• Kim Bresseleers

How To Choose a Natural, Cruelty-free, Reef-safe and Eco-friendly Sunscreen

As the grass is getting greener, spring flowers are blossoming and each day feels sunnier, we know it is time to shop for sunscreen. There's a lot to consider choosing a sunscreen: SPF, toxic ingredients, coral reefs, ... Below you can find some tips how to choose a natural, cruelty-free, reef-safe and eco-friendly sunscreen!


1) Understanding UV Spectrum

UV light (or Ultraviolet light) is light from the sun that is invisible to the naked eye. Sunscreen works to protect us from two different kinds of UV light.

  • UVA light has a longer wavelength and is the kind of ray associated with premature aging of the skin.

  • UVB light has a shorter wavelength and is the ray associated with sunburn and damage to the skin.

Protection against both is crucial.

2) Choosing The Right SPF

SPF (or Sun Protection Factor) indicates the level of protection against UVB rays. However the numbering system isn’t user-friendly.

  • SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays.

  • SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays.

  • SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays.

  • SPF 100 blocks 99% of UVB rays.

SPF is a measure of protection against UVB rays only. REMEMBER that protection against UVA rays is important as well. So please choose a “broad spectrum” sunscreen, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

3) Why Natural?

There have been worrying reports on the negative health effects of sunscreens with chemical substances. These substances may be absorbed through our skin leading to skin irritation, hormonal disruption and even skin cancer. So please choose a 'natural' sunscreen, which is better for your health.

4) Why Cruelty-Free?

Here are some reasons why you should choose a cruelty-free sunscreen, not tested on animals:

  • generally healthier: Companies that don't want to hurt the animals, want to avoid hurting people too.

  • more mindful beauty practices: Fewer choices lead to more mindful decisions and the opportunity to really consider if a product is a great addition to your routine.

  • not just tested on mice: Rabbits, cats, and even dogs are subjected to chemicals that we would never consider putting on our own pets. Lab animals are kept in small cages and often wind up maimed, blinded, or killed.

  • create change: By not purchasing your usual products and going with 'Cruelty-Free' alternatives instead, you send the message that animal testing is wrong.

5) Why Reef-Safe?

Coral reefs are important for the immense biodiversity they support. They also protect coastlines from storms and erosion, and they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We need to ensure that these critical areas are protected from harmful chemicals, that have been connected to coral reef deterioration.

The term 'Reef Safe' typically means that the sunscreen contains only mineral UV-blocking ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Unfortunately, the term 'Reef Safe' has not yet been regulated so you can't always trust the products with this description. Check the label to make sure your sunscreen does not contain the following harmful substances mentioned on the HEL list:

  • Oxybenzone (or benzophenone-3) is one of the most commonly-used sunscreen chemicals.

  • Octinoxate (or OMC, methoxy-cinnamate or ethylhexyl methoxy-cinnamate) is a commonly used UV filter that protects from UVB rays.

  • Octocrylene

  • Homosalate is a common sunscreen ingredient that absorbs UVB rays to prevent direct skin exposure.

  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor

  • PABA (or Para-aminobenzoic acid)

  • Parabens, such as Methyl paraben, Ethyl paraben, Propyl paraben, Butyl paraben, Benzyl paraben.

  • Triclosan

  • Nanoparticles may be more chemically reactive.

  • Any form of microplastic, such as “exfoliating beads”.

6) Environmental-friendly Packaging

Finally, it's always good to use products that cut back on single use plastic packaging, either by using containers that are reusable, have high recycled content or are made out of biodegradable plant-based materials like cardboard.

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