For us, sunscreen is not a nice to have, it’s an essential body care product (especially since we tend to live in sun baked Australia most of the time). But, as with most consumer products in this space, we’ve struggled to find truly sustainable alternatives. Just about every drug store option that I’ve seen is either far from eco-friendly and / or unhealthy. However, it’s now more important than ever, especially if you’re planning on taking a dip in the ocean (more on this below), that we use an environmentally friendly option. Thankfully, after spending a bit of time researching, we’ve managed to source some exceptional alternatives.
But before we get into the details, how do you know if a product (specifically sunscreen) is vegan friendly?
For starters, a vegan certification is the easiest way to tell. Though, many small-batch artisan brands may not be accredited but are in fact vegan friendly (many of the brands I’ve listed below fall in this category). So, if you’re relying on the word of the brand (without a certification) but you want to be extra sure, here’s a list of the most common animal byproducts / animal ingredients that are used in a lot of mainstream sunscreen formulations to look out for:
- lanolin – the not so sexy excretion from sheep’s wool (also found in a lot of cosmetic products like lipsticks and makeup removers)
- chitin – crushed exoskeletons or shells of crustaceans (e.g. crabs, shrimps, prawns), insects and arachnids
- gelatin – a variety of boiled animal parts from skin to ligaments to bones
- collagen – this one is quite well known and widely used in all sorts of cosmetic products. It’s the naturally occurring protein found in animal tissue. Usually taken from the fat of cows, pigs and sheep
- elastin – another protein, usually found and extracted from the neck ligaments and aortas of cows
- stearic acid – the naturally waxy solid usually derived from animal fat but can also be derived from vegetable oils
Besides ticking the non-negotiable cruelty-free and vegan boxes, why is an environmentally friendly sunscreen so important? Let’s start with the numbers, the U.S. National Park Service estimates that between 4,000 to 6,000 tons of sunscreen enters the ocean (specifically reefs) every year. Coral reefs are also said to be the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world.
That’s a heck of a lot of unnatural cream, but worse still is what that cream is made of. Many of these products contain synthetic organic molecules which have now been found in a variety of marine animals including fish, dolphins, and birds. While the full implications of this are not yet understood or appreciated there is evidence that shows the molecules affect the fertility and reproduction of fish. There’s also been a recent study which shows evidence that the commonly found ingredient known as oxybenzone causes endocrine disruption, DNA damage and death of coral, among other issues. It’s also been shown to exacerbate and accelerate the devastating coral bleaching,which is destroying much of the fragile coral reef ecosystems around the world.
Besides steering clear of oxybenzone there’s a couple of other ingredients which have got a lot of press recently, nano zinc-oxide and nano titanium dioxide. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have actually been used for decades in sunscreen to reflect or absorb UV light. You can tell by that characteristically uncool white shade which never quite absorbs into your skin thanks to the size of the old-school particles. Now these ingredients are manufactured on a nano-scale which means they absorb and scatter visible light making them transparent. Aside from the concerns of nano particles in general (evidence shows these particles can pass the skin barrier) research suggests nano zinc-oxide and nano titanium-dioxide may cause cytotoxicity and also produce free radicals, ultimately increasing the risk of skin cancer. While the jury is still out on whether or not there is a real danger in being exposed to these molecules, the EU and New Zealand have both followed the precautionary principle (i.e. avoiding certain decisions that may lead to harm) and now either require nano materials in cosmetics to go through nano-specific safety testing before they can be sold, and / or to be listed on cosmetic product labels.
Our approach to sunscreen (in addition to avoiding all of the above) and body care products in general at Sustainable Jungle, is to tick as many sustainability boxes as possible, so you know you’re making the best possible choice for you and the environment:
- Effective: They must work!
- Animal / Environmentally friendly: cruelty-free, organic / natural, vegan and palm oil free
- Low impact and have a social ethos: Ideally the product is made using recycled materials but must always be recyclable. We also look out for brands doing more than just making profits
Note that some of the options below are not always available in every country. We’ll continue to research and add other sunscreens to the list. Do reach out and let us know if you know of any others that should be featured!
Dirty Hippie Cosmetics Coconut Sunscreen Balm:
Dirty Hippie Cosmetics Coconut Sunscreen Balm is aimed for those with sensitive skin as it has an extremely low essential oil content (you can also opt for 0% of essential oils if you would prefer). The formula is made up of the broad spectrum basics: non-micronized zinc oxide (so there’s no risk of penetration of the skin) and organic raspberry seed, both of which provide substantial sun protection. It comes in two varieties (regular formula and bug repellent formula if you find yourself in, say Florida or Australia). It has at least an SPF of 30 and thanks to it’s non-greasy make up there’s little risk of getting those sunscreen breakouts.
About Dirty Hippie Cosmetics:
Hailing from Bywong, Australia, Dirty Hippie Cosmetics are one of the most sustainable brands we’ve had the pleasure of covering. They create handmade organic and clearly top quality products (based on hundreds of super reviews). They’re a 100% cruelty-free, palm oil free and vegan friendly brand. When it comes to sourcing they’ve covered all bases, either purchasing through fair trade channels, buying local or growing their own raw ingredients! As for packaging, they haven’t skipped a beat, their lip balms, sunscreens, deodorants and small and large eco tubs are made using recycled paper (which can be composted!), otherwise they use tins and glass bottles which can be recycled or reused of course! Their labels are printed with refillable veg-ink and their operations (which currently have a 50% carbon offset) will be powered with solar when they move into their new HQ. They are based in a zero waste community (read more about it here).Their lab also makes use of naturally collected rain water! Finally, they’re involved in a number of charitable initiatives and projects from raising awareness for suicide prevention to animal rescue to support for cancer sufferers. Truly inspirational!
EmpireSquid have two sunscreens on offer, the Life Guard Organic Vegan Facial Sunscreen and the Life Guard Organic Vegan Body Sunscreen. Both products contain non nano zinc oxide along with a few other natural sun filter ingredients like shea butter, soybean, lavender and peppermint essential oils. Though, if you’d prefer no essential oils you can simply send them a note and they’ll tailor make your sunscreen to your liking. Both sunscreens come in either ‘original’ (SPF of between 15-25) and ‘extra protection’.
The quirky EmpireSquid brand was born out of the lack of reasonably priced wholesome skin care products. The founders and formulators, Stephanie and Alexander design and make to order their organic (around 70%) and completely natural, cruelty-free, palm oil free and vegan friendly (a few exceptions contain organic beeswax) line of products. Ingredients, not sourced locally are purchased through fair trade / ethically sourced channels. They use environmentally friendly glass and aluminum bottles and jars that can easily be reused and recycled. Empire Squid have an impressive following (and exceptional rating).
Brendas Bodacious Gift – Natural Sunscreen:
With only 5 natural ingredients (organic fair trade shea butter, organic coconut oil, non nano zinc oxide, organic apricot oil, essential oils) you don’t get much better than Brendas Bodacious Gift Natural Sunscreen which is organic, 100% cruelty-free, vegan friendly and palm oil free. It also has an SPF of between 20-25 and comes in an 8 ounce amber PET plastic jar which is BPA free and also recyclable.
About Brendas Bodacious Gift:
Brendas Bodacious Gift was started by none other than, Brenda! Based in California, she started this small business in 2016 with the intention of creating more environmentally friendly and natural products. She creates a range of hand made body and skin care products, toothpastes and candles. Brendas Bodacious Gift already has a solid following (and exceptional rating). All of her products and the ingredients used in their formulation are 100% cruelty free (she says the only test subjects are her and her friends), vegan friendly and palm oil free. She’s also put a lot of thought into sourcing, much of her raw materials are fair trade (and organic), except for coconut which comes from small independent farms and her organic olive and avocado oil which is supplied locally. As for the packaging, her products are shipped in recycled cardboard boxes with recycled brown paper to secure the boxes, while the product containers are either made of glass (mostly), recyclable BPA free plastic or just recycled brown paper with hemp twine (for all soaps). Her small business also donates products to a homeless center. Brenda told us that Brendas Bodacious Gift is “meant to embody what it means to be better for the environment but still have quality products” . Brilliant!
Simply Radiant Beauty Organic Broad Spectrum SPF 40 Sunscreen:
Simply Radiant Beauty’s sunscreen solution makes use of two well known broad spectrum UVA and UVB ingredients: non nano zinc oxide and red raspberry seed oil (which alone is estimated to have an SPF of between 28-50). They’ve also included pomegranate seed oil which has been shown to increase the effectiveness of UV protection by 20% and the natural antioxidant and nourishing avocado oil and shea butter. This product is vegan, cruelty free, organic and palm oil free.
About Simply Radiant Beauty:
Born in Texas, Simply Radiant Beauty are a family owned business who pride themselves on making organic and plant based skin care products in small-batches. They’re also a completely cruelty-free and vegan friendly brand and use eco-friendly packaging to minimize their carbon footprint. They have a huge amount of raving reviews which is a testament to the exceptional quality products they manufacture.
Little Tree Naturals Raspberry Seed Sunscreen:
With an overwhelming amount of positive reviews this all-natural and organic sunscreen is obviously a winner. It’s suitable for all skin types, doesn’t clog pores and is water resistant. The estimated SPF based on the cumulative protection factor of each ingredient (e.g. red raspberry seed oil has an SPF between 28-50 whereas carrot seed oil has between 38-40) is said to be between 30-50, which is enough to feel pretty safe and comfortable in the sun for a couple of hours! It’s also completely vegan friendly and cruelty free product.
About Little Tree Naturals:
Based in Ohio, Little Tree Naturals is an artisan beauty and body care manufacturer. They’re a family run business who make 100% vegan, cruelty-free and natural products. They have a huge loyal following base which is no surprise given the the exceptional reviews they’ve received (well over a thousand on Etsy), a testament to the quality of their products on offer.
Herbana Cosmetics Organic Sunscreens:
Herbana Cosmetics have two sunscreens on offer, the Organic Face Sunblock and Organic Body Sunscreen Lotion. Both options come in a 30 or 50 SPF. The Sunblock contains the likes of jojoba oil, macadamia oil, aloe vera gel and zinc oxide (non nano) to not only provide sun protection but also natural antioxidant properties. The Body Sunscreen Lotion is formulated with carrot oil, avocado oil, sesame oil and shea butter which are all natural sun filters. Both products are vegan friendly and cruelty-free.
About Herbana Cosmetics:
Hailing from Athens, Greece Herbana Cosmetics manufacture small-batch plant based, wild harvested skincare products. Their entire range is vegan friendly and cruelty-free. They have a large and loyal following with an exceptional rating (including for the sunscreens mentioned above).
Anakiel Natural Sunscreen Balm:
Anakiel’s answer to sun protection is an all natural water resistant Sunscreen Balm that has an SPF of 35+. The formulation consists of sun protection fundamentals like non zinc oxide but also some natural ingredients like organic coconut oil and rice bran oil, which not only moisturize but also have a natural SPF of between 5 and 10. The product is 100% cruelty-free and vegan friendly.
Anakiel is the brain child of Montreal based, owner and formulator Natacha Bergeron. What started out as a search for a cure for her children’s eczema is now a burgeoning and highly rated luxury skin care range. Her entire line is cruelty-free and vegan friendly.