10 Zero Waste Sunscreens: Mineral Based & Reef Safe (2024)

A person applying zero waste sunscreen onto their skin.

Sunscreen can be a tricky product when it comes to sustainability.

Your average bottle could be full of ingredients that damage already struggling coral reefs, and there’s so many different filters to keep track of!

So, I’ve put together a list of zero waste sunscreen options for those looking for a stress free way to protect their skin

You don’t have to sacrifice protection from harmful UV rays when there are so many incredible plant-based mineral sunscreens out there.

Check out these tinted and non-tinted options to start:

Zero Waste Sunscreen Options

Personal Favorites

More Tinted Options

More Non-Tinted Options

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Attitude – Top Choice

A paperboard tube of sunscreen made by Attitude.

UV Filter: Non-Nano Zinc Oxide (20%), UVA/UVB Broad Spectrum SPF 30

Attitude makes my go-to mineral sunscreen, and as someone who burns quite easily, I’m pretty picky when it comes to sun protection.

First off, I hate the feeling of sunscreen. I can’t stress that enough: the feeling of sunscreen on my skin drives me insane.

With that in mind, I look for the lightest, least greasy, and easiest to apply sunscreens when I’m on the prowl for new brands – and Attitude checks all of those boxes.

Tube form sunscreen is a game changer for someone like me who obsessively washes their hands five times after applying traditional suncreams in order to get rid of any residue.

So that issue is totally solved with this brand, and the other thing is there’s no white cast at all after rubbing their sunscreen in.

And even if this particular type doesn’t work for you, Attitude has a bunch of different kinds including tinted options and sensitive formulas for kids and babies in different scents (as well as some excellent tubes of deodorant)!

Personally, I like the unscented version – and at SPF 30 it’s worked for me on day-long hikes with only minor reapplications.

Extra Attitude Info:

  • EWG Verified
  • EcoLogo Certified
  • PETA Beauty Without Bunnies Member

All Good

A recyclable aluminum tin of sunscreen made by All Good.

UV Filter: Non-Nano Zinc Oxide (25%), UVA/UVB Broad Spectrum SPF 50+

All Good’s sunscreen comes in a recyclable aluminum tin with tinted options, and it’s a close second favorite of mine.

I specifically use All Good’s cream in situations where I want or need higher SPF protection (since it’s SPF 50+) or when I need a small, waterproof container of sunblock to carry around.

It’s super lightweight, leaves little to no white cast, but I would say it’s a tiny bit greasier than Attitude’s sunscreen, but not in a noticeable or annoying way.

And I’ve actually found All Good’s sunscreen to be a bit more water resistant as well, and that’s why I keep it around for certain occasions, and it also lasts long enough to only need to reapply it once during the day, at most.

Keep in mind that it does include beeswax, if you’re looking for a vegan option.

Extra All Good Info:

  • Certified B Corp
  • Leaping Bunny Member
  • 1% For The Planet Member

Activist Skincare

Three tints of Activist Skincare sunscreen applied to arms.

UV Filter: Non-Nano Zinc Oxide (24.5%), UVA/UVB Broad Spectrum SPF 30

Activist’s sunscreen is another tube-based sunblock, and the best thing about their lineup is they have four different tints: light, medium, tan, and deep.

So, if you’re looking for a sunscreen brand with lots of tinted options, this is one of the best out there.

It can be a bit thick when you apply it, and as a non-greasy sunscreen fan that isn’t my favorite thing in the world, but it does settle in quite well after a while.

At 30 SPF, their sunscreen may need to be reapplied more often – but Attitude’s also has SPF 30 and works great for me all day. If you’re avoiding animal products, you may want to keep scrolling as they include some beeswax in their formula!

Little Hands Hawaii

Tube of sunscreen made by Little Hands Hawaii.

UV Filter: Non-Nano Zinc Oxide, SPF 40

Little Hands Hawaii is another tinted sunscreen superstar with five different tints: original, light neutral, medium neutral, medium dark, and dark; all of which have specific color undertones that go along with them.

Like the name implies, this brand of sunscreen was made for those who love the outdoors, specifically things like daylong surf sessions!

If you’re looking for a water-resistant sunblock that won’t end up running into your eyes after getting wet, you may want to try this one out.

It goes on smooth and isn’t very greasy at all, but they do include a bit of beeswax if you’re avoiding non-vegan products.

Surf Durt

Four wood and metal jars of Surf Durt sunscreen.

UV Filter: Non-Nano Zinc Oxide, UVA/UVB Broad Spectrum SPF 30

The first thing you’ll notice about Surf Durt’s sunscreen is their unique sustainable packaging, made from bamboo with an aluminum liner.

Their containers can easily be reused after you’re done with the sunscreen, which comes in two different tints: white “zombie” and tan “neutral”.

But they actually go even further with order customization, as you can pick from four different initiatives to support when choosing a sunblock: coral reef restoration, clean freshwater, reforestation, or support for athlete environmental activists.

Surf Durt’s sunscreen is pretty moisturizing as well, unlike a lot of brands that feel like they’re caked on – and like their name implies it’s formulated to withstand the wear and tear of wet outdoor activities.

Be aware that they do include some beeswax in their sunscreen!

Tidal Wave Organics

Metal tin of Tidal Wave Organics mineral sunscreen.

UV Filter: Non-Nano Zinc Oxide (20%), UVA/UVB Broad Spectrum SPF 30-35+

Tidal Wave Organic’s is an Etsy-based brand making handcrafted vegan sunscreen with tinted options, all of which are packaged in recyclable tins.

One of the more unique products they have is a bug-repelling sunscreen with added essential oils, which actually works quite well for those suffering from swarms of bugs when trying to enjoy the outdoors.

You may also like their aloe-vera infused sunblock, or their luminous sunblock that includes shimmery mica powder if you’re really after a glow!

All of their sunscreens are completely vegan, adding ingredients like mango butter instead of animal products.

Badger Balm

A metal tin of Badger Balm sunscreen.

UV Filter: Uncoated Zinc Oxide (22.5%%), UVA/UVB Broad Spectrum SPF 40-50

Badger Balm is a brand that’s been around for quite a long time, and they recently came out with a recyclable version of their sunscreen as they transition away from plastic.

Formulated with only four organic, non-GMO ingredients (one of which is beeswax), Badger Balm’s mineral sunscreen is designed with sweat in mind and should be water-resistant for most outdoor activities.

They also have a SPF 50 version, their “Adventure Sport” tin, if you’re looking for an extra bit of protection.

The simple formula they use almost guarantees stress free protection without any eye-burning, but since they don’t have any tinted options, it could leave a white cast for some people!

Extra Badger Balm Info:

  • Certified B Corp
  • Leaping Bunny Member

Raw Love

Metal tin of Raw Love sunscreen.

UV Filter: Non-Nano Zinc Oxide, UVA/UVB Broad Spectrum SPF 40

Raw Love’s sunscreen tin is one of the best choices out there if you’re looking for a travel sunblock, due to its compact recyclable container and concentrated balm-like texture.

But even if it’s a bit balm-like due to the added beeswax, it’s still super lightweight and breathable!

And while Raw Love does recommend reapplying it often, you may find yourself happily protected from harmful UV rays with only a small amount of it.

The other thing I love about this sunscreen is it comes in a giant tin (4 oz), which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s much bigger than many other brands.

Solde Luna Crafts

Metal tin of zinc mineral suncream made by Solde Luna Crafts.

UV Filter: Non-Nano Zinc Oxide (30%), SPF 30

Solde Luna Crafts is an Etsy-based brand that has both vegan sunscreen and non-vegan waterproof sunscreen with beeswax.

Their sunscreen is great for those with sensitive skin, as their non-irritating formula is made from only a few simple plant based ingredients (unless you get the waterproof version).

A little goes a long way with this sunscreen, and it actually absorbs quite well, even if there isn’t a tinted version available. There’s a bit of a noticeable white cast after application with this one, but it’s nothing too major.

Solde Luna Crafts also makes some stellar face moisturizer!

Extra Solde Luna Craft Info:

  • Etsy Star Seller

Butter Me Up Organics

Glass jars of sunscreen by Butter Me Up Organics.

UV Filter: Non-Nano Zinc Oxide, SPF 45

Butter Me Up Organic’s sunscreen has a respectable SPF 45+ rating and comes in a glass jar.

It’s pretty scoopable, but the texture is more like a balm, rather than a body lotion (which isn’t a bad thing).

While they don’t have any tinted versions yet, there isn’t any serious whitecast with this brand as long as you rub it in well, and let it settle.

Other than a bit of added beeswax, it doesn’t contain any animal products – instead they formulate it with plant-based butters and essential oils, so it has a mild and pleasant fragrance.

If you like the look of their sunscreen, you may also be interested in Butter Me Up Organic’s face wash bar and body lotion!

Sunscreen produces plastic, metal, and propellant waste

Let’s be honest, most people don’t wear sunscreen very often – if ever.

But even if only 1 out of 10 people in the US go through a single container of sunscreen per year, that’s still around 30 million (30,000,000) tubes of sunscreen being thrown out each year.

Plastic sunscreen bottles lining the shelves of a store.

Products like sunscreen and shaving cream also come in aerosol cans, which are difficult to recycle and fill the air with toxic propellants upon use. Propellants like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are the chemicals responsible for the current hole in the ozone layer!

The ozone layer is essentially Earth’s sunscreen – as it protects every living organism from ultraviolet radiation (UV), and we need it to survive!

While CFCs have largely been phased out since the 1970’s, current propellants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are also harmful (and known carcinogens).

So, why are these compounds used in something we use to protect ourselves?

It all comes down to the money, of course, as plastic packaging and cheap toxic ingredients are cheaper to produce.

Either way, trying to recycle a plastic sunscreen tube with greasy sunscreen residue inside or an aerosol can is next to impossible, so most people don’t even try, and simply throw them in the trash.

Sustainable packaging materials like paper, cardboard, glass, and metal are much simpler to recycle – and when sunscreen is made with ingredients that aren’t questionably ecotoxic, residues are more easily composted.

Which sunscreen ingredients are best to avoid?

There are two types of sunscreen: chemical and physical sunscreens -and these have different active and inactive ingredients.

The active ingredients are what protect your skin from the sun. The inactive ingredients are mainly fillers and make up most of the sunscreen lotion.

Both of these types of ingredients can include petrochemicals, animal products, and other awful stuff, some of which I’ve highlighted below.

Sunscreen label with highlighted ingredients to avoid.

UV filters and filler ingredients can be absorbed through your skin after applying sunscreen, or even inhaled and swallowed on accident – especially if you use spray on deodorants.

We’re going to take a detailed look at two of these in particular, UV filters and synthetic tints, but feel free to check out my full guide on the worst skincare chemicals out there if you want to learn more.

And if you want a list of brands that stock all kinds of other skincare products, you can find them all over at my complete plastic free skincare brand list.

UV filters

By now, most people have heard about sunscreen formulas harming coral reefs.

Chemical sunscreens (inorganic UV filters) are suspected of contributing to coral bleaching because of ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Coral are the foundation of reefs, and once they die, the rest of their ecosystem mostly collapses.

The evidence of sunscreen ingredients affecting coral reefs isn’t totally overwhelming – but that’s not even the main point when it comes to swapping out your sunscreen anyways (plastic and other added chemicals are worse).

Small fish swimming near bleached coral.
Image by Paul via Flickr

Physical sunscreens (mineral based, organic UV filters) contain ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide instead, which physically block UV rays.

The metals used in physical filters come from mining operations, which obviously damage the environment in a variety of ways, although only tiny amounts are added to sunscreens.

Humans are also negatively affected by UV filters in sunscreen, especially chemical filters, as many of them are suspected carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.

Synthetic colors & tints

Tinted sunscreens are commonly used by people who want to avoid the white cast that’s often left by sunscreen.

Two common pigments used are aluminum oxide (harvested from bauxite ore) and iron oxide, which comes from various refined sources.

Like I mentioned above, it’s obvious that mining harms the environment – as it involves enormous physical damage to land and the refinement of ores and minerals has enormous energy and water demands.

Map showing the Serra Norte iron mine in Brazil.
Imagery ©2022 TerraMetrics, Map data ©2022

Mining leads to issues in every way imaginable really as it pollutes our soil, air, and water in ways that most of us can’t even imagine.

Another issue with synthetic tints is that they can be contaminated with unwanted impurities during the manufacturing process, further complicating the potential negative health effects!

What animal products can be found in sunscreen?

Even sunscreen can have animal products included, for seemingly no reason – as there are plenty of plant based alternatives at this point.

If you’re looking for vegan and cruelty free sunscreens that don’t use animal testing, avoid ingredients some brands use like:

  • Stearic acid or stearin (from animal fats)
  • Collagen (extracted from animal skin)
  • Animal derived scents or tints

Final thoughts

Finding a zero waste sunscreen might be one of the most important sustainable skincare steps you take, if you’re someone who values the health of your future skin!

It’s vital you protect yourself from harmful UV rays, and it’s equally important to protect our planet’s coral reefs – so don’t settle for sunscreen brands that don’t care about either.

Sunscreens made with plant based ingredients, and formulated to reduce their impact work just as well as conventional ones, so you can enjoy the outdoors with zero stress.

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