Sustainability and Circularity

Summertime Sunscreen Madness


Everyone who knows me personally knows that I LOVE the heat, I LOVE the hot weather, and I LOVE the summer. If you have been following my blog or any of my social media platforms, you will start to learn that about me and hopefully I can convince you to love the summer as much as I do. 😉

Now, with that being said, when you think about the summer, what is the one thing that you will likely take with you or put on your skin everytime you go outside? 

Sunscreen. And that’s what we’re here to talk about today! Sunscreen! So let’s get to it.

Sunscreen is basically considered a double-wammy on the environment. It’s usually contained in a plastic tube and… it’s ingredients are killing the coral reef. You know, the coral reef that sustains most ocean life? … ya that coral reef. Also, many freshwater ecosystems have been shown to be negatively affected by sunscreen that dissipates into the water. Believe it or not, no matter where you are (landlocked or by the ocean), our sunscreen could be negatively affecting the environment.

So why should we all be more conscious about what sunscreen we buy? Check out this short video below for all the deets.

We NEED to be more conscious about the sunscreen we choose to put on our bodies and into our water systems. Choosing a sunscreen that utilizes plastic-free packaging is essential to decreasing the amount of plastic that eventually ends up in the ocean. Along with that, having awareness for what ingredients are in the sunscreen is of equal importance.

Now let’s talk packaging because, while there is a lot of reef-safe sunscreen emerging onto the market, many of them are contained in plastic. While it’s great to solve one problem by using ingredients that aren’t damaging to the coral reef, it doesn’t make sense to contribute to another problem that is directly impacting ocean life while doing it.  

Without going into great detail, I’ll give you the cliff notes. Basically, plastic can take up to 1000 years to biodegrade and there are currently FIVE massive “garbage patches” full of discarded plastic and other man-made debris floating in the ocean that have been accumulating in all of the ocean’s gyres for decades. Also, plastic was only created a little over 100 years ago, so at the rate it is being produced, those garbage patches will only keep growing.

Yum, who wants to go swimming in a giant pool of microplastic soup with me?! Anyone?? lol.

To dive further into why it’s important to be aware of plastic pollution, check out my Pick Your Paradise and Protect It blog post. 

Because of this, I asked the question, “Is it possible to find and buy reef-safe sunscreen that isn’t inside a plastic container?” The answer is yes, yes it is. On this plastic-free AND reef-safe sunscreen journey, I intentionally looked for sunscreens that were sold in plastic-free containers and let me tell you, I found some goodies! So which one’s do I recommend?

Original Non-Tinted, from left to right:

1. Balm! Baby Sun! Natural Sunscreen

2. Butter Me Up Organic Sunscreen

3. Raw Elements Baby + Kids Certified Natural Sunscreen

4. Little Hands Hawaii Sunscreen

5. Manda Organic Sun Creme

6. Juniper Seed Surf & Snow Vegan Zinc Oxide Balm

7. Waxhead Sunscreen (Not pictured)

Tinted, from left to right:

  1. Stream2Sea Tinted Sunscreen SPORT
  2. All Good Tinted Sunscreen Butter
  3. Surf Durt Tinted Sunscreen
  4. Waxhead Tinted Sunscreen
  5. Little Hands Tinted Sunscreen
  6. Raw Elements Tinted Facial Moisturizer

Now, all of these sunscreens are great! So it comes down to what you’re looking for.

For my family, these are the things we were looking for in a sustainable sunscreen:

  • Plastic-free
  • The ingredients are safe for the environment and our skin
  • Protection from the sun – no sunburns!
  • Non-greasy feeling
  • The least amount of “white-cast” possible


Original Non-Tinted: Manda Organic Sun Creme

What I like about it:

  • The ingredients are amazing. Not only do they focus on organic food-grade ingredients, they use Thanaka [which] has been used for over 2000 years as a natural sun protectant that preserves and beautifies the skin.
  • It’s in a tube form and utilizes almost no plastic. This is the form of sunscreen that most people are used to and it’s easy to travel with. Many zero-waste sunscreen options come in tins that are not as sanitary nor as convenient as a tube. The tube is made out of a sugarcane resin. I really feel like revolutionizing a “tube” of sunscreen to be zero waste is the way to reach a larger part of the population.
  • It does produce a white-cast like all zinc oxide sunscreen does; however, this one rubs in very well. It has one of the most sheer finishes of zinc-oxide sunscreens that I have come across.

What I don’t like about it:

  • Wowza white-cast. This was one that had the least amount of white-cast… after you rub it in. If you’re hoping for something you can lather on quickly without a white-cast, this is not it. If you are willing to rub it in, it’s very moisturizing and the white-cast diminishes greatly!
  • The packaging. Most of this is NOT plastic, even if it looks like it. The tube is actually made of a sugarcane resin; however, there is a small plastic lining inside the cap. I wish there was a plastic free tube like this one without any plastic. That is the goal.
  • The price. It is definitely a higher price point. If this good quality sunscreen was more affordable, more people would grab this product before something of lesser quality because it is cheaper.

Tinted: Surf Dirt Tinted

What I like about it:

  • I am able to wear this every day in any setting; work, social events, etc.
  • It comes in a reusable and/or recyclable tin.
  • It has a very smooth texture once on your face.
  • It is not greasy, but moisturizing at the same time.
  • It lasts a long time on your face and fades away evenly.

What I don’t like about it:

  • I like the zero waste tin, but it is just not that sanitary. Because I have to dig a tool or my finger into the dish of sunscreen to get the product out, there is a higher chance of me introducing bacteria into what is left in the tin. Your hand washing routine needs to be on point. Which it should be right now anyways.
  • I wish this came in a larger size. I would love to use this on the rest of my body. Since non-tinted sunscreen takes away the “white-cast” of zinc oxide, this tint would be perfect to blend into the tone of the rest of my body.

For kids: Raw Elements Baby + Kids Certified Natural Sunscreen Stick

Disclaimer – I am not a doctor, prior to use, consult your child’s primary care physician.

What I like about it:

  • It’s in a push up stick that makes it easy for me to put on my daughters face or for her to apply herself. She is 5 years old and says, “let me do it” about every other sentence. The convenience of the packaging has made it such an easy process to get sunscreen on her face.
  • It has the least amount of “white-cast” that I’ve found for a non-tinted sunscreen; it’s almost completely clear after rubbing it in.
  • It spreads and rubs in easily. Like REALLY easy.
  • I like that is SPECIFICALLY for kids.
  • The packaging is zero waste and will compost easily after being discarded.
  • The same formula is sold in a 3oz tin for body coverage and it’s excellent.

What I don’t like about it:

  • Since it is in compostable packaging, you cannot let it get wet. Which is actually ok, because the compostable packaging is one of my favorite parts of this product. I just mention this because when I’m chasing kids around, the last thing on my mind is making sure the sunscreen doesn’t get wet.
  • The price. It’s a little bit more on the expensive side compared to kid sunscreen sold at the grocery store. If it was a cheaper, I believe more families would buy this product.

A couple of notes about sunscreen in general:

  • Any sunscreen that is not tinted and utilizes non-nano zinc oxide as their main ingredient will give off a white cast to all wearing it. I think it is a large reason why people avoid products with this ingredient. The products that I listed above will show a slight white cast, it’s just matter of fact. BUT because I know that is an extreme limitation, I scrutinized every product and have listed the products that show the least amount of white cast.
  • “The terms “Reef-Safe” or “Reef-Friendly” are not regulated by law, so there is no official definition. This means anyone can put it on a label even if the product contains ingredients that are toxic to marine life. “Organic” and “Natural” do not mean non-toxic to marine life either. Don’t be misled by the labels. Read the ingredients!” states Kokua Suncare on their blog. Basically, focus on the ingredients and not necessarily the labels!

Now you might have noticed in the list of “WHAT TO AVOID”, sprays and powders were on the list. This is a tough one. Especially for my household. My husband gets the hebbie-jebbies with lotions and cream sunscreens, so sprays have been a life saver for him. It’s a texture thing I guess. 

The thing is though, whether or not you’re like my husband and the feeling of lathering a cream on your skin makes you want to gag or not, almost everyone LOVES the convenience of a spray. Not to mention that sprays are also less messy than a cream or a lotion. 

So why are spray sunscreens advised by many organizations as a no-go?

  • “Sprays can be dangerous if you accidentally breathe them in. “Some sunscreen ingredients can be lung irritants, and some sprays contain titanium dioxide,” explains Don Huber, director of product safety at Consumer Reports. That ingredient, when inhaled in large amounts, has been linked to cancer in rodent studies.” states Karyn Repinski in her 2019 article for Consumer Reports.
  • The more common sense reason is that many of the particles are landing on the sand (if you’re at the beach) around you as you are spraying the sunscreen on yourself. All of that will eventually wash into the ocean when the tide comes in. Even for us landlocked Coloradans, if the particles that spray past your body end up on the gravel and leaves around you as you prepare for a hike up the mountain, those particles will eventually wash into a river when the rains come. No matter where you are, many of the ingredients in sunscreen are being found to have negative impacts on the environment and more specifically water ecosystems.

Bottom line, try to avoid spray sunscreens. However! It seems to be human nature that when someone is told “no”, that person will just go on using whatever works well in the moment no matter the long term health effects for themselves or the environment.

That is why I created this blog though. My mission is to research and share with my community and the world about eco-friendly products that can easily replace conventional items that are negatively affecting our bodies and the environment. 

I promise, living a low-impact lifestyle is possible and enjoyable at the same time! Woah! Mind blown! 😉 

Sorry I got side-tracked. Back to spray sunscreens. 

Because I know that no matter what most people will likely grab a spray sunscreen instead of a lotion or cream purely for it’s convenience, I decided to dive into the world of spray sunscreens. 

Is there really a spray sunscreen out there that people can use and feel good about using when it comes to their health and the environment’s health? With the increased demand for “reef-safe” sunscreen on the market, I believe it just might be possible.

So which spray sunscreens do I recommend? More importantly, which ones does my family approve of?

From left to right:

  1. Goddess Garden Organics Mineral Sunscreen KIDS
  2. Goddess Garden Organics Mineral Sunscreen SPORT
  3. Bare Republic Mineral Sunscreen Spray
  4. MyChelle Sun Protection Sun Shield Clear Spray
  5. Alba Botanica Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen


MyChelle Sun Protection Sun Shield Clear Spray

What I like about it:

  • It’s a safe for kids! For children under 6 months old, ask your doctor.
  • It’s reef-safe!
  • I cannot deny that I like the convenience of a spray.
  • My family actually uses it. I’ve noticed that my husband and daughter tend to wear sunscreen more often when it’s in a spray form.
  • It has the least amount of “white-cast” of all the mineral spray sunscreens that I have tried while still maintaining reef-safe quality.
  • Non-greasy.
  • It actually lasts a long time! Especially since it’s not the cheapest option, I want it to last a while.
  • Mychelle is on PETA’s list as a certified cruelty-free company.

What I don’t like about it:

  • It’s a spray, even though this spray sunscreen is the best that I have found so far (when it comes to ingredients), it still uses a lot of chemicals.
  • The cost. It’s not the most expensive by a long shot, but it’s also not the cheapest which can be a barrier for some people.
  • There is still a little bit of a “white-cast”. It would be great if there was a tinted option available from this brand.
  • Even though this is safe for kids, it would be nice if they had a specific kid-friendly line of products. I think more people would use this for their families if there was a product advertised specifically for kids.

Even though I have listed several spray sunscreens that are considered reef-safe and made with plastic-free recyclable containers, please use spray sunscreens as a last resort. There are so many sunscreens in cream and lotion form (like those that I listed above) that far exceed what spray sunscreen has to offer.

For further resources that dive into the effects of sunscreen on our bodies and the environment, see below:

  1. Environmental Working Group (EWG) – sunscreen search tool! This thing is amazing.
  2. Stream2Sea Ingredient Dictionary – a comprehensive dictionary of the most commonly used ingredients found in sunscreen.
  3. Safe Sunscreen Council
  4. Maui Nui Marine Resource Council
  5. The Ocean Foundation


You are now equipped to purchase your own eco-friendly sunscreen! Be sure to save the picture in this post with the ingredients so you can look back on it when you are in the grocery store or shopping online to prepare for the summer. 

Like I said, it is possible to live an eco-friendly and low impact lifestyle by switching out conventional products in your home for eco-friendly alternatives. Sunscreen is used by almost every person at some point in their lives so we have a HUGE opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment by being more conscious consumers.

I hope that this post helped you figure out what sunscreen to purchase for adventures this summer season, a high country back-packing trip, a spontaneous trip to the beach, or wherever the wind takes you. #neverstopexploring

Click HERE to subscribe to my blog for future zero waste, sustainable, and plastic-free reviews of alternatives to products that we use everyday.

Until next time, 

Kylie Bee

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