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These are the best reef-safe sunscreens of 2024, tested and reviewed

You can get high-quality SPF products that provide all the sun protection you need without harming marine life.

Tubes of reef-safe sunscreens from Thrive, Supergoop and Cotz.
The year's best reef-safe sunscreens include SPF products from Thrive, Supergoop and Cotz (Amazon)

Reef-safe sunscreens are a relatively new — but necessary — phenomenon. According to the National Park Service, 4,000 to 6,000 tons of sunscreen washes off swimmers and into oceans worldwide every year. The National Ocean Service reports that common sun protection ingredients including the chemical oxybenzone — found in many popular sunscreen lotions and sprays in the U.S. — are contributing to the deterioration of coral reefs, which are essential for the globe's marine life. In fact, the effects of chemical sunscreen ingredients are dire enough that popular tourist destinations including Hawaii and Key West, Fla., have banned the sale and use of these products altogether.

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The result is a spate of new and improved reef-safe sun protection lines that promise high-quality SPF without any of the environmental harm.

What makes sunscreen reef-safe?

"Reef-safe" most commonly refers to sun protection made without the two most common chemicals found in chemical sunscreens: oxybenzone and octinoxate. Studies show that these chemicals cause coral bleaching, which often results in disease and death of the reefs, which has a profoundly negative impact on marine life and ecosystems. It's important to note that the terms "reef-safe" and "reef-friendly" are not official definitions — more research is needed on the effects of additional chemicals, preservatives and dyes found in many commercial sunscreens. For now, many scientists believe "non-nano" zinc oxide sunscreens are the safest — "non-nano" refers to larger zinc oxide particles that protect, but don't penetrate, the skin. (In studies, zinc oxide, which is found in many mineral sunscreens, hasn't harmed marine plants and wildlife.)

Whether or not you opt for reef-safe sunscreen, remember that any SPF is better than no SPF. For further help choosing, check out our lists of best sunscreens for your body and best sunscreens for your face.

Does reef-safe sunscreen work?

Reef-safe sunscreens can work as well as and — some experts believe — even better than those that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate. Many reef-safe sunscreens are mineral sunscreens, which means they use minerals like zinc oxide to create a physical barrier from ultraviolet rays (mineral versions are also most often the best sunscreens for sensitive skin). Unlike chemical sunscreens, these SPF products start working upon application. "Chemical sunscreens require time to bind with the skin to be the most effective," said dermatologist and Kiehl's skin consultant Dr. Michelle Henry, who recommends applying chemical sunscreens 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure.

According to cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Ava Shamban, the most important quality to look for in an effective SPF is not the type, but the coverage itself: "Not all sun protectants guard against both UVA and UVB rays, which is important. Always look for something that is broad-spectrum, meaning it covers both types of damaging rays," she said.

Reef-safe sunscreens will provide adequate protection as long as they're "a quality product at 30 SPF [or above], applied properly and as suggested every three hours, or every two in direct sun activities," Shamban said.

The best reef-safe sunscreens of 2024

Active ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF: 50 | Mineral or chemical: Mineral | Size: 5.8 ounces | Water-resistant: Yes | Cruelty-free: Yes

From an environmental standpoint, Thrive's sunscreen has a ton going for it: It's reef-safe, made from ingredients that support regenerative farming and contained in a tube that's composed of 100% recycled plastic. What's inside is just as good: a potent zinc oxide mineral sunscreen that absorbs into skin easily with zero white cast (at least on my fair skin). The scent is a kind of citrus-hippie, which I don't mind but some users found a bit strong.  

Pros
  • Earth- and reef-friendly
  • Natural ingredients
  • Absorbs fast and easily
  • No white cast
Cons
  • Texture may be too greasy for some
$30 at Amazon

Active ingredients: Zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, iron oxides | SPF: 45 | Mineral or chemical: Mineral | Size: 1.7 ounces | Water-resistant: Yes | Cruelty-free: Yes

Peter Thomas Roth's all-mineral, tinted facial sunscreen ticks all the boxes: It's water-resistant, provides broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sun protection, works particularly well to reduce redness and is nonirritating for sensitive skin. Plus, it's lightweight but still hydrating and skin-nourishing with a high-quality SPF 45. The tint also seems to work for nearly every skin tone, though those with the fairest of skin may find it too dark. 

Pros
  • High-quality mineral sunscreen
  • Lightweight but still moisturizing
  • Tint works for most skin tones
  • Water-resistant
Cons
  • Some reviewers find the tint too dark
$25 at Walmart
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$38 at Amazon$38 at Kohl's

Active ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF: 50+ | Mineral or chemical: Mineral | Size: 0.5 ounces | Water-resistant: Yes | Cruelty-free: Yes

Australian brand Blue Lizard consistently puts out some of the best sun protection on the market, and this reef-safe, fragrance-free zinc oxide stick is small enough to carry wherever you go. It's easy to apply, not sticky or greasy and is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. 

Pros
  • Great for kids
  • Fragrance-free
  • Portable
  • Good for sensitive skin
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Small size runs out quickly, some reviewers complain
$9 at Walmart
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$9 at Amazon$10 at Target

Active ingredients: Avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene | SPF: 50 | Mineral or chemical: 'Clean' chemical | Size: 2.4 ounces | Water-resistant: Yes | Cruelty-free: Yes

This broad-spectrum sunscreen is sweat-resistant for 80 minutes, and it absorbs lightning-fast. The gentle formula is great for all skin types (it's especially excellent for kids). It's designed to be used on both the face and body, which makes it convenient and versatile. It's the only sunscreen I pack on vacation — especially since it comes in a number of sizes, including both a tiny travel tube and a handy Supergoop Play Everyday jumbo size, an 18-ounce tub with an easy-to-use, family-friendly applicator pump.

For more info, check out my in-depth review of Supergoop.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Fast-absorbing
  • Broad-spectrum SPF 50 sunscreen (protects against both UVA and UVB rays)
  • Family-friendly (gentle and works for many types of skin)
  • Moisturizing
  • No white cast
Cons
  • Texture may be too greasy for some
  • Contains chemicals
$24 at Amazon
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$24 at Kohl's$24 at Ulta Beauty

Active ingredients: Avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene | SPF: 50+ | Mineral or chemical: 'Clean' chemical | Size: 1.7 ounces | Water-resistant: Yes | Cruelty-free: Yes

This chemical sunscreen from Kiehl's lacks common reef-harming culprits, but it still provides powerful sun protection. It's also lightweight and ultra-hydrating, while helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and sunspots. The multitasker also helps smooth the texture of your skin.

Pros
  • Dermatologist-tested
  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Absorbs quickly
  • No white cast
  • Noncomedogenic
  • Infused with skin-nourishing ingredients like vitamin E
Cons
  • Contains chemicals
$35 at Ulta Beauty
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$47 at Amazon$47 at Macy's

Active ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF: 45+ | Mineral or chemical: Mineral | Size: 2.5 ounces | Water-resistant: Yes | Cruelty-free: Yes

A luxurious, extra-silky mineral sunscreen cream that combines highly protective zinc oxide with bee propolis and vitamin C to nourish your skin, Epicuren's formula is also a favorite of actress Tracee Ellis Ross. "It looks natural. Some sunscreens are not great if you're a person of color," she explained to Harper's Bazaar in 2017.

Pros
  • Blends seamlessly with deeper skin tones
  • Natural formula
  • Broad-spectrum coverage
  • Lightweight
  • Skin-nourishing
Cons
  • Expensive
$55 at Amazon
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$55 at Dermstore

Active ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF: 50+ | Mineral or chemical: Mineral | Size: 1 ounce | Water-resistant: Yes | Cruelty-free: No

SkinCeuticals is among the gold standards in skin care, and this ultra-moisturizing, high-SPF mineral sunscreen is no exception. It's specially formulated for extra-sensitive skin. It's also free of fragrances and chemicals and is made with plankton extracts meant to boost skin's moisture.   

Pros
  • High protection
  • Fragrance-free
  • Gentle mineral formula
  • Lightweight
  • Absorbs easily
  • Broad-spectrum
  • Nongreasy
Cons
  • Pricey
  • Small tube runs out quickly
$39 at Walmart
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$48 at eCosmetics

Active ingredients: Avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene | SPF: 40 | Mineral or chemical: 'Clean' chemical | Size: 1.7 ounces | Water-resistant: Yes | Cruelty-free: Yes

If you are looking for a sunscreen that also acts as a makeup primer or need your sun protection to be completely invisible (that is, with no sheen), this one's for you. It's scent-free and weightless, and provides SPF 40 protection. A "clean" chemical sunscreen, this wildly popular formula is free of oxybenzone and octinoxate. Though anyone can use it, it works particularly well for oily or acne-prone skin.

Supergoop has a range of sunscreens that we've tested, and each is formulated to be gentle on sensitive skin.

Pros
  • Invisible
  • Weightless
  • Good for oily and acne-prone skin
  • Doubles as a makeup primer
Cons
  • Matte finish isn't the best for mature skin
  • Pricey
  • Contains chemicals
$38 at Amazon
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$38 at Kohl's$38 at Ulta Beauty

Active ingredients: Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide | SPF: 40 | Mineral or chemical: Mineral | Size: 3.5 ounces | Water-resistant: Yes | Cruelty-free: Yes

Cotz was founded in 2002 by reconstructive plastic surgeon Dr. Harry Fallick, who set out to make a gentle, versatile everyday sunscreen his patients would actually use. The result is this water-resistant SPF 40 mineral sunscreen, which not only protects but soothes sensitive skin. The ultra-silky cream is free of dyes, fragrances, oils, preservatives, gluten and phthalates. 

Pros
  • Broad-spectrum coverage
  • Works for body and face
  • No white cast on most skin tones
  • Fragrance-free
Cons
  • Some users don't like the gloopy, thick texture
$30 at Amazon
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$28 at CVS Pharmacy$30 at Verishop

Active ingredients: Titanium dioxide, iron oxides | SPF: 50 | Mineral or chemical: Mineral | Size: 1.7 ounces | Water-resistant: Yes | Cruelty-free: No

This award-winning sunscreen is considered among the best in the world. The texture is lightweight, almost watery (like a thin day cream), and it soaked into my skin on contact.

Once on, the formula looked natural, with no greasy feel, no stickiness and no glossy sheen. In fact, this is my only complaint about the Anthelios face sunscreens: They're matte, which is not always the best for mature skin. On the plus side, they're fragrance-free, and, even when I went super close to my eyes, the cream didn't sting. 

You can read my in-depth review of La Roche-Posay Anthelios sunscreen here.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Smooth, easy application
  • Leaves skin feeling soft
  • Protects and nourishes skin
Cons
  • Pricey
  • Matte finish isn't the best for mature skin
$20 at Walmart
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$37 at Amazon$38 at Ulta Beauty

Active ingredients: Actinica zinc oxide | SPF: 50+ | Mineral or chemical: Mineral | Size: 3.4 ounces | Water-resistant: Yes (but limited) | Cruelty-free: Yes

The name may be a mouthful, but dermatologists swear by this one. Doctors we spoke to particularly recommend it for patients who have known sun damage. Isdin's Eryfotona Actinica is one of the best mineral sunscreens, it's lightweight, it won't leave your skin feeling greasy and it has UVA/UVB protection. It also has DNA-repairing enzymes and vitamin E to help fight UVA-induced skin damage.

Pros
  • Good for sensitive skin
  • Contains skin-repairing enzymes
  • Broad-spectrum SPF
  • Fast-absorbing
  • Lightweight
  • Scent-free
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Water-resistant for only 40 minutes
$70 at Amazon
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$60 at ISDIN$99 at SkinStore