11 Zero Waste Sunscreen Alternatives For A More Sustainable SPF
Ahhh, summer…. sea, sunshine, and for some worry-warts like us, the ever-present fear of skin cancer.
Thanks to that (totally valid) fear across millions of sunscreen-sporting beach-goers, about 4,000 to 6,000 tons of sunscreen ends up in the ocean yearly.
This devastates coral reefs, affects the fertility of marine life, and contributes to coral bleaching—not to mention the negative health impact it has on us humans.
Fortunately, the best zero waste sunscreen brands also happen to be reef-safe, and a few are especially sunny, too.
Everything we recommend to you on Sustainable Jungle is independently researched and we ask all brands to confirm their claims. To avoid waste, we test products on an as needed basis. This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a small commission. Learn more about why we do this here.
Plastic-Free & Zero Waste Sunscreens For Safe, Sustainable Summer Fun
FORAH creates an almost entirely organic certified sunscreen (that really works, with the SJ tested seal of approval) in fully recyclable aluminum containers.
Show some attitude against conventional sunscreens and their reef-bleaching chemicals with ATTITUDE. They have a range of environmentally friendly sunscreens for different purposes, all of which replace harmful “benzone” chemicals with mineral non-nano zinc.
SurfDurt keeps those of us beach-lovers in mind with a range of plastic-free sunscreen alternatives that come with refill options, to-boot, to further reduce the impact of their packaging.
For more on why sustainable sunscreen is the better choice and how we found these zero waste brands in the sand, sink to the bottom of the article.
The Full List Of Sustainable Sunscreen Brands
- SurfDurt | Visit Store
- ATTITUDE | Visit Store
- Butter Me Up Organics | Visit Store
- FORAH | Visit Store
- EmpireSquid Organics | Visit Store
- Badger | Visit Store
- Palm & Pine | Visit Store
- All Good | Visit Store
- Herbal Chest | Visit Store
- Bee You Organics | Visit Store
*Note: This zero waste sunscreen contains sustainable sourced beeswax.
SurfDurt’s Refillable Zero Waste Sunscreen
SurfDurt is an “extreme adventure sunscreen” made with surfers in mind, who spend more time in the sun and ocean than most, so it better do its part for both.
With a chemical and toxin-free formula that’s effective for 80 minutes of use in the water and an SPF 30 broad-spectrum sun protection, it certainly ticks the box.
It is cruelty free though not technically vegan as it does contain beeswax sustainably sourced in West Africa from a program vetted by the third-party Koster Keunen agency.
Of this proud partnership they write:
“Sourcing this way makes it affordable to regenerate beehives instead of overharvesting them and this in turn creates a 30% income increase for local farmers who then care for those hives […] It is uplifting both the bee population and the community where this program exists.”
Most of the ingredients, including cocoa butter, coconut oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, carrot seed oil, and raspberry seed oil, are certified organic. The exceptions are the beeswax, and the non nano zinc and iron oxide pigment.
This formula does not contain any added fragrance oils but it does smell like cookies(!).
Their aluminum-lined reusable bamboo pots are so neat and highly reusable, as are the slimmer, metal tins of their travel sizes.
In case you’re up to your ears in reusable containers, you can send back your old container via their refill program to receive 25% off your next order.
This is the first refillable sunscreen we’ve come across.
The Original DurtHeads behind SurfDurt were an unlikely pair: two California girls and their chemist dad from Hawaii. All three were raised with a healthy love for the sun and the ocean, and they needed to find a way to reconcile their love for both.
As exemplified with their ethical sunscreen’s beeswax, they source from “the most ethical sources possible” including those that are free from conflict and animal testing.
It’s produced in the USA using 100% solar-powered technology.
They also give back to a different non-profit (depending on the color of the product) with every purchase. Their charitable endeavors support everything from coral reef restoration to surf therapy for underserved children of color.
*Note: ATTITUDE’s zero waste sunscreens are mostly formulated without palm oil or derivatives, otherwise they use RSPO’s Mass Balanced certified sustainable palm oil.
ATTITUDE’s Vegan Zero Waste Sunscreen Canada
ATTITUDE is giving some serious (well-deserved) attitude about mainstream sunscreen by creating far better Ecologo Certified™ biodegradable options.
Non-nano zinc blocks harmful UVA and UVB rays while olive oil and cocoa and shea butters ensure your skin stays hydrated.
For a lightweight, non-greasy zero waste face sunscreen, don’t miss their Tinted Mineral Sunscreen Stick, which protects your skin, and replenishes lost moisture through it’s skin conditioning formulation of coconut, sunflower seed, and castor seed oils, along with shea butter.
A few options still come in the plastic squeeze tube, but the rest of their various plastic-free sunscreen sticks (for sensitive skin, babies and kids, and the like) come in a compostable cardboard tube.
All are SPF 30, unscented, hypoallergenic, and free of parabens, endocrine disruptors, PEGs, oxybenzone, and other reef bleaching chemicals.
While the presence of some synthetic ingredients means they’re not 100% natural, all reef-safe ingredients are EWG Skin Deep Verified™ as safe and non-toxic.
Far more than a sustainable sunscreen brand from Canada, ATTITUDE offers a massive range of bath & beauty, mom & baby, and home care products.
As a member of PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies program, they’re cruelty free and vegan, helping fulfill their promise of “better products for a better tomorrow”.
They prefer to use no palm oil, but since this is not always possible, they will sometimes use Mass Balance sustainable palm that’s RSPO certified.
Products are manufactured at an eco friendly smart factory that promotes worker wellness and they source from channels without child labor or conflict mineral concerns.
While not a fully zero waste company, any plastic bottles they use are #2 plastic, one of the most widely recyclable types of plastic.
3. Butter Me Up Organics
*Note: Butter Me Up Organics’ biodegradable sustainable sunscreen contains beeswax.
Butter Me Up Organics’ Eco-Friendly Sunscreen
Butter Me Up Organics believes, “Sunscreen doesn’t need to have all the nasty chemicals in it to be effective.”
That’s why they’ve created a reef safe and totally plastic-free sunscreen that’s suitable for everyone: zero waste babies, kids and adults.
Made of coconut oil, shea butter, mango butter, non-nano zinc oxide, grapeseed oil, vitamin E, and beeswax it’s guaranteed to give nourishing, water-resistant sun protection for those long summer days.
Not only is their mineral sunscreen zero waste, but the only ingredient not certified organic is non-GMO grapeseed oil and zinc oxide (since minerals can’t be organically certified).
Choose between reusable glass jars or (our favorite) compostable cardboard sticks for your packaging. They also have a thinner sunscreen that comes in a BPA-free plastic squeeze bottle which, while recyclable, is best avoided.
Plus the jars and tubes are made into a thicker formula to avoid melting in your beach bag. Don’t worry, it still absorbs clear and isn’t difficult to apply.
While all packaging is zero waste, their most sustainable sunscreen packaging is their cardboard push tubes.
About Butter Me Up Organics
Butter Me Up Organics is “a modern day apothecary” that infuses the spirit of ancient holistic healing into distinctly modern products (like yoga mat cleaner).
From organic face creams to home cleaning products, Butter Me Up Organics has many useful items for a non-toxic lifestyle.
Everything is cruelty free and palm oil-free and most are vegan, the exceptions being their salves, moisturizers, lotion/balms, organic milk soaks, and goat milk bath bombs.
Almost every product comes in zero waste packaging like glass, tin, or paper. Remaining plastic-free may cost a bit more but it’s a cost they’re willing to cover.
Still, they find it in their budget to donate to animal welfare causes and organizations fighting California wildfires and leukemia.
*Note: FORAH uses beeswax in their zero waste sunscreens.
FORAH’s Environmentally Friendly Sunscreen Products
FORAH is a specialist in making sunscreen environmentally friendly.
That’s because it’s all they make (unless you count the recycled zippered totes you can opt to keep your goodies in), so they make sure to do it really well.
You can choose between small tubes of sunscreen and tin pots. Aside from the tube’s plastic cap, they use all aluminum sunscreen packaging, meaning it’s infinitely recyclable in most municipalities.
We’ve tried both and our favorite part of the Everyday mineral sunscreen—aside from the fact that they save our skin from burning, even after hours spent in the sustainable garden—is the super pleasing yet subtle scent.
This is due mostly to the organic sweet almond, but that’s far from the only standout ingredient in this product.
Organic sea buckthorn oil, organic cold-pressed golden jojoba oil, seaweed extract, and biodynamic avocado oil are the rest, ensuring this fatty acid and antioxidant-rich formula is healing and nourishing to even the most sensitive skin.
Alternatively, if you need a sustainable face sunscreen, the Zinc Surf Balm keeps it super simple with just non-nano zinc oxide, virgin coconut oil, cacao powder, and breathable but waterproof beeswax.
You won’t need to layer this zero waste mineral sunscreen under makeup because it’s already tinted.
FORAH “is a raw, natural and powerful sunscreen & skincare brand born by vast mountains, rich temperate rainforests and expanses of rugged land bound by deep, sometimes unruly seas”.
Drawing inspiration from these incredible dichotomies in nature, all reef-safe products are certified organic, cruelty-free, and non-GMO.
They’re also free of gluten, microplastics, harsh chemicals, parabens, synthetic fragrances, phthalates, petrochemicals, and dyes—AKA things you don’t need to safely suntan.
FORAH is also a member of 1% for the Planet.
5. EmpireSquid Organics
*Note: These herbal sunscreens are not vegan by default but can be made vegan upon request.
EmpireSquid’s Best Zero Waste Sunscreen
EmpireSquid has individually designed some of the best zero waste face sunscreen available.
This Organic Face Sunblock uses naturally sun protective red raspberry seed oil combined with beeswax and macadamia nut oil for long-lasting moisturizing wear. Because of how light it is, it’s ideal for use as a plastic-free daily moisturizer sunscreen.
Just note it does contain essential oils, so it’s not unscented.
They also have other sunscreens intended for more general use, but they’re all fairly similar at the ingredient level, but the facial sunscreen is designed to be lighter and easier to rub in with no greasy residue.
Aside from the three options, you can also choose “original” or “extra protection” for each.
“Original” provides an estimated 20-40 SPF and the “Extra Protection” a bit higher, due to a higher non-nano zinc oxide content. However, they clearly state they “have not laboratory tested this sunscreen […] regarding its exact SPF rating”.
All three sunscreens contain non-nano zinc oxide, shea butter (which helps not only provide consistency but also filter the sun) and essential oils, which they will omit upon request.
Note these zero waste sunscreens are not strictly vegan because each contains beeswax, but since they’re handmade to order, they will make you sunscreen without beeswax upon request.
Each product comes in a reusable 8oz glass jar or amber glass bottle with a plastic pump top.
About EmpireSquid Organics
This quirkily-named and family-run brand aims to provide affordable, yet “amazingly wholesome” and responsible zero waste skin care for men, women, and children alike, from organic face moisturizers to zero waste soap.
Everything is handmade to order with about 70% organic ingredients that are purchased through fair trade channels and ethical suppliers.
Each product is all natural, cruelty free, and palm oil free.
Vegans, don’t worry. Even though the sunscreens contain beeswax by default, they honor custom requests for beeswax-free products.
*Note: Their plastic-free sunscreen appears to have no potential palm oil derivatives. We have attempted to confirm policies directly with this brand, but have not received a response.
Badger’s Zero Waste Sunscreen USA
With a whopping 80 minutes of water and sweat resistance, Badger’s clear zinc sport sunscreen is made for those who like to play hard.
Each biodegradable formula is free of phthalates, parabens, BPA, gluten, synthetics, fragrances, and GMOs.
In fact, it has only four natural ingredients: uncoated zinc oxide, organic sunflower oil, organic Beeswax, and sunflower vitamin E.
They’re also Oregon Tilth certified to the NSF/ANSI 305 standard as containing organic ingredients and Protect Land + Sea certified.
These SPF 40 and 50 low waste sunscreens come in recyclable and reusable aluminum tins. Though they offer many more sunscreen varieties, much of which are still packaged in plastic tubes.
Family-owned Badger is all about making simple, sustainable, and effective versions of common (and not-so-common) skin care products.
They’re a Certified B Corp, Leaping Bunny cruelty free, and manufactured in the USA, environmentally friendly sunscreen included.
Giving generous benefits to workers as well as 10% of pre-tax profits to charity shows Badger believes in corporate responsibility on all fronts.
7. Palm & Pine
*Note: We are confirming policies directly with this brand.
Palm & Pine’s Environmentally Friendly Sunscreen
Whether you prefer liquid sunscreen or a solid plastic-free sunscreen bar, Palm & Pine provides 100% recyclable aluminum packaging.
The liquid variety is SPF 30 and rated to provide broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays, as is the solid tin, but with extra SPF 50 sun protection.
Both formulas contain zinc oxide as the active ingredient, but the rest of the natural ingredients differ slightly.
The liquid SPF 30 utilizes moisturizing shea butter, antioxidant-rich echinacea, calming calendula, and antibacterial lemon balm, while the SPF 50 contains avocado and jojoba oils, iron oxide for tint, and sunflower wax for vegan waterproofing.
Both are carefully designed to require little for maximum efficacy, and not cause whitecasting, as many zinc-based sunscreens tend to do.
Because sun damage is everywhere, you can even adopt either of these fragrance-free formulas as part of your everyday skincare routine, thanks to 100% natural ingredients that are suitable for baby and sensitive skin.
You can also try both in a money saving bundle pack.
About Palm & Pine
After relocating to western Portugal, founders Ross and Sarah realized they needed a truly good sunscreen—and so they made their own.
A successful crowdfunding operation later and Palm & Pine was born.
Why the name Palm & Pine?
In their words, “Palm trees and pine trees represent our two favorite playgrounds. We love surfing and sunshine living near palm trees, and snowboarding and hiking amongst pine trees. Our mission was to create a sunscreen to protect you wherever you play.”
As a brand, they are vegan, cruelty-free, and made of 100% natural—meaning no chemical UV filters and fragrances.
Because the “only thing we take from palms is inspiration”, everything is palm oil free, too.
8. All Good
*Note: These zero waste sunscreens contain sustainably sourced beeswax. See below for their stance on palm oil.
All Good‘s Best Sustainable Sunscreen
Available in either regular white or tinted versions, All Good’s zero waste SPF 50 sunscreen provides broad-spectrum sun protection and water resistance for a full 80 minutes.
All Good sunscreens are suitable for sensitive skin types.
It’s made of just six certified reef-safe ingredients: non-nano zinc oxide, organic coconut oil, organic beeswax, organic calendula flowers infused in organic jojoba oil, and vitamin E.
While not vegan, the beeswax is sourced from a fellow B-Corp that treats its bees ethically and sustainably.
Some products come in traditional plastic tubes, pump bottles, or aerosol bottles, which is why we recommend sticking to their tin sustainable sunscreen packaging—and not just because their portability ensures you’ll never find yourself without sunscreen.
The Tinted Zinc Sun Butter (also available in an untinted version sans iron oxides) provides powerful SPF 50+ sun protection in a pocket-sized metal container. It bears a hard consistency, which is why it fits so well in a compact tin pot.
This unscented plastic-free solid sunscreen bar combines organic ingredients like calendula flowers, jojoba seed oil, and coconut oil nourishes skin as it protects it.
About All Good
All Good has seeds all the way back in 1997, when founder Caroline created the very first All Good Goop, a healing salve made with the finest natural ingredients.
Over two decades later, their offers have expanded to include even more healing salves and sprays, lip balms, deodorants, lotion, and coconut oil. Still, they maintain small-business vibes and a “vision to inspire others to live in balance with nature, as it should be”.
They’re not only a woman-owned Certified B Corp, but Leaping Bunny and PETA certified cruelty-free (they don’t sell into China, either), Green America approved, and a member of Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
All their products are certified by Oregon Tilth Certified Organic, which ensures they meet either USDA’s or NSF’s body care-specific organic standards. They source only non-GMO ingredients from suppliers that deal in fairly traded goods.
While they do not use palm oil directly, they could not confirm if their ingredients are free of all derivatives: “If palm oil extracts or derivatives are ever used in our products, it would be palm oil in alignment with Palm Done Right standards.”
The Morro Bay Community Center kitchen, which serves as their production facility, is powered by solar panels.
While not all containers are zero waste, they minimize packaging waste as much as possible by using recycled and recyclable shipping products (including the labels) and strive to continually improve.
They currently use plastic-free shipping materials and use as much post-consumer-recycled plastics as possible in their tubes.
9. Herbal Chest
Herbal Chest’s Zero Waste Vegan Sunscreen
If you have extra sensitive skin, so much so that it rejects even coconut oil, try Herbal Chest’s Green Tea Sun Butter.
Not only is this vegan sunscreen coconut oil-free, but also free from parabens, synthetic dyes, fragrances, animal byproducts, and gluten.
It combines the moisturizing powers of shea butter with the sun-blocking power of non-nano zinc oxide and red raspberry oil (with a cumulative SPF 25).
What’s more, they’ve added antioxidant-rich and reef-safe ingredients like green tea-infused olive oil and elderflower-infused grapeseed oil, to add some serious restorative powers.
About Herbal Chest
Herbal Chest started small as the passion project of a Pacific-Northwest mama looking for better products for the family.
Botanical-based and cruelty free, this brand goes beyond skin-deep beauty but rather aims to promote “self-care and wellness”.
They are palm oil-free and prioritize organic ingredients or those still grown without chemicals if not certified.
Everything comes in zero waste packaging, such as the compostable cardboard tubes for their lip balms and tiny glass jars with metal lids that house just about everything else.
11. Bee You Organics
*Note: Many of Bee You’s products are not suitable for vegans due to the use of beeswax, but there are vegan options available, including for zero waste sunscreen.
About Bee You Organics’ Best Zero Waste Sunscreens
Joining these natural sunscreen brands, Bee You Organics’ broad-spectrum zero waste sunscreen not only has cult following rave-type reviews on Etsy, but is also made with entirely USDA-certified organic ingredients.
These include unrefined Shea butter, beeswax or carnauba wax, unrefined coconut oil, sweet almond oil, and sunflower oil.
They make both vegan and non-vegan sunscreen, meaning you’ll either get beeswax or Carnauba wax as the waterproofing agent. Note that Carnauba wax is not quite as effective at waterproofing and will simply need to be reapplied a bit more often.
For a lighter zero waste facial sunscreen, they also make sun protective Organic BB Cream that uses organic cacao powder to replace your natural foundation and counter the white look of the non-nano zinc, and organic calendula flowers to calm the skin while under the irritating sun.
Added organic olive oil means it doubles as a sustainable face sunscreen moisturizer, too.
You can also opt for added lavender and tea tree oils to give your sustainable sunscreen bug repellent properties.
They come in either reusable tins or compostable paperboard push-up tubes. They even offer a “no-label” option to reduce further waste.
About Bee You Organics
In the lush natural forests of the US’s Pacific Northwest, Bee You’s founder Larissa creates soothing skincare and cosmetics.
With holistic roots, Larissa is meticulous about each ingredient’s purpose.
Ingredients are all-natural (and almost all organic), ethically sourced, non-GMO, cruelty free, alcohol-free, palm oil-free (including derivatives), and preservative-free.
Some products contain non-vegan emu oil and beeswax but they offer plenty of vegan options and support ethical beekeeping by donating to WSU bee research projects.
Bee You Organics supports small business and local charities, and are beginning to employ economically disadvantaged women as they grow and need more hands-on-deck.
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Why Choose Sustainable Sunscreen?
Traditional sunscreens are filled with all sorts of chemicals you can’t pronounce—like methylisothiazolinone, aka the American Contact Dermatitis Society’s “allergen of the year”.
These chemicals block the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D (a deficiency that can, ironically, eventually lead to cancer), as well as disrupt your body’s hormone and endocrine systems, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Ocean safe and plastic-free sunscreen is a safer alternative for you and the planet, but let’s break it down a little more.
Here are a few terms you might encounter when looking into zero waste sunscreen and an overview of what they mean.
- Nanoparticles: Just like you don’t want to breathe in particles, your skin doesn’t want to absorb them. Nanoparticles are particularly crafty because they can pass the skin barrier and cause cytotoxicity (i.e. toxic to cells). Look out for nano zinc oxide and nano titanium dioxide.
- Free Radicals: The skin cancer-causing derivative of nanoparticles if they pass the skin barrier. That’s right: traditional sunscreen itself can actually cause skin cancer! Research is still being done on this, but both the EU and New Zealand have in place strict regulations around nano-particle-containing beauty products.
- UVA: Part of the non-visible light spectrum released by the sun that is 95% of the UV spectrum our skin experiences. It’s even present on cloudy days when you don’t “feel the burn” but still damages and wrinkles your skin and causes skin cancer. It even penetrates glass!
- UVB: The part of the sun that is most damaging to the skin, causing sunburn and discoloration. Generally, these types of rays are present in sunnier or reflective conditions.
- Broad Spectrum Protection: This just means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. As such, it’s ideal your sunscreen is labeled as broad-spectrum.
- SPF: This stands for “sun protective factor”. It basically indicates the amount of time it protects your skin from the sun. This time, of course, varies based on UV index (or strength of the UV rays) and your natural melanin levels (i.e. skin tone) so play it conservative
What about non-nano zinc oxide?
The best “active ingredient” (which is to say U.V. blocking ingredient) alternative to those toxic, unpronounceables is zinc oxide.
More specifically, non-nano zinc oxide.
But it actually goes deeper than that. Non-nanoparticle zinc oxide was a non-negotiable criterion for us in creating this list, but we favor brands that go above and beyond that and use uncoated, non-irradiated, and non-nano zinc.
This is zinc oxide in its purest form, the closest in which it is found in nature.
Uncoated zinc oxide is extremely photostable, so it won’t break down as easily when exposed to UV light. This breaking down is what causes the release of free radicals.
Free radicals, as mentioned above, cause skin damage and even promote skin cancer.
According to all the latest research, this is the most stable and safe form of zinc oxide. While free radicals can still form, it also helps trap them at the skin’s surface, keeping them from getting at deeper, living tissues.
How We Found The Best Zero Waste Sunscreen Alternatives
When it comes to eco-friendly sunscreen brands, finding the best of the best is a bit like finding a dropped quarter at the beach.
And if you’ve been here before but forgot (as we all do with sunscreen itself from time to time), here’s a refresher:
- Non-toxic: Avoiding reef damaging chemicals like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, octinoxate, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, PABA, and triclosan is of the utmost importance to preserve marine ecosystems and your own health. Many biodegradable sunscreen brands are, for example, a case in point.
- Vegan: Beeswax is sometimes an exception, but we avoid other common animal byproducts in sunscreen.
- Palm oil-free: Or RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil.
- Ethical ingredient sourcing
- Thoughtful packaging: While there’s no such thing as package-free sunscreen (yet), we define zero waste sunscreen packaging as anything compostable or reusable (like glass or aluminum). We want our sunscreen plastic-free, unless that plastic is returnable.
Final Thoughts On Plastic-Free Sunscreen
While completely covering up is really the only way to escape UV rays, there’s no summer fun in that!
Why not show some skin in your sustainable swimwear with a little zero waste sunscreen protection.
By opting for one of these sunscreens, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’re protecting your skin and the environment. So go out and eco-consciously catch some rays on your sustainable beach towel.
Help us shed some (sun)light on sustainable sunscreen alternatives protecting you and the planet by passing this article along to your sun-soaking pals.