6 Zero Waste Sunscreen Products & Why You Should Consider Them

Conventional chemical sunscreens are, for lack of a better term, terrible for the planet. Not only are they usually packaged in plastic, but they also contain chemical filters that aren’t safe for your body and marine life!

Some filters, like oxybenzone, are even used at concentrations higher than what is generally recommended or considered safe [1].

But sunscreen is one of the most important aspects of any skincare routine, and switching to sustainable living shouldn’t mean giving it up.

Fortunately, you can now purchase from so many zero waste sunscreen brands (ideally in an area near you)! Hence, there is no need to compromise when you can get excellent sun protection without any caveats.

Here we have 6 of the best zero waste sunscreen brands we could find. If you’re looking for plastic-free and reef-safe sunscreens, we highly recommend the following products.

This post contains affiliate links*

Beach Essentials
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Raw Elements - USA

Raw Elements is dedicated to sun care that is both sustainable and responsible. With a team of mindful, eco-conscious individuals, the brand’s products are safe and effective.

Pioneered by an ocean lifeguard, the brand’s mission is to spread awareness on sun safety and the environment.

About The Sunscreen

Raw Elements has a couple of zero waste sunscreen options available. They even have one specifically for kids, although you can still use their regular sunscreen on children.

We highly recommend that you check out their Face + Body Lotion in its aluminum tin version. It has SPF 30 and protects from both UVA and UVB rays (broad spectrum).

Of course, this zero waste sunscreen is totally reef safe. Plus, it’s suitable for all ages! It doesn’t run after application and won’t sting or hurt eyes—especially for little kids.

It contains certified non-nano zinc oxide that guarantees size particles that are cut off at 250 nanometers. Apart from supplier verification, the brand also conducts independent testing on the final product.

All zero waste sunscreens from Raw Elements are certified #1 by EWG standards. You can look up all of their products on the EWG website as well.

The sunscreen is also highly water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. To keep yourself protected from UV light, don’t forget to reapply accordingly.

Ingredients and Packaging

The active ingredient in this zero waste sunscreen is 23% non-nano zinc oxide. The rest of the ingredients are the following:

  • Organic Green Tea
  • Organic Black Tea
  • Organic Hemp Seed Oil
  • Organic Beeswax
  • Organic Coffee Bean
  • Organic Sunflower Oil
  • Natural Mango Butter
  • Natural Rosemary
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Tocopherol

Since it contains beeswax, this natural sunscreen is not vegan. However, it is cruelty-free and has never been tested on animals. Raw Elements features a leaping bunny logo on their products.

The sunscreen is certified by the Natural Products Association, and some of the components are certified all-natural as well.

If you are specifically looking for organic and natural sun protection, then this might be one of the best zero waste sunscreens for you.

The best part is that Raw Elements is serious about certifications. Any claims are backed by appropriate certifications. You can check out their list of certifications right here.

The sunscreen we featured is completely plastic-free and comes in a reusable and recyclable metal tin. In 2021, the brand is transitioning to labels that are printed directly on the product.

Brand Values

At the core, Raw Elements makes it their prime mission to make products that are safe, natural, and, most of all, effective.

As many natural and organic products have a reputation of not working well, seeing a brand specifically dedicated to making ones that do is awesome.

The brand, unlike many others, believes in pioneering positive change instead of simply reacting to what changes are “in” style.

Their plastic-free line is their way to acknowledge and respond to the ever-present issue of plastic pollution. They are committed to using only sustainable and bio-based materials as much as they possibly can.

Read more about their sustainability efforts here.

All products are mixed, filled, and packaged in the USA, although the raw materials may be sourced globally.

Raw Elements is also part of 1% for the planet(like us!), with at least 1% of their annual sales donated to relevant environmental causes.

Suntribe Sunscreen - Sweden

Suntribe zero waste sunscreen
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image by suntribesunscreen.com

Suntribe is a relatively new brand, started just a few years ago by three friends in Sweden. Their goal is to create functional products made only with the safest ingredients.

Committed to the ultimate goal of effectiveness, all their products are heavily test-driven on multiple skin types in various conditions—ensuring that their natural skincare is made for everybody.

About The Sunscreen

You can get Suntribe’s All Natural Zinc Sunscreen in an aluminum tin or as a sun stick. Both zero waste sunscreens are completely plastic-free and can be reused/recycled.

Personally, we’d go for the sun stick as it’s more convenient and easier to apply. It’s also able to withstand more heat and remains usable in temperate temps up to 30°C.

This reef-safe sunscreen is super high performance and can withstand the stress of doing heavy sports. It is water and sweat-resistant, although the time factor is not indicated.

Suntribe’s zero waste sunscreens come in 4 different colors, which is pretty unusual for sunscreen. But, according to product instructions, the lack of visible product is a sign that it’s time to reapply.

Due to the striking colors, this product is not the best zero waste sunscreen to wear regularly. One of the most important features of any sunscreen is drying near clear for casual use, so just reserve this one for beach days.

This sunscreen contains broad-spectrum protection of up to SPF 30, guaranteed and verified by independent laboratories in the USA and EU.

Ingredients and Packaging

Interestingly, although this zero waste sunscreen is built for optimum function, it has a straightforward list of natural ingredients.

  • Organic Coconut Oil
  • Organic Beeswax
  • Non-Nano Zinc Oxide

And, that’s it! They only use certified organic ingredients in the formula where applicable. For the colors, they use natural tints such as cacao seed powder.

All components are sourced as geographically close to the manufacturing area as possible, which is located in Europe. Apart from Suntribe’s philosophy on using a simple formula, they also choose ingredients based on peer-reviewed literature and trusted databases.

Since this contains beeswax, it is unfortunately not a vegan sunscreen. For strictly vegan options, you may go to our guide on vegan sunscreen.

Packaging-wise, you can get this sunscreen zero waste with cardboard and metal options. Of course, please reuse/recycle/compost when the product has run out.

The labels are printed on 100% recycled paper using only the most eco friendly inks.

Brand Values

We highly admire Suntribe’s commitment to being one of the best and most sustainable sunscreen brands in existence.

More specifically, we love that their products are specifically built to withstand harsh conditions. A thick application is more than enough to go beyond the two-hour general rule for reapplication.

If you’re a heavy sports person or go swimming a lot, then this is the perfect zero waste sunscreen for you. If you want to use it on kids, the striking colors make for fun sun protection!

Although the colors could also be a major caveat for some.

Regardless, with products made directly in the EU and ingredients sourced ethically and sustainably, this brand comes highly recommended in our books.

EIR NYC - USA

EIR NYC zero waste sunscreen
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image by eirnyc.com

Small-batch and handmade, EIR NYC was originally founded in the Montauk surf community. However, they’ve significantly grown and now cater to an international audience—providing quality and uncompromising skin care.

About the Sunscreen

You can get EIR’s Surf Mud zero waste sunscreen in two formats. One in a tin and one in a compostable cardboard tube. They also have a separate butter formula if you prefer easier application on the rest of your body.

The one in the tube is a pro version with a higher SPF rating. If you want a higher rating, go get that. However, note that it’s a pretty marginal difference (approx 1%) in sun protection between 30 and 50.

Regardless of what you purchase, you’ll be getting excellent broad-spectrum protection that will keep your skin protected from the sun’s harmful rays.

This reef-safe sunscreen comes in a decadent cocoa scent that’s heavily inspired by the Mayan chocolate mask. It’s great for all skin types, including sensitive skin.

EIR’s zero waste sunscreens are perfect for everyday use and during activities that involve water or heavy sweating. However, since it is a mineral sunscreen, it may leave a bit of a white sheen.

The pro version is specially crafted to withstand days out on the beach or the pool.

Ingredients and Packaging

The pro and regular sunscreen have slightly different formulas. The original Surf Mud is a relatively simple formula with the following ingredients:

  • Non-Nano Zinc Oxide
  • Coconut Oil
  • Beeswax
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Cocoa Fruit Powder
  • Tea Tree Leaf Oil
  • Tocopheryl Acetate (Vit. E)

Meanwhile, the pro version contains Titanium Dioxide and does not have any tea tree or Vitamin E.

Some of you might not like titanium dioxide. If you don’t, just choose the original formula. However, Titanium Dioxide is still a mineral filter and generally considered safe, although less so than zinc oxide.

The original formula is also hydrating and not only protects your skin but also keeps it supple and moisturized throughout the day.

It also comes in a reusable or recyclable aluminum tin. We’d highly recommend reusing it for storing some of your tiny knickknacks like hair ties or pins.

The shipping is not completely plastic-free. But EIR has made some effort to reduce the plastic in their shipping by 90%.

Brand Values

EIR’s philosophy is rooted in the thought that luxury skincare should never come at the price of environmental degradation.

Their ingredients are specifically chosen to be clean, safe, and effective. All their products are free of any harsh chemicals and are never tested on animals.

On top of that, they also maintain a (mostly) plastic-free philosophy. All their products are packaged mindfully in consideration of the environment. Although they still aren’t completely plastic-free, it’s a pretty good start.

If you’re looking for mineral-based sunscreen and you’re in the locale, this brand is worth looking into.

Butter Me Up Organics - USA

Butter me up organics vegan sunscreen
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image by buttermeuporganics.com

Founded back in 2008, Butter Me Up Organics uses the founder’s own recipes curated over years of hours of research and experimentation.

Each product is developed and crafted with a purpose—to provide quality benefits in the safest way possible.

About The Sunscreen

The brand has two options for their zero waste sunscreen. One is not vegan and contains beeswax, while the other is fully vegan and uses sumac wax instead. Other than that, both formulas are essentially the same.

This zero waste, broad-spectrum sunscreen offers protection up to SPF 45. However, we couldn’t see any certification guaranteeing this sun protection factor.

It has a relatively neutral but delightful scent that can probably be attributed to the different kinds of butter used in the formula. It absorbs pretty nicely and should dry dewy and almost clear. The mild white cast may be more prominent in deeper skin tones.

Since the active ingredient is zinc oxide, this is a reef-safe sunscreen. You can wear it without worrying about how you’re affecting coral reefs.

It isn’t specified if the sunscreen is water-resistant, but the product description indicates that it can withstand a few dips in water. Reapplication is recommended when water no longer beads on your skin.

Ingredients and SPF

This sunscreen is cruelty-free, organic, and does not contain any dyes or fragrances. It has the following ingredients:

  • Coconut Oil
  • Shea Butter
  • Mango Butter
  • Non-Nano Zinc Oxide
  • Non-GMO Grapeseed Oil
  • Vitamin E
  • Sumac Wax/Beeswax

Another simple zero waste sunscreen recipe! Most of the ingredients are sourced organically as well, so you don’t have to worry about the terrible consequences of conventional sourcing.

Because of the nature of these ingredients, they are *technically* safe to ingest. There are no toxins present, making them great if you have little kids that get their tiny hands on everything.

This plastic-free sunscreen comes packaged in a 2 or 8 oz. jar. Fully reusable or recyclable. Packaging is upcycled whenever possible and is shipped without any plastic.

Brand Values

From the humble beginnings of this brand, they already made a commitment to being zero waste. While that doesn’t mean they don’t generate waste at all, they are incredibly mindful of all of their choices, no matter how small.

All their packaging is either glass, metal, or paperboard, and all the jars from the raw materials are recycled as well.

On top of that, they have a particular focus on using recycled materials as much as possible. Their labels and shipping materials are all recycled, and even their office furniture is recycled.

Although they aren’t certified organic (small brands may have difficulty with the expenses), they do their best to source sustainably and ethically. As often as possible, they source directly from farmers so they can trace where the raw ingredients come from.

If you want your zero waste sunscreen from a brand specifically geared towards zero waste, we highly recommend this brand.

Sunbutter Skincare - Australia

sunbutter australia zero waste sunscreen
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image by sunbutteroceans.com.au

SunButter was founded by a conservation duo in hopes of finding an effective but reef-safe way to protect their skin from the harmful rays in the sun.

With a promise of “Protecting people and oceans,” the brand remains committed to bringing eco friendly and reef-safe options to conventional sunscreens.

About the Sunscreen

SunButter has a couple of zero waste sunscreens available on their website. They have their original formula and a tinted option.

They also have a vegan surf zinc, which is specifically made for surfing and other heavy-duty activities.

All formulas provide broad spectrum SPF50 sun protection and are suitable for sensitive skin. You can use it on your face and as a body sunscreen.

The regular sunscreen will rub on clear, although we doubt it will work on deeper skin tones. If you do have tan skin, you might have better luck with their tinted variation. Both are made for regular, everyday wear.

The products are approved by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration and are water-resistant for up to 4 hours.

Ingredients and Packaging

Sunbutter’s zero waste formulas are vegan and cruelty-free! They’ve transitioned from using locally sourced beeswax into a vegan alternative, creating Australia’s first vegan surf zinc! Here are some of the ingredients you’ll find in the regular formula:

  • Candelilla wax
  • Castor Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Isostearic acid (plant-based binder)
  • Vitamin E
  • Non-Nano Zinc Oxide 230mg/g (23%)

This isn’t the full list, and you can check out all the ingredients in the individual product listing.

The tinted version has some iron oxides to add color.

This zero waste, natural sunscreen comes packaged in a food-grade aluminum tin. You can reuse it however you like or recycle it in a proper facility.

Brand Values

SunButter’s values have always been rooted in making eco friendly products that are safe for the planet and all the people on it.

That means no toxic chemicals in sunscreen that could damage our bodies and marine life.

They also give back by donating 10% of profits to environmental causes.

Dirty Hippie Cosmetics - Australia

Dirty hippie cosmetics vegan concealer
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Dirty Hippie Cosmetics is all about handmade and eco-conscious personal care products that promote guilt-free personal care.

Based in Australia, they are completely vegan and cruelty-free. With organic and ethically sourced ingredients, Dirty Hippie is definitely a brand worth checking out.

About the Sunscreen

Dirty Hippie’s Coconut Sunscreen Balm has SPF30 (approximate) and is completely free of toxins. Made with non micronized zinc oxide, it is fully reef safe and won’t penetrate your skin.

Apart from the whiff of coconut, it also has a lovely lime scent that smells sweet and refreshing at the same time.

Upon application, it does go on white but dries off to a near clear. The trouble with mineral sunscreens like this one is that they will leave a white cast, which makes it difficult for those with darker complexions.

It’s a super creamy formula that won’t feel greasy while it sits on your face. When bringing it out to the beach, Dirty Hippie recommends storing it in the freezer overnight for optimum application.

What’s more, this formula is specially made for people with sensitive skin! It contains only a minimal amount of pure essential oils to prevent reactions.

You can also get this zero waste sunscreen in a bug repellent version. If you live in an area where mosquitoes are a constant, the bug repellent alternative might be the one for you.

However, though this provides broad-spectrum SPF30 coverage, this claim is not verified by an official body, nor has the product gone through laboratory testing. If you prefer sunscreens that have certified SPF, best to skip this one.

Ingredients and Packaging

The vegan sunscreen is loaded with natural and organic ingredients that will protect and nourish your skin. In this sunscreen, you will find:

  • Virgin Coconut Oil
  • Shea Liquid
  • Shea Butter
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Non-micronized Zinc Oxide
  • Candelilla Wax
  • Carnauba Wax
  • Carrot Seed
  • Raspberry Seed
  • Wheatgerm Oils
  • Natural Vitamin E
  • Steam Distilled Lime Essential Oil

The bug repellent formula has some additional essential oils like citronella, peppermint, and cedarwood since these help ward of bugs.

Most of the ingredients are certified organic and are fair trade where required. They are also sourced ethically! If you’re looking for natural and sustainable sunscreen, you don’t need to look farther than Dirty Hippie.

They have several versions of zero waste packaging. Namely, you can get the sunscreen in paper containers as well as a larger aluminum tin. If you want to know more about eco friendly packaging, check our in-depth discussion here.

If you’re going to buy the paper tube version, you might have a bit of trouble pushing the product at times because of temperature changes.

When you use up all the product, don’t forget to compost or recycle, as you should with all sustainable sunscreens!

Brand Values

Dirty Hippie Cosmetics is a small batch manufacturer. All their products are handmade in Canberra, Australia.

At its core, the brand is geared towards creating zero waste cosmetics and personal care items that suit all skin types—even sensitive skin!

With fair trade and organic ingredients, you can trust this brand to provide you with only the best and most natural ingredients.

They also have a refill program where they will take back your empty containers for refills, provided you live in Australia. Any place beyond that would just negate the eco friendly positive effects of reusing containers due to the emissions caused by air miles.

Plus, they also give back to the community by donating to certain charities in Australia. Namely, charities like Trees for Life, Autism Spectrum Australia, Maetoloa Community Initiative, and plenty more.

As of writing, a portion of their monthly sales goes to The Stroke Foundation Australia.

What to Look For in the Best Zero Waste Sunscreens

Why Switch to Eco Friendly Susncreen
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Broad Spectrum

A broad spectrum specification refers to sunscreen that can protect you from both UVA and UVB rays. You’d be surprised at how many conventional eco friendly sunscreens offer only limited sun protection.

The ingredient that provides sun protection is the active filter in the sunscreen. It can either be mineral or chemical sunscreens.

Non-nano zinc oxide is generally considered to be the safest of all filters and is the one you should choose if you want to be totally reef-safe. Plus, it offers broad-spectrum protection, so you know you’re safe.

At Least SPF30

Sunscreen is one of your most essential beauty products: it protects your skin from the damage ultraviolet (UV) rays can do.

However, as it is often said, sunscreen acts as a filter; it does not 100% block all types of UV rays. For example, an SPF 30 will block 97% of UVB rays, while an SPF 50 will block 98% [2].

That said, you should choose a sunscreen that has at least SPF 30. That way, you’ll be protecting yourself from 97% of the sun’s rays.

If you want, you can also go for a higher SPF, but the difference is quite minimal. If you do opt for higher SPF, make sure not to get complacent and remember to reapply.

Verified SPF

SPF verification isn’t necessary for a sunscreen to work. The sun protection from filters comes from the ingredient itself, not through any other process.

However, verified SPF is still important. It helps guarantee that the SPF is up to par with current standards and that you’re getting what is promised.

Some people prefer that their SPF is lab-verified, while others are alright with producer estimates. Ultimately, it’s up to you! Some above-recommended products are not SPF verified but have been thoroughly tested by the producers in various conditions.

Water-Resistant

Water-resistant sunscreen isn’t essential, but it is beneficial, especially when going out to the beach.

If you’re just staying inside your house and lounging around (yes, you still need to use sunscreen for that), then non-water-resistant options will work perfectly. But if you’re going to do physically taxing activities or getting tons of sun exposure, go for water and sweat-resistant zero waste sunscreens.

However, it’s important to remember that even water-resistant, zero waste sunscreens still need to be reapplied. You will find instructions on reapplication for each product, but the general rule is to reapply every 2 hours.

Cream Formula

Spray sunscreens usually contain more harmful chemicals. Moreover, sprays often miss the mark and end up on the ground or beach (which can easily wash into the sea and affect marine life).

All of the sunscreens we recommended above come in a creamy formula that can be easily applied in moderate temperatures.

Summer Beach Umbrellas
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Reef Safe Sunscreen is the Best Zero Waste Sunscreen

Annually, around 14,000 tons of sunscreen eventually end up in our oceans. Considering that many traditional sunscreens contain chemicals like oxybenzone [3], it is essential to choose plastic-free sunscreen that is kind to our coral reefs as well.

When swimming, these harmful chemicals are released into the water and ultimately absorbed by the corals.

Most are made of nano-particles that can disrupt the reproduction and growth cycles of corals, increasing their susceptibility to bleaching. As such, choosing active ingredients like non-nano zinc oxide is frequently the best option.

But what if you apply sunscreen lotion but don’t go for a swim? Unfortunately, it will eventually reach the ocean through the shower, then down the drains.

It gets worse in the case of aerosols, as the spray releases large amounts of these chemicals onto the sand, later washed into the sea.

In the Caribbean, an estimated 80% of coral reefs have been lost over the last 50 years. Factors that contribute to the problem are coastal development, warming waters due to global warming, and pollution! [3]

Local governments, such as in Hawaii, are passing laws to ban harmful sunscreens. And we, as beach lovers, can play a significant role by choosing eco friendly products.

On the scale of a whole ocean, our efforts can seem minute and insignificant. But trust us, they’re not. Choosing reef-safe and plastic-free sunscreen is a lifestyle switch that will make more of a difference than you think.

Fish Swimming in Water
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Is Zero Waste Sunscreen Always Sustainable?

Most zero waste sunscreen is made with careful consideration of the environment, so there’s a good chance that it’s sustainable.

But, also keep in mind that zero waste and reef safe are two completely different things. Not all zero waste sunscreens are guaranteed to be reef-safe, especially on more stringent standards.

When deciding which is the best zero waste sunscreen available, always go for one that is reef-safe (i.e., zinc oxide). Those are the most sustainable options you have for sun protection.

Can You DIY Sunscreen?

Technically, yes. You can make your own sunscreen at home, but we would not recommend it. As much as we are fans of making our own products, it doesn’t really make sense if you’re risking your health in the process.

Recall the section on verifying SPF above.

When making your own sunscreen, you don’t know how much SPF it will contain. At best, you’ll be going by estimations. Not to mention, adding different ingredients to an active ingredient is likely to change the protection factor.

Moreover, it’s tough to get a reliable SPF from oils alone [4]. The best ingredients will always be the active filters. Unfortunately, they aren’t the best solution either since they can be challenging to work with and may require different tools to incorporate safely into a formula.

Overall, you need a lot of expertise to even begin thinking of making sunscreen on your own. For most of us, we’re better off just buying zero waste sunscreens from the best zero waste brands we support and love.

Alternatives products
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Final Thoughts

This 360-review is aimed at providing you a detailed analysis of why sunscreen is essential to protect your skin. But most importantly, we want to emphasize why a zero waste, toxin-free eco friendly sunscreen is an absolute must this summer.

Read labels carefully and grow your knowledge as customers. There are many brands that will help our ecosystem and the needs of the planet.

And remember, in shopping for your new sunscreen, don’t forget that the best ones are cruelty-free, ethically packaged, and sustainably sourced.

Our choices matter for our health and the planet. As always, do not hesitate to contact us with any comments or questions!

Resources:

  1. https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/the-trouble-with-sunscreen-chemicals/
  2. https://www.cancer.org/healthy/be-safe-in-sun/uv-protection.html
  3. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/features/sunscreen-destroying-coral-reefs-alternatives-travel-spd/
  4. https://www.ewg.org/news-insights/news/diy-sunscreen-bad-idea
Beach Essentials
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