters are equally good. With mineral filters (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide), the health risks are minimal, and allergic reactions are rare.

Applying eco-friendly sustainable sunscreen Mexico: Kim and her mum laughing

What should and should NOT be on the list of ingredients of your biodegradable sunscreen

Of course, every brand claims to use the best ingredients. It is difficult for us ordinary people to determine which brand is right. Fortunately, there are also a few “simple” starting points – if you don’t want to make a scientific study of it. This way, you make the most sustainable, eco-friendly choice possible.

Scan packaging for some terms. If you can’t find them, then you’re probably fine with the eco-friendly sunscreen of your choice. Probably, because eco sunscreen is still under development, and new research and insights are still regularly emerging. These are the three biggest culprits:

  • Oxybenzone / Benzofen-3 / bp-3
  • Octyl methoxycinnamate / octinoxate
  • PABA

If you know you have sensitive skin, you better also avoid this:

  • Alcohol
  • Parabens
  • Perfume

These are ingredients that should make you happy:

  • Zinc oxide (preference for non-nano)
  • Titanium dioxide
  • Tinosorb

Sustainable sunscreen, lotion, or stick?

If you are looking for the best sustainable sunscreen for you, you will also be faced with choosing which substance you like. A cream, a lotion, or a stick? Sunscreen cream is usually a bit thicker than a lotion. A sunscreen lotion often contains more water. And there is hardly any water in a sunscreen stick. The stick is very dense and prevents spilling! I haven’t actually come across any eco-friendly suntan oils yet. Now I’m not really into the oil anyway because the protection factor is often very low.

Pick an eco-friendly sunscreen cream over a spray

We often choose a sunscreen spray instead of a cream because it is easier to apply. It is simply a bit thinner. However, selecting an environmentally-friendly sunscreen cream is better because sunscreen is lost when spraying. It evaporates and ends up in nature – not so environmentally friendly. On top of that, it is a shame that you don’t use all of the product; economically, the cream is also the better choice.

Waterproof sunscreen does not exist

Waterproof or water-resistant? Um… ok. I had never really thought about this either, but it is actually quite logical that sunscreen is not entirely waterproof. After a dive in the water, the effect always decreases. That is why the term should no longer be used: it is misleading.

The advice is to re-lubricate every two hours, especially after swimming or sweating a lot. I actually think that the white haze that you see with some sustainable sunscreens becomes more visible when you apply it the second time or when you are still wet from the water.

Animal-friendly sunscreen – vegan sunscreen even!

If you go swimming with sunscreen on, it will naturally also end up in the water. That is not such a problem in the pool, but it is in nature. Sunscreens can be harmful to fish and coral. Coral is also an animal, did you know? The more natural the product, the less harmful. Many brands try to offer coral-friendly (reef-friendly) sunscreen. The problem is mainly in the filters that I already described.

There are two more things to look out for if you’re looking for an animal-friendly sunscreen. First, have animal tests been conducted to develop the product? And second, is it a vegan product?

Getting your hands on cruelty-free sunscreen is actually not that difficult because there is a European ban on animal testing for cosmetics. Sunscreen falls under that law. Only some brands manage to get around this by manufacturing in China, or simply because they are not bound by European regulations. In the overview of the best sustainable sunscreens, I have stated for each brand whether or not it is not cruelty-free. Is your favorite sunscreen not listed? Then check PETA’s cruelty-free list to find your brand.

Vegan sunscreen is taking it one step further. Vegan sunscreens are not only not tested on animals, but they are also free from animal ingredients – you can think of beeswax, for example. Fortunately, there are more and more brands that make vegan sunscreen.

Packaging – zero waste sunscreen?

The packaging is also a big thing. Many sunscreens come in a chic box that contains a tube or spray. There are hardly any eco-friendly sun products without packaging on the market. I’ve only seen one at LUSH. Fortunately, most environmentally friendly sunscreen brands find it extremely important also to offer sustainable packaging. There are various options: from recyclable plastic to fully biodegradable material. These are terms you may come across:

  • BPA-free: BPA (Bisphenol A) makes plastic and synthetic materials elastic. It is a chemical and can (in large quantities) be endocrine disruptive.
  • PP plastic: PP (polypropylene or polypropylene) is strong and recyclable plastic.
  • Bio-based plastic or bioplastic: this material is obtained from natural products, such as sugar cane.

A disclaimer about white haze and spreadability of eco and reef-safe sunscreen

Applying an eco-friendly sunscreen takes some getting used to. Most biodegradable creams are less spreadable, a bit thicker. Especially on hairy legs, it can be more difficult to apply. And, because they do not absorb into your skin, they leave a white haze – more for some people than others. You could consider that white haze a very good sign – but everyone understands that you would rather not go through life like a ghost. That’s why want to work on that tan in the first place!

The different eco-friendly sunscreen brands do everything in their power to get that white haze as invisible as possible. But you will also have to accept the haze to some extent. Just be careful when applying your sustainable sunscreen. Don’t get too excited with the amount and apply a thin layer. That is enough. Repeat regularly, of course.

And now… The big sustainable sunscreen test!

The best eco-friendly sunscreen

Natural sunscreen, sustainable sunscreen, reef-friendly sunscreen, mineral sunscreen, vegan sunscreen, organic sunscreen, biodegradable sunscreen: so many brands, so many terms. And with every brand it means something different, there is no quality mark or anything like that. That is why it is up to you to decide what you define as sustainable sunscreen. For you, it could be super important that sunscreen is reef-safe, someone else may be on the lookout for natural ingredients to minimize or eliminate allergic reactions.

I received beautiful, sustainable sun products from 18 eco-friendly sunscreen brands to test. These products are widely available in the Netherlands. Most of them are also available outside of my lovely country.

All these brands are a better, more sustainable choice in sun products. I tested them all for you, and you will find a review per brand and a short checklist for every single one of them. In reverse alphabetical order: the best eco-friendly sunscreens, lotions, and sticks!

Duurzame zonnebrand

We Love Sunscreen sunscreen – SPF 30

The We Love Sunscreen is from We Love The Planet; you may know them from the diffusers – I often see (and smell!) them in the bathrooms of bars and restaurants. We Love sunscreen is one of the few natural sunscreen sticks on this list. I had to get used to that because I’m only familiar with sunscreen as a spray, cream or lotion, and oil. But this is actually super convenient and mess-free.

I was a little worried that it would be very dry and not spread at all. The stick looks quite dry… But, it spreads really well thanks to the oils it contains. Without white haze! Yeh! The sun stick smells slightly sweet, but I don’t smell anything anymore once applied. It is a kind of push-up tube: with your thumb, you push the sunscreen out and apply streaks on your skin. Easy to apply!

The yellow tube has a cheerful, summery look and perfectly fits the zero waste principle. And yes, the We Love Sunscreen is also very Dutch.

We Love Sunscreen sunscreen in short

  • UV filter type: mineral
  • Active UV filter: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide
  • Oxybenzone, octinoxate or PABA: no
  • Nanoparticles: nano
  • Microplastics: no
  • Perfume-free: yes
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Coral friendly/reef safe: yes
  • Vegan: yes
  • Water-resistant: yes
  • Packaging: paper tube
  • Hand luggage size: yes
  • Price tag: € 16.50 (SPF 20) | € 18.50 (SPF 30) for 50 grams
  • Where to buy: try the webshop of We Love The Planet, Amazon, or Bol.com

Suntribe – SPF 30

Suntribe’s natural sunscreen comes from Sweden. Three Swedish friends thought it was time for a worry-free, affordable sunscreen. I tested the SPF 30 one which is slightly tinted, so the white haze is a lot less. A light white haze remains in the capillaries – it’s very light, though, so I’m definitely able to show myself in public. The sunscreen is a bit firmer, but that doesn’t get in the way of spreading it out. The Suntribe sunscreen has the smell of coconut and cocoa – I especially smell the cocoa.

You will not find any chemicals, perfume, or preservatives in this sunscreen. The tube is made of 100% recyclable plastic, sugar cane to be exact. If you go for the Zinc Sun Stick, you are also doing well in terms of packaging because it is made from recycled cardboard. On top of that, the eco sunscreen is not tested on animals, and all Suntribe suppliers have signed a contract not to conduct any animal tests. There is still beeswax in the sunscreen, though. We have to wait for the vegan version just a bit longer.

Suntribe believes that safe, natural sunscreen should be available to everyone. As they say themselves: for adrenaline-seeking surfers, laid-back beachgoers, kids, working moms, grandpas, grandmas, and weekend hikers.

Suntribe sunscreen in short

  • UV filter type: mineral
  • Active UV filter: zinc oxide
  • Oxybenzone, octinoxate or PABA: no
  • Nanoparticles: non-nano
  • Microplastics: no
  • Perfume-free: yes
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Coral friendly/reef safe: yes
  • Vegan: no, but Suntribe is working on it
  • Water-resistant: yes
  • Packaging: recyclable sugar cane plastic (tube) and biodegradable recycled cardboard (stick)
  • Hand luggage size: yes
  • Price tag: about € 22.99 for 100 ml
  • Where to buy: internationally try Suntribe’s webshop or Amazon, Dutch readers can also buy at Bol.com, Big Green Smile, and Salontopper.

Sun Safe sunscreen – SPF 30 (The Ohm Collection)

Sun Safe sunscreen – SPF 30 (The Ohm Collection)

Sun Safe is The Ohm Collection’s sustainable sunscreen. As a yoga fan, I’m excited about the brand name and the beautiful design of the packaging – 100% recyclable packaging, by the way. They hope to switch to 100% biodegradable plastic soon. The sunscreen itself is already just that.

The Ohm Collection is an excellent brand from The Netherlands (Haarlem) with a collection of sustainable products, such as deodorants and day creams. They pay attention to the entire supply chain – which means they use natural and organic ingredients from small farmers and distillers and orders are delivered by bicycle in the Netherlands. But, what about the product? Is this mineral sunscreen any good?

Sun Safe’s active filter is zinc oxide. That’s one of those mineral filters that I talked about earlier – and that’s good! Especially since it is non-nano. Safe for the coral and for you too. The SPF 30 sunscreen is not too thick, but it is firmer than unsustainable options you may be used to. Don’t apply it too enthusiastically! The thinner you apply it, the less white haze. However, the haze is not that bad with Sun Safe. I have to take a thorough second look to see it. You can easily go out in public with this one. If you opt for the SPF15, you can actually use it as a day cream, because it is a real moisturizer.

The sunscreen has a sweet fresh scent, a bit tropical with a hint of vanilla and coconut. I like that the Ohm Collection website lists all ingredients, including what they do for you. The sunscreen is available in 75 ml and 150 ml and SPF 15 and SPF 30. Also convenient: you can order a friendly-priced tester on their website.

The Ohm Collection sunscreen in short

  • UV filter type: mineral
  • Active UV filter: zinc oxide
  • Oxybenzone, octinoxate or PABA: no
  • Nanoparticles: non-nano, uncoated
  • Microplastics: no
  • Perfume-free: yes
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Coral-friendly/reef safe: yes
  • Vegan: yes
  • Water-resistant: no
  • Packaging: recyclable plastic, soon 100% biodegradable
  • Hand luggage size: yes
  • Price tag: €25 for 75ml, and €40 for 150ml. The lower SPF factor is slightly cheaper.
  • Where to buy: from the The Ohm Collection webshop, Bol.com, and Big Green Smile

SMPL sunscreen- SPF 30

SMPL is a Dutch eco-friendly sunscreen brand. I collect the SPF 30 at co-owner Liselotte’s place in Amsterdam. When she hands me the natural sunscreen, I feel happy instantly. What a beautiful fresh design! The tube is made of sugar cane.

SMPL SPF 30 is mainly for the face, but you can also apply it to the rest of your body. I think it is a bit too expensive for that. In theory, you don’t even have to use a day cream, as SMPL sunscreen is a nourishing cream. I am a little too excited and apply way too much, so it takes a while for the sunscreen to subside. The second time I am more economical, and then it is no problem at all. White haze? Completely absent. The fragrance is fairly neutral; I recognize some cocoa butter somewhere in the distance.

The fact that there is no white haze is due to the mineral filter titanium dioxide with nanoparticles. SMPL refers to the Environmental Working Group’s research, which shows that this is one of the best solutions for the environment, and thus for marine life.

The brand values appeal to me: honest, practical (multifunctional, travel-friendly), stylish, and no-nonsense (no vague marketing terms, no unnecessary ingredients). All SMPL products (they have more skincare products) are entirely natural. The site also states exactly what each ingredient is and what it does for you.

SMPL sunscreen in short

  • UV filter type: mineral
  • Active UV filter: titanium dioxide
  • Oxybenzone, octinoxate or PABA: no
  • Nanoparticles: yes, coated
  • Microplastics: no
  • Perfume-free: yes
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Coral friendly/reef safe: yes
  • Vegan: yes
  • Water-resistant: no
  • Packaging: sugar cane
  • Hand luggage size: yes
  • Price tag: € 25 for 50 ml
  • Where to buy: try the SMPL webshop, Bol.com and Cosmania

Skalaris sunscreen- SPF 15 & SPF 30

Skalaris sunscreen is 100% natural, organic, and vegan. Skalaris is available in SPF 15 and SPF 30 and comes in a nice natural-looking (recyclable) box. The product itself comes in a sturdy, white pump bottle and has a very modern look. Am I pushing it when I say Scandinavian design?

The SPF 30 sunscreen is a bit stiff to apply but does spread nicely with some effort. In the pores of your skin, where your hairs grow, some cream remains, but very subtle. The SPF 15 from Skalaris is somewhat thinner and, therefore, smoother. It also immediately gives me the feeling that it is a nourishing cream. But that’s really just a feeling because the list of ingredients is almost identical. The only difference is that the SPF 15 contains more olive oil, which explains the spreadability and the “moisturizing”. On the website of Skalaris, you can see exactly what is in the natural sunscreen with handy pictures.

The Skalaris sunscreen smells so good! Light floral, and it contains a little acidity. I think I can smell a tiny difference between SPF 15 and SPF 30, but I find it extremely difficult to describe what that odor difference is precisely. I like them both. Not predominant. I’m ready for summer!

Skalaris heeft trouwens ook nog een hele lijn gezichtsproducten en babycrèmes en lotions. Voor de liefhebber. 🙂

Skalaris sunscreen in short

  • UV filter type: mineral
  • Active UV filter: zinc oxide
  • Oxybenzone, octinoxate or PABA: no
  • Nanoparticles: non-nano
  • Microplastics: no
  • Perfume-free: yes
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Coral friendly/reef safe: yes
  • Vegan: yes
  • Water-resistant: no
  • Packaging: recyclable plastic and the outer box is biodegradable cardboard made of grass
  • Hand luggage size: no
  • Price tag: € 31.95 for 150 ml SPF 15 | €32.95 for 150ml SPF 30
  • Where to buy: Skalaris’ webshop or Bol.com

RoKai / Shade sunscreen – SPF 25

RoKai’s organic sunscreen consists of only 4 (!!) ingredients. Crazy right? It is nice and clear what you put on your skin: coconut oil, shea butter, beeswax, and zinc oxide. The packaging shows a large coconut, but I don’t smell it at all. When I almost push my nose completely into the jar, I smell the beeswax. I must say that opinions are divided as to whether this is a pleasant scent. Fortunately, the fragrance is not at all predominant. Only immediately upon application, and when I smell my skin consciously, the fragrance is released.

The product looks gritty and hard, but it turns out to be very soft when I put my finger in the small tin. Because it is a natural product, it may be that you sometimes have to work a little harder to spread all the grains.

RoKai hardly gives a white haze if you apply it well. It is somewhat greasy, but I like that because it contains nourishing ingredients. By the way, RoKai is called Shade in some countries just to confuse you.

RoKai / Shade sunscreen in short

  • UV filter type: mineral
  • Active UV filter: zinc oxide
  • Oxybenzone, octinoxate or PABA: no
  • Nanoparticles: non-nano
  • Microplastics: no
  • Perfume-free: yes
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Coral friendly / reef safe: yes
  • Vegan: no
  • Water-resistant: no
  • Packaging: aluminum
  • Hand luggage size: yes
  • Price tag: € 13.95 for 100 ml
  • Where to buy: try the Not the Norm webshop (get 15% off with discount code KIMOPREIS) or Zepig, for the Dutch

NIVEA Sun Mineral sunscreen – SPF 50

Finally! The big, well-known brands are also joining the sustainable movement! NIVEA now has a mineral sunscreen on the market for your face and for children. Fantastic because that makes it even easier to make sustainable choices. If people quickly grab this NIVEA sunscreen in the store and expect the ‘old’ NIVEA sunscreen, they might be shocked by the white haze. Because, as you now know, mineral sunscreen leaves a layer on your face. If you don’t know about this, or apply a large amount, that will at least take some getting used to.

The mineral sunscreen from NIVEA is almost odorless, maybe slightly fresh, but it has no distinct scent to me. It is a perfume-free sunscreen, so that’s good news for people with sensitive skin. The sunscreen is relatively thin and spreads well. Not greasy at all. I think the mineral sunscreen for children is a bit thicker, and I also believe that the white haze is slightly stronger there. By the way, NIVEA SUN Mineral is entirely animal-free and vegan.

NIVEA Sun Mineral sunscreen in short

  • UV filter type: mineral
  • Active UV filter: zinc oxide
  • Oxybenzone, octinoxate or PABA: no
  • Nanoparticles: nano
  • Microplastics: no
  • Perfume-free: yes
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Cruelty-free/reef safe: yes
  • Vegan: yes
  • Water-resistant: yes
  • Packaging: the tube is made of plastic, but the cardboard box is made of 89% recycled material and FSC mix certified cardboard
  • Hand luggage size: yes
  • Price tag: € 18,99 for 50 ml sunscreen for your face | € 14,99 for the sunscreen for kids
  • Where to buy: the face cream at, among others, Plein.nl and Bol.com and for children also at Plein.nl , Amazon, and Bol.com

Naïf Sunscreen – SPF 30

Naïf has something for everyone: SPF 30, SPF 50, for your body, face, and children… So plenty of choice. I test the natural sun creams SPF 30 and the sun lotion SPF 30. The big difference? The cream is oil-based, and the lotion is water-based. And if you ask me, I’d go for the latter. Both sun products apply well, but the water-based one (the sunscreen lotion) does not leave a white haze, and the cream is slightly greasy. Which also makes sense with the oil, of course. Now it’s not too bad with the sunscreen with the white haze, you won’t look like a ghost. But if you can choose… There is hardly any difference in smell between the two; they are both very neutral.

There is also a natural oil-based sunscreen and a water-based lotion for babies and children. Both are SPF 50. The sustainable sun lotion for kids does not contain any perfume, by the way. There is also an excellent Naïf after sun, which is nice and soft and absorbs quickly.

The tubes have beautiful pastel shades. The packaging is made from bioplastic, from sugar cane. Only the cap is still made of regular plastic, and the ink is also still under development. Naïf hopes to go from 94% bioplastic to 100% bioplastic quickly.

Naïf is also a Dutch brand. When friends and new fathers Jochem and Sjoerd found out that baby care products can contain all kinds of harmful ingredients, Naïf was born. The goal is no harsh chemicals, microplastics, or ingredients that pollute the ocean. Everything as natural and CO2 neutral as possible. Nice statement on the website: “Difficult words don’t moisturize.” So just ingredients that you understand and, if possible, bought in The Netherlands.

Naïf sunscreen in short

  • UV filter type: mineral
  • Active UV filter: zinc oxide
  • Oxybenzone, octinoxate or PABA: no
  • Nanoparticles: non-nano
  • Microplastics: no
  • Perfume-free: no, but allergen-free perfume
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Coral friendly/reef safe: yes
  • Vegan: yes
  • Water-resistant: yes
  • Packaging: sugar cane bioplastic
  • Hand luggage size: yes
  • Price tag: € 21.95 for 100 ml
  • Where to buy: try the webshop of Naïf, Douglas, Big Green Smile, or Bol.com. Or, of course, Amazon.

LITTLE URCHIN sunscreen – SPF 30 & SPF 50

What exactly is an urchin? I had to google it too: it’s a sea urchin. Sea urchins are sensitive to light and chemicals and have evolved to make their own natural sunscreen for their little ones. And an urchin is also a toddler. The name refers (partly) to the daughter of founder Chris. When his daughter came back from daycare one day, she was covered in a chemical-smelling substance: sunscreen. It was unacceptable to Chris that his little girl, his toddler, was exposed to the potentially harmful effects of sunscreen, so he decided to do something about it himself. And that’s how LITTLE URCHIN was born. In Australia, by the way.

The natural SPF 30 sunscreen includes green tea, cucumber, and rosehip. When I put it on, I mainly smell the cucumber. So it’s a nice and fresh sunscreen; the smell dissipates as soon as you apply it. I think the tinted sunscreen smells a bit more earthy. At first, I was a bit shocked by the rather dark color of that one, but when I spread it out, I actually think it looks beautiful. It’s like wearing a very light layer of foundation. You could use the tinted sunscreen for your entire body, but I think it is especially suitable for your face. And then there is also an SPF 50 that is water-resistant for up to 4 hours, available as a lotion and in a stick. The SPF 50 sunscreen is also vegan!

LITTLE URCHIN sunscreen in short

  • UV filter type: mineral
  • Active UV filter: zinc oxide
  • Oxybenzone, octinoxate or PABA: no
  • Nanoparticles: non-nano
  • Microplastics: no
  • Perfume-free: yes, but the tinted sunscreen and the aftersun do contain natural oils
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Coral friendly/reef safe: yes
  • Vegan: SPF 50 yes, SPF 30 not
  • Water-resistant: yes
  • Verpakking: recyclebaar plastic 
  • Hand luggage size: yes
  • Price tag: from € 26.95
  • Where to buy: try the Little Urchin webshop or Nourished 

The Lekker Company sunscreen – SPF 30

The company name already reveals that this eco-friendly sunscreen comes from Dutch soil. A small team in Utrecht is trying to win the hearts of consumers with their eco-friendly, natural products. The sunscreen from The Lekker Company comes in a cardboard cup, and when you take off the lid, the fresh scent of eucalyptus comes to meet you. It is a super-concentrated substance that is best removed from the jar with warmer fingers. Substance-wise, it is comparable to a sun stick. So it is not sunscreen cream or lotion. So no mess!

I must confess I find it a bit challenging to get the eco sunscreen out of the cup. Especially if you want to apply it to your entire body, it will take you a while. But it does lubricate nicely, and you don’t get a white haze. The product is completely natural, cruelty-free, coral-friendly, and vegan. If you want to know everything about the ingredients, be sure to read this blog.

The packaging of this sunscreen is also very sustainable: paper and cardboard. And cheerfully colored, which our eyes love, right?

LEKKER sunscreen in short

  • UV filter type: mineral
  • Actieve uv-filter: zinkoxide en titaniumdioxide
  • Oxybenzone, octinoxate or PABA: no
  • Nanoparticles: coated nano
  • Microplastics: no
  • Perfume-free: yes
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Coral friendly/reef safe: yes
  • Vegan: yes
  • Water-resistant: yes
  • Packaging: recyclable paper and cardboard
  • Hand luggage size: yes
  • Price tag: € 19.99 for 70 grams
  • Where to buy: try The Lekker Company webshop or Bol.com.  

Lavera – SPF 30 & SPF 50

Lavera’s sun products have been given a new look. A new jacket of at least 97% recycled material (excluding the cap) and the cover boxes are even 100% recycled. Lavera also plants trees to compensate for CO2 emissions. And the products are entirely vegan.

I test the sunscreens with SPF 30 for the face and the one for the body. They both smell nice, a bit floral with a hint of citronella. I find the fragrance of the face cream stronger than the one for the body. But I really have to make so much of an effort to smell anything at all once it’s on my skin that I would call it almost odorless. The sunscreen for the face applies wonderfully and leaves virtually no white haze. It is, of course, essential not to apply it too thick. The aftersun smells really good and cools quickly.

The SPF 30 sunscreen is nice and thin, and smoother than the sunscreen for the face. Because of the mineral filter, I also absolutely see the white haze. It would be best if you just accept it, I’m afraid. But please do choose a cream from Lavera so that your spray does not drift away into nature. For the children, there is a pump bottle with SPF 50. I also see a white haze, so apply carefully before your child becomes a ghost! Is the sun not showing yet? hen use the fine self-tanning cream for your face. This gives you a subtle tanned look.

The new Sensitive Sun line from Lavera is entirely natural (all Lavera products are, by the way) and is also a good choice if you are sensitive to rashes. The name says it all, huh?

Lavera sunscreen in short

  • UV filter type: mineral
  • Active UV filter: titanium dioxide and zinc oxide
  • Oxybenzone, oxtinocate or PABA: no
  • Nanoparticles: non-nano
  • Microplastics: no
  • Perfume-free: yes
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Coral friendly/reef safe: yes
  • Vegan: yes
  • Water-resistant: no
  • Packaging: recyclable plastic
  • Hand luggage size: yes
  • Price tag: € 12.49 for 50 ml face cream | € 13.29 for 100 ml for your body
  • Where to buy: try Bol.com, Big Green Smile, Amazon, and Douglas

Dr. Jetske Ultee sunscreen – SPF 15 & SPF 30

dr. Jetske Ultee is a big name in skincare because of the high-quality products. Dr. Jetske Ultee speaks about skincare on her blog and in her book. For example, she is actively campaigning for sunscreen because we don’t really use enough sunscreen at all. dr. Jetske Ultee wants applying sunscreen to become as natural as brushing your teeth. Check out the campaign page; it’s full of fun information for children to present at school, for example.

The Suncover sunscreen is part of the campaign. It is sold on a non-profit basis. It allows for as many people as possible to sunbathe safely for a friendly price. The organization develops teaching material for children about safe sunbathing with the proceeds. It is a beautiful white bottle with an odorless sunscreen that spreads smoothly, without a white haze. AND! This sunscreen came out on top in the test from the Dutch Consumers’ Association in 2021.

There are also two smaller pump bottles: Suncare SPF 15 and Suncare SPF 30. These are especially made for your face and hands. You need to use very little to cover your entire face, so you can use the product for a long time. The sunscreen spreads nicely and is not greasy but rather a bit stiff. It is not a replacement for your day cream, but rather a supplement.

You may notice that dr. Jetske Ultee sunscreen uses other types of filters. Those so-called chemical filters that we talked about earlier. Don’t worry though. Chemical is not necessarily bad! Just like mineral is not necessarily good. The carbon in the filter (Tinosorb in this case) absorbs the UV radiation so that it can no longer cause damage to the skin cells.

Dr. Jetske Ultee sunscreen in short

  • UV filter type: chemical
  • Active UV filter: Suncare: Tinosorb S and TinosorbM, Suncover: Uvinul-A-Plus, Tinosorb S, Ensulizole and Tinosorb A2B.
  • Oxybenzone, octinoxate or PABA: no
  • Nanoparticles: nano
  • Microplastics: no
  • Perfume-free: yes
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Coral friendly/reef safe: yes
  • Vegan: yes
  • Waterresistent: ja
  • Packaging: recyclable plastic
  • Hand luggage size: Suncare yes, Suncover no
  • Price tag: € 15.95 for 250 ml Suncover | from € 35.95 for 50 ml Suncare
  • Where to buy: in dr. Jetske Ultee’s webshop  

HappySoaps sunscreen – SPF 20 & SPF 30

The plastic-free and natural sunscreen sticks from HappySoaps make me happy. They have a nice tropical scent with a hint of lime. I immediately feel like a cocktail on the beach!

You can first put the sunscreen on your hands and then spread it out, but I think it’s better to apply a layer of the eco-friendly sunscreen directly to the skin with the stick. If the stick is still cold, you need to apply with a little more force. Once it’s warmed up, it’s easier. Once you spread it, the lemon scent hits you even more. Not sticky and messy, but nice and moisturizing.

The sunscreen is made from only natural ingredients and is vegan. The sticks are handmade in the Netherlands. HappySoaps was born out of frustration with all the plastic packaging of personal care products. Can’t we do better? Hell yes. HappySoaps now has a wide range of packaging-free shampoos, conditioners, and body lotions. And if zero waste is no option yet, they opt for plastic-free solutions.

HappySoaps sunscreen in short

  • UV filter type: mineral
  • Active UV filter: zinc oxide and titanium oxide
  • Oxybenzone, octinoxate or PABA: no
  • Nanoparticles: nano
  • Microplastics: no
  • Perfume-free: yes
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Coral friendly/reef safe: yes
  • Vegan: yes
  • Water-resistant: yes
  • Packaging: recycled cardboard
  • Hand luggage size: yes
  • Price tag: € 12.99 for 50 grams
  • Where to buy: try the HappySoaps webshop or Bol.com 

Etos sunscreen – SPF 30

Yes, bigger companies are now producing their own labels of sustainable sunscreen! From 2022, Etos has a fine natural sunscreen line. There is a facial lotion (SPF 30), natural sunscreen for your body (SPF 30 and SPF 50), and an after sun. In one shopping spree, you’re done.

The Etos natural sunscreen lotion for your face (SPF 30) is a firm lotion that spreads well and does not leave a white haze. It is virtually odorless; you just smell cream. I am enthusiastic about this one as the sunscreen is moisturizing but not greasy. The SPF 30 for your body also spreads out perfectly without a white haze.

You can recognize the natural sunscreen from Etos by the sand-colored packaging, partly made from sugar cane. The lotions are coral-friendly and vegan. And, not unimportantly: competitively priced. It’s really great to see that sustainable choices are becoming accessible to a broad audience.

Etos sunscreen in short

  • UV filter type: mineral
  • Active UV filter: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide
  • Oxybenzone, octinoxate or PABA: no
  • Nanodeeltjes: non-nano, behalve SPF 50, die heeft 1 nano-filter
  • Microplastics: no
  • Parfumvrij: nee
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Coral friendly/reef safe: yes
  • Vegan: yes
  • Water-resistant: yes
  • Packaging: recyclable plastic (sugar cane)
  • Hand luggage size: yes
  • Price tag: facial lotion € 8.99 for 50 ml | sun lotion for the body € 8.49 for 100 ml (SPF 30)
  • Where to buy: try the Etos webshop or Bol.com.  

Earth.Line sunscreen – SPF 20 & SPF 15

Another Dutch brand! Love my country! Earth.Line uses subtle, earthy colors for their packaging. The packaging is still made of recyclable plastic, but Earth.Line is working on even more sustainable solutions. The SPF 20 from Earth.Line is meant for both your face and your body. It smells nice and fresh, a little floral, but not too intense. . There is no synthetic perfume in this natural sunscreen, but there are essential oils. There have to be, Marieke (representative of Earth.Line) tells me: they need to cover up the scent of some other ingredients (the natural sunscreen filter does not smell good at all).

The sunscreen spreads well. You can see the well-known white haze with the capillaries, but if you do not apply it too thick, it is not so bad. In addition to the SPF 20, Earth.Line also has a good sunscreen for your face with factor 15. It spreads great and leaves no white haze. And for your lips, there is a small tube with SPF 10. And if you’re fond of sun products, Earth.Line also has more products for your face and body.

By the way, with Earth.Line, you see what I told you about earlier with the new regulations about whether or not to put nano on the packaging. In the past, it wasn’t necessary with this mineral sunscreen; now it is. And nothing has changed in the product. The nanoparticles are coated so that the mineral sunscreen is easy to spread, by the way.

Let’s talk about the name, because Earth.Line calls their sunscreen Argan Sun Care. But what is argan? That turns out to be a vegetable oil, from the argan tree, which grows fruits that are somewhat comparable to olives. All ingredients that Earth.Line uses in the sunscreen are natural. You could eat the sunscreen! So to speak, Earth.Line adds. 😉 So don’t! Just lubricate.

Earth.Line sunscreen in short

  • UV filter type: mineral
  • Active UV filter: titanium dioxide and zinc oxide
  • Oxybenzone, octinoxate or PABA: no
  • Nanoparticles: coated nano
  • Microplastics: no
  • Perfume-free: yes
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Coral friendly/reef safe: yes
  • Vegan: yes
  • Water-resistant: yes
  • Packaging: recyclable plastic
  • Hand luggage size: the face cream and lip balm are, but the regular sunscreen is not
  • Price tag: € 24.95 for 150 ml SPF 20 | € 19.95 for 50 ml SPF 15
  • Where to buy: try The Green Chapter, Amazon, Holland & Barrett or Bol.com

Australian Gold sunscreen – SPF 30 & SPF 50

Australian Gold is perhaps the best-known brand on this list. But are they sustainable? Hell yes! Australian Gold has developed a beautiful botanical line with a mineral filter. This sunscreen is specially made for your face in factor 50. The packaging is chic off-white with golden details and a colorful botanical drawing.

I am a bit wary of the sunscreen on my face at first. It is tinted, so it has some color. I am afraid that I am way too white for the cream and will end up with a so-called plastered face, but nothing could be further from the truth. With my fair skin full of freckles and dark spots, this Australian Gold sunscreen is perfect. I use the medium-tan version, but there is also a fair-light version that’s a bit lighter. The cream gives a somewhat matte look, which I really like: as if there is a soft talcum layer on me. To me, that feels nice and fresh.

This mineral sunscreen nicely as if it were a normal face cream. This one is almost odorless by the way. A very nice product for your face, especially for ladies, because of the color it contains. In case you want to know precisely: it is a BB cream. Excuse me? The BB stands for beauty balm and is a tinted, moisturizing cream. Learned something today! 😉

Australian Gold sunscreen in short

  • UV filter type: mineral
  • Active UV filter: titanium dioxide
  • Oxybenzone, octinoxate or PABA: no
  • Nanoparticles: non-nano
  • Microplastics: no
  • Perfume-free: yes
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Cruelty-free/reef safe: yes
  • Vegan: yes
  • Water-resistant: yes (up to 80 minutes, reapplying is a good idea anyway)
  • Packaging: recyclable plastic
  • Hand luggage size: yes
  • Price tag: € 29.50 for 89 ml for your face
  • Where to buy: try Australian Gold’s webshop, Plein.nl, Amazon or Bol.com

ATTITUDE sunscreen – SPF 30

ATTITUDE sunscreens come in cheerful boxes and packaging. The face stick is a handy thing to easily rub your face with sunscreen. You apply some smudges on your face and then spread it on. Very easy and spreadable. It’s small enough for your hand luggage too.

If you do your very best, you can smell a regular sunscreen scent. But actually, the smell of the ATTITUDE sunscreen is best described as neutral. The body cream with factor 30 is a somewhat thicker cream, you have to really try to apply and spread it properly. If you use too much of it, you will get a white haze. So apply wisely!

Worry-free, it says on the packaging. And it really is. It has not been tested on animals, it is even vegan and it is coral friendly. It is also hypoallergenic, so if you are prone to skin irritations, the ATTITUDE sunscreen is a good option for you. The brand also has other sun products (also for children, which is less spreadable) and a nice after sun, check the site.

ATTITUDE sunscreen in short

  • UV filter type: mineral
  • Active UV filter: zinc oxide
  • Oxybenzone, octinoxate or PABA: no
  • Nanoparticles: non-nano
  • Microplastics: no
  • Perfume-free: yes
  • Dierproefvrij: ja
  • Cruelty-free/reef safe: yes
  • Vegan: yes
  • Water-resistant: no
  • Packaging: recyclable plastic
  • Hand luggage size: no, but the face stick is
  • Price tag: € 29.99 for 150 ml | € 14.99 for the face stick

Alteya sunscreen – SPF 30

Alteya makes its products in Bulgaria and is best known for its popular Bulgarian rose water. But they also have sunscreen, for adults and children. It is an entirely organic product, which means that the farmers do not use fertilizers and chemical pesticides on their land.

Alteya prevents a white haze by applying a shade to the cream. The cream looks a bit like a granular foundation. It does not work well on every skin color, so test that with your own skin tone – you don’t want to end up orange! You can also help prevent that haze by not applying too much. The Alteya sunscreen applies a bit more stiffly than you may be used to from sunscreens with chemical filters.

The sunscreen has a natural, earthy fragrance that lingers for a long time. The cheerful orange tube is small enough to take with you in your hand luggage.

Alteya sunscreen in short

  • UV filter type: mineral
  • Active UV filter: zinc oxide
  • Oxybenzone, octinoxate or PABA: no
  • Nanoparticles: non-nano, uncoated
  • Microplastics: ?
  • Perfume-free: yes
  • Cruelty-free: yes
  • Cruelty-free/reef safe: yes
  • Vegan: no
  • Water-resistant: no
  • Packaging: recyclable plastic
  • Hand luggage size: yes
  • Price tag: € 24,95 for 90 ml
  • Where to buy: at the webshop of Alteya, Amazon, and Bol.com

Choose your favorite eco-friendly sustainable sunscreen

Lots of choices huh? And this is just a selection of the complete range. Because the compositions and packaging of sustainable sunscreen are still in development and research, I, unfortunately, do not have THE answer for you. Not one of these sunscreens is THE best. All of them are wise choices, though – and a lot more sustainable than the sun products you know from the past. It is up to you to determine what is important to you. Do you want vegan sunscreen? Do you prefer zinc oxide? Or would you like a certain factor or preferably a Dutch brand? I hope this blog has helped you a bit and made you a bit wiser.

Sustainable sunscreen “do’s”

In short, what you can do to sunbathe more sustainably and healthier:

🌞 Buy sunscreen without oxybenzone (also called Benzofen-3 or bp-3), octinoxate, and PABA.
🌞 Avoid ANY alcohol and perfumes, especially if you have sensitive skin.
🌞 Check whether your sunscreen is animal testing/cruelty-free, and maybe even vegan.
🌞 Do not use sprays.
🌞 Do NOT enter the water for half an hour after applying your sunscreen.
🌞 Share this article with everyone you know so that we all take good care of ourselves and nature!

All brands have provided me with their sunscreen product free of charge. None of them had any influence on the contents of this article.

First published: April 2019. Updated regularly since.

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