We live in Melbourne, Australia where the ozone layer is thin. So for us, sunscreen is not a nice to have, it’s an essential body care product.
But the tricky thing is, finding a vegan sustainable sunscreen that ticks all our boxes.
And it’s now more important than ever to find a sunscreen that’s also reef and ocean friendly. But just about every drug store option is unhealthy for you or the environment in some way, shape or form.
Thankfully, after spending hours researching, we’ve managed to source some of the best vegan sunscreens that do the job.
But before we get into the details, how do you know if it’s a vegan friendly sunscreen? You can start by reading up on common animal byproducts in sunscreens (as well as other harmful ingredients) at the bottom of this list.
There’s also more helpful info on how we found these ethical sunscreen brands, and lots of other useful information about how sunscreens work and sunscreen terminology (e.g. UVA and UVB?!).
1. EMPIRESQUID ORGANICS
About EmpireSquid Vegan Sunscreen for Face and Body
EmpireSquid are one of the best vegan sunscreen brands out there. Ticking all the right boxes!
They have two products, the Life Guard Organic Vegan Facial Sunscreen and the Life Guard Organic Vegan Body Sunscreen.
Both 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.
They come in either ‘original’ (SPF 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).
About ByRobin Creation Vegan Sunscreen Lotion
Based on reviews, ByRobinCreation’s makes probably the best vegan waterproof sunscreen around.
It has an SPF of 30 and one application lasts for hours even while taking a dip in the pool or sea.
Non nano zinc oxide makes up the bulk of the products active ingredients. It also contains other natural additives which help to increase the products effectiveness like organic shea butter, organic cocoa butter, myrrh, carrot seed and sandalwood.
The product is 100% cruelty-free, vegan friendly and reef safe!
About ByRobin Creation
ByRobinCreation hails from New Mexico, USA.
Robin, the founder (who loves creating) started out with hand made vegan lip balm and deodorant. Fast forward a few years and she now has a range of options from haircare to nail serum to toothpaste.
With a huge amount of raving reviews she clearly has perfected the art of luxury yet affordable body care products.
She uses 100% organic oils, butters and essential oils and she also grows her own herbs. Other than her shea butter (which comes from Ghana) she sources her ingredients and containers from local US companies.
Her entire range is cruelty free, vegan friendly and does not contain any palm oil or palm oil derivatives.
As for the packaging, most of it is glass, aluminum, tin and biodegradable ziplocks. Though, some of her products do still come in PET plastic containers she is phasing them out to become a completely re-usable range. She also encourages readers to request that their orders be backed and mailed with plastic free shipping materials (which is at no extra charge).
3. GLIMMER GODDESS SUNSCREEN
*Note: We have attempted to confirm policies with this brand.
About Glimmer Goddess Broad Spectrum Vegan Sunscreen SPF 40
Glimmer Goddess (formerly known as Simply Radiant Beauty) vegan sunscreen solution includes broad spectrum UVA and UVB ingredients: non nano zinc oxide and red raspberry seed oil (which alone is estimated to have a sun protection factor of between 28-50).
They also use 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 Glimmer Goddess
Born in Texas, Glimmer Goddess, 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. Their packaging is recyclable but appears not to be reusable or zero waste.
They have a huge amount of raving reviews which is a testament to their exceptional quality products.
4. LITTLE TREE NATURALS VEGAN SPF SUNSCREEN
*Note: We have attempted to confirm policies with this brand.
About Little Tree Naturals Raspberry Seed Organic Vegan Sunscreen
With an overwhelming amount of positive reviews, Little Tree Naturals all natural vegan sunscreen is obviously a winner.
This organic vegan sunscreen is suitable for all skin types (including combination skin), doesn’t clog pores and is water resistant.
The estimated number is based on the cumulative SPF of each ingredient (e.g. red raspberry seed oil has an SPF between 28-50 whereas carrot seed oil has between 38-40). In total, the SPF is said to be between 30-50.
Which is enough to feel pretty safe and comfortable in the sun for a few hours!
The packaging is recyclable but not zero waste.
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 exceptional reviews they’ve received (well over a thousand on Etsy), a testament to the quality of their products on offer.
5. ANAKIEL PLANT BASED VEGAN SUN CREAM
*Note: We have attempted to confirm policies with this brand.
About Anakiel Protective Facial Vegan Sunscreen
Anakiel’s answer to sun protection is a natural vegan sunscreen for all skin types. This is one of the best vegan face sunscreens on this list.
The formulation is principally made with Karanja and Red Raspberry Seed Oil for its broad spectrum UVA and UVB absorption properties. These ingredients also have a host of anti-oxidants to protect against those free radicals.
The product is 100% cruelty-free and vegan friendly and can be recycled.
Anakiel is the brainchild 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.
Many of her products also come in glass jars which can be reused.
6. DIRTY HIPPIE COSMETICS
*Note: Dirty Hippie has announced that one of their suppliers no longer guarantees certain ingredients to be palm oil free. This does not pertain to their sunscreens but see below for products it does affect.
About Dirty Hippie Vegan Facial Sunscreen
For the best natural vegan sunscreen, you can’t go further than Dirty Hippie Cosmetics Coconut Vegan Sunscreen Balm SPF 30.
It’s targeted for those with sensitive skin as it has an extremely low essential oil content (you can also opt for 0% 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 sun protection.
It comes in two varieties (regular formula and bug repellent formula if you find yourself in, say Florida or Australia).
This product has at least an SPF 30 and thanks to its non-greasy makeup it’s probably one of the best vegan facial sunscreens around.
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 and vegan friendly brand. When it comes to sourcing they either purchase through fair trade channels, buy local or grow their own raw ingredients!
One negative note: their Olive and Coconut oils (aka Cetearyl and Sorbitan olivate, respectively) suppliers no longer guarantees these ingredients to be palm oil free. While Dirty Hippie is is looking for a new supplier, their concealers, Hydrating Hempseed and Red Raspberry Facial Primer moisturizing creams, mascaras, and eye liners may contain palm oil for the time being.
As for packaging, 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’re 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!
7. HERBANA COSMETICS VEGAN FACE AND BODY SUNSCREEN
*Note: We have attempted to confirm policies with this brand.
About Herbana Cosmetics Organic Vegan Sunscreen Brand
Herbana Cosmetics make two natural vegan sunscreens, the Organic Face Sunblock and Organic Body Sunscreen Lotion.
You can buy either sunscreen with SPF 30 or SPF 50.
The Sunblock contains jojoba oil, macadamia oil, aloe vera gel and zinc oxide (non nano). This provides a natural SPF but also 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.
While packaged in plastic, these bottles are recyclable.
About Herbana Cosmetics:
Hailing from Athens, Greece Herbana Cosmetics manufacture small-batch plant based, wild harvested skincare products. With over 500 products, they leave no vegan stone unturned.
As a 100% vegan friendly brand, they have a loyal following with an exceptional rating (including for the sunscreens mentioned above).
Each product is made without parabens, dyes, silicone, petrochemicals and toxic elements. Instead, they use only fresh fruits & herbs, organic essential oil, handmade hydro-sols, natural clays, plant based vitamins, and vegetable oils and butters.
We have attempted to confirm their use of palm oil but didn’t have any luck.
When it comes to sourcing, they “choose clean & cruelty free ingredients, local, wild crafted or organic sourced”. Most of their herbs are harvested in Greece.
*Note: Some products contain palm oil derived glycerin and/or beeswax. However, there are multiple options available that are both vegan and palm oil free. See below for which ones.
About Suntegrity Sunscreens
Suntegrity is a dedicated vegan sunscreen brand.
Sadly, the founder lost her mom to skin cancer and so in an effort to combat the disease she founded this holistic, mineral sun care line. They provide a range of vegan facial sunscreens to vegan lip balm sunscreens and body sunscreen options, too
They also ensure that none of their products contain parabens, phthalates, propylene glycol, mineral oil, synthetic dyes, sulfates, nanoparticles and chemical UV absorbers.
Just note that their Rebound and Staycation products include beeswax. They do say that it is organic and sourced from ethical apiaries that support bee health, habitat and, hopefully, longevity.
As for palm oil, some products do contain glycerin derived from palm oil but they provides us with a handy list of all their sunscreen products that are totally palm oil-free. These include: NSF-certified Sport Sun Sticks and Sport Sunscreen Lotion, USA-organic Rebound and Rebound, and Staycation.
Suntegrity make healthy, toxin free and effective vegan sunscreen. They’ve tested their formulae against UVA and UVB in vitro and are FDA approved.
All their products are also cruelty-free friendly being certified by leaping bunny, and most are Peta certified save for those mentioned above.
They don’t use nano-particles instead opt for “uncoated zinc oxide”. Which is an active ingredient in calamine lotions and other products used to treat rosacea, melasma and acne.
As mentioned above, a couple products do use palm oil derivatives (namely their glycerin) but Suntegrity has assured us it is GMO-free, vegan, kosher, halal, and that their “lab purchases it from a supplier with a no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation policy in place”.
In general, they source their ingredients from ethical channels and the only generally iffy ingredient is the Mica used in the lipsticks and Staycation. For that, they use a supplier who does not employ child labor.
IS SUNSCREEN VEGAN?
It can be..but depends on the ingredients, of course.
For starters, a vegan certification is the easiest way to tell. Though, many small-batch vegan artisan brands may not be accredited.
In fact, many of the brands we’ve listed above fall in this category.
If you’re relying on the word of the brand (without a certification), 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
Just remember to also look for the cruelty-free label, because as we explain in this article, vegan doesn’t always mean the product wasn’t tested on animals.
OCEAN FRIENDLY VEGAN SUNSCREENS: SAVING CORAL REEFS
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 lot of sunscreen to say the least. But more specifically, a lot of toxic ingredients.
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 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. This is destroying much of the fragile coral reef ecosystems around the world.
AND THEN THERE’S NANO PARTICLES…
Besides oxybenzone, you should also be aware of 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 white shade which never seems to absorb into your skin. This was the case back in the day because of the size of these old-school particles.
WHAT ARE FREE RADICALS?
Nowadays 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).
They 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.
UVA AND UVB
When we first started investigating vegan sunscreen options we realized we didn’t have much knowledge on the commonly used jargon. So, we thought we’d define some of these terms to help you understand the lingo a little better!
UVA and UVB: The sun actually emits three types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, UVA, UVB and UVC. However, only UVA and UVB reaches our skin. UVC is absorbed by the earth’s ozone layer. Both UVA and UVB have different wavelengths and are not visible to the naked eye. Having said that, they both damage unprotected skin.
UVA is responsible for about 95% of the UV radiation that our skin is exposed to. You also can’t escape it, it’s present on sunny and cloudy days. While you won’t necessarily feel this ultraviolet light as it gives you that warm slow tan, don’t be fooled! It’s the leading cause or major contributor of all types of skin cancer, wrinkles, and it penetrates glass (unless specially treated).
On the ultraviolet side, UVB is a powerful UV light and is responsible for sunburn as it tends to damage the superficial epidermal layers. It’s also responsible for other abnormalities in the skin like discoloration. UVB is more present in sunnier conditions and is reflected by water, sand and snow.
SPF IS YOUR FRIEND
We couldn’t write an article about vegan sunscreens without looking at SPF (albeit briefly) could we!
Most people are familiar with SPF or “sun protection factor”. It’s the measurement of how long a sunscreen or sunblock will protect your skin against ultraviolet light for. Because of the strength of UVA and UVB rays changes throughout the day it’s impossible to know how long an SPF will last for.
It’s also important to note that no SPF factor is 100% safe. A higher SPF is, of course, better but sun protection should just be one of your sun safe strategies.
Broad spectrum is usually referred to when describing sunscreen.
The term simply means that the product protects against both types of ultraviolet light that reaches our skin – UVA and UVB. So it’s always preferable to go for an option that covers both as more often than not, UVA and UVB will be lurking around outside!
VEGAN SUNSCREEN FOR DARK SKIN TONES
FINDING NATURAL VEGAN SUNSCREEN BRANDS
- cruelty free
- organic / natural
- palm oil free
- have ethical ingredient sourcing policies and
- use thoughtful, ideally zero-waste packaging (meaning it either has no waste at all, or waste that is compostable or widely reusable).
If you’re specifically looking for plastic free vegan sunscreen check out our zero waste sunscreen list for some suggestions.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON ETHICAL VEGAN SUNSCREEN PRODUCTS
Sun protection doesn’t have to cost the earth.
There are many natural, safe and vegan friendly sunscreen alternatives that are healthier for you and the planet.
It just takes a bit of research, which we’ve happily done for you. We love a good hunt!
Just remember a broad spectrum SPF and a natural (i.e. non nano) sunscreen will provide a great defense against the cumulative effects of UV light.
As always, leave a comment if you’ve got any Qs or other product suggestions!