Beauty Trends

Our guide to the best reef-safe SPFs

Sunscreen selection can be a nightmare – with so many to choose from and so much sun care jargon to decipher – it’s notoriously difficult to find the perfect match. We all know that we should be looking for the terms ‘broad-spectrum’, ‘SPF30’ (at the very least!) and ‘water-resistant’ too if you’re a water baby but now you need to also be looking for ‘reef-safe’ too.

No idea where to begin? Luckily, we’ve launched {Cult Conscious} – in partnership with transparency tech platform Provenance – to cut through the noise and equip you with plain, irrefutable facts. Through their coveted Proof Points, Provenance use {blockchain technology} to digitally verify the wealth of information that pervades the beauty realm and in this case whether a {sun care} product is reef-safe, Cult Beauty customers just need to look for the green tick to check out the ethical pros of each product (it’s found on the right at the top of the product page).

So, first things first, if you haven’t seen the impact us humans are having on the planet (seriously where have you been guys?!) then a very simple way to help curb your impact on the health and survival of the ocean and it’s delicate ecosystem is by making sure your {SPF} is non-toxic to marine-life and is also reef-safe too.

Ingredients to keep a look out for…

Get checking those INCI lists and make sure your SPF is free from ingredients such as oxybenzone and octocrylene which scientists have linked to the bleaching of coral reefs and the disruption of the ocean’s local ecosystems, putting marine life in critical danger. Bonus points go to Hawaii who passed groundbreaking legislation in May 2018 banning the sales of SPFs formulated with oxybenzone and octinoxate! Woo-hoo!

Nanotised vs. Non-Nano…

Wondering whether you should be avoiding physical, mineral or chemical SPFs? Well, the main focus is actually on the size of the particles within them. The vast majority of SPFs are formulated with nanotised particles (meaning they’re less than 100 nanometres) whereas “non-nano” means the particles are larger than 100 nanometres. But what’s so important about nanotised or “non-nano” particles? Well, instead of breaking down and dissolving in the ocean where they can be toxic to marine life, “non-nano” particles sink and become part of ocean sediment, posing less risk to marine life.

But that’s just the beginning, “non-nano” SPFs are also known to be far more gentle on skin in comparison to nantoised particles. Plus, they’re healthier for us too as the large “non-nano” particles only sit on the skin’s surface. In comparison, nanotised particles can be absorbed through the skin and enter our bloodstream. It’s also important to note that the effects of these absorbed nanotised particles on our health is not yet known… (eek!)

Our favourite reef-safe SPFS…

To make life a little easier for you, we’ve created a round-up of our favourite eco-friendly SPFs that take all the hard work out of being kinder to mother nature. Here’s some of Team Cult Beauty’s personal favourites…

Free from oxybenzonE, Supergoop!’s {Unseen Sunscreen SPF 30}, {Glowscreen SPF 30} and {Play Everyday Lotion SPF 50} are kinder on our oceans and are firm favourites among Cult Beauty HQ for their cast-free finishes too.

Both of Drunk Elephant‘s Umbra Sheer and Tinte SPFs are marine and coral reef-safe while also being perfect for both face and body. Wonderfully light and fast-absorbing, we suggest opting for the {Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defence SPF 30} for all-over application, while the {Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defence SPF 30} is perfect for adding a healthy flush of colour to your complexion.

A real eco-friendly SPF innovation, REN Clean Skincare‘s brand new {Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 Mattifying Face Sunscreen Broad Spectrum} is not only marine life and coral reef-safe, it’s also made from the highest level of recycled packaging possible while still thoroughly protecting the formula. The tube is made from 50% recycled packaging and the cap is made from 100% recycled plastic – plus it’s one-type plastic so it can recycled all over again). We’re obsessed!

Another favourite comes from Dr. Dennis Gross skincare, the brand’s {All Physical Lightweight Wrinkle Defense SPF} acts like a parasol – keeping skin safe from UVA/UVB rays, as well as pollution and blue light emitted by phones and computer screens – all without leaving a chalky white cast thanks to transparent zinc oxide (yep, really). Crammed with antioxidants to scavenge harmful radicals (we’re talking bearberry, sea buckthorn, lingonberry and DDG’s signature ferulic acid), this helps to delay signs of ageing, while halting the onset of dark spots and visible sun damage. Suitable for all skin tones and types (this is great if you’re sensitive), it’s non-greasy, swiftly absorbed and it’s coral reef-safe.


Emmie Thornhill

Emmie Thornhill

Deputy Content Editor

Emmie is Cult Beauty’s Deputy Content Editor. Her love of skin care began in primary school when she first learned the term “hormonal acne” and has been in a love-hate relationship with tea tree oil ever since. She lives in East London – where you can normally find her baking, tending to her plant jungle or planning her next tattoo or hair cut/colour appointment – and is known to start DMCs with you about your birth chart placements, the importance of wearing SPF every day and the difference between a vagina and vulva.