Even just a few years ago, finding a good cruelty-free sunscreen wasn’t that easy. Luckily, more companies these days are launching sun protection products that are not only good for us but also good for the planet and for our animal friends.
You can listen to us discuss cruelty-free sunscreens in this episode of the podcast or read on for a quick summary of everything we discuss.
Looking for some Quick-Picks? Here are Our Top 3
Skin Protection All Year
Summer isn’t the only time we need to worry about protecting our skin from the sun. While it’s true that most of us spend a lot more time in the sun during the summer months, our skin is exposed to the sun almost every day of the year. A good quality sunscreen plays a BIG role in skin protection.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation:
Regular daily use of SPF 15 sunscreen can reduce your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) by about 40 percent, and lower your melanoma risk by 50 percent.
Before we dive into our discussion of the best cruelty-free sunscreens, let’s define a few terms. This will help you understand what to look for in sunscreen in case you decide to try a different brand.
What Does “Cruelty-Free” Mean?
For a product to be considered “cruelty-free,” neither it nor any of its ingredients can have been tested on animals. This term can be very confusing and some companies try to fool consumers into thinking their products are cruelty-free when, in fact, they’re not. For a more in-depth understanding of exactly what “cruelty-free” means, check out Vegetarian Zen episode 64, Cruelty-Free 101.
What Does “Vegan” Mean?
Simply stated, a vegan product does not contain animal products or animal derivatives. Animal derivatives, or byproducts, include ingredients such as honey, whey, and leather.
What Does SPF mean?
“SPF” is short for “sun protection factor.” On a sunscreen label, the number that follows SPF is best explained by The Skin Cancer Foundation:
The SPF number tells you how long the sun’s UV radiation would take to redden your skin when using the product exactly as directed versus the amount of time without any sunscreen.
What are Sunscreen Nanoparticles?
Back in the day, sunscreens were white and chalky (and not at all appealing to use). In order to increase the likelihood that consumers would wear their sunscreen every day, manufacturers found ways to shrink down some of the mineral ingredients in their sunscreen products. The result was a less chalky film on your skin. Yeah! But wait!
Some studies have shown that these nanoparticles can have adverse effects on your health, especially lung health. This is a big reason that some companies make it a point to say that their products do not contain nanoparticles. The issue here is that, like “cruelty-free,” nanoparticle regulations are somewhat loose, and “no nanoparticle” claims can be misleading.
While there is still ambiguity around this topic, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has stated that, in general, sun protection made with the minerals zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are usually safe because they provide strong sun protection with few health concerns.
What Makes a Sunscreen “Reef-Safe”?
When we think about keeping our oceans safe from pollution, we usually think of chemical spills and garbage. One thing we rarely consider is the sunscreen we wear when we’re in the ocean (or in lakes or rivers). After all, a cruelty-free sunscreen shouldn’t just keep the animals above water safe; we also need to protect our friends in the sea.
It’s true that chemicals in certain sunscreens can cause serious damage to our reefs and sea life. In fact, some countries and US states have begun banning certain sunscreens due to the damage they cause.
According to Save the Reef’s guide, “Reef-safe” sunscreens are those that do not contain any of the following chemicals:
- 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
- Any nanoparticles or “nano-sized” zinc or titanium (if it doesn’t explicitly say “micro-sized” or “non-nano” and it can rub in, it’s probably nano-sized)
- Any form of microplastic, such as “exfoliating beads”
Note: According to a Consumer Reports article on reef-safe sunscreens, it’s important to know that the term “reef safe” isn’t something that has an agreed-upon definition nor is it a strictly regulated term. As with anything, be sure to do your research!
To learn more, check out Save the Reef and Haereticus Environmental Laboratory.
Without further ado, let’s get to our list of the top cruelty-free sunscreens of 2020! Special thanks to our closed Facebook Group, The Peas and Carrots Society, for their input and recommendations.
Vegetarian Zen’s Top 7 Picks for Best Cruelty-Free Sunscreens
We LOVE Alba Botanica products! Not only are their products great, but we love companies with great visions and messages. Here is an excerpt from their mission statement (taken from their website):
“Do beautiful” means keeping our Earth healthy and happy, too. We appreciate the importance of being good stewards of natural resources, so we do beautiful by reducing our environmental footprint whenever we can. We believe in keeping our friends close, including the furry kind. That’s why we never test our products, or any of the ingredients used in them, on animals. We’re on a do beautiful mission to create vibrant products that treat the Earth and all its inhabitants as well as they do our bodies.
Alba Botanica’s cruelty-free sunscreen is Leaping Bunny certified and contains green tea and aloe vera to help soothe your skin. It is free from gluten and synthetic fragrances.
This formula is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation and is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. Our reef-friendly formula is made with 100% vegetarian ingredients, and it does not contain any oxybenzone, octinoxate, gluten, or synthetic fragrances. It's also biodegradable and not tested on animals.
Founded in 2007 by Holly Thaggard, Supergoop was born out of a desire to supply local schools with sunblock protection. After a friend was diagnosed with melanoma at a young age, Holly made it her mission to provide safe and affordable sun protection for everyone, starting with kids. You can read more about Holly and Supergoop here.
Supergoop! Play calls itself an “everyday” lotion. Its sweat- and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
- Great for sensitive skin
- Water and Sweat-resistant
Founded in 2006, All Good is a women-owned and women-staffed company. They also source their ingredients from women farmers. Yeah!
Like all of the products we’ve mentioned in our list, their sunscreen is cruelty-free and reef-friendly. Per their about page:
Things we like: Finding Nemo. Things we don’t like: Dead Nemo.
All Good also donates 1% of their annual sales to causes including (but not limited to):
- Sustainable Coastlines
- Conservation Alliance
- Plant Savers
- Pacific Whale Foundation
- We use Zinc Oxide as the active sun protecting ingredient which works as a barrier between your skin and the sun.
- We avoid chemical UV absorbers, parabens, and harmful additives and all our products are 3rd-party tested. Our Sunscreen Lotions are oxybenzone free, cruelty-free, GMO-free, gluten-free, vegan, biodegradable, and coral reef-friendly.
Founded in 2014, Purito is a Korean skincare company.
The name “Purito” comes from a combination of the word “purify” and the letters “t” and “o” (which together represent a Chinese character meaning soil). The “purify” portion refers to their natural clean ingredients. The “to” is all about going back to the basics of strengthening and repairing.
- +SPF50+ PA++++ UVA1,2 UVB Broad Spectrum
- +Reef safe sunscreen & Clean ingredients
- + Oil-free/ Non-nano /Cruelty Free/ Vegan sun cream
- + No-sticky & No-white cast
- + Calming & Moisturizing & Anti-wrinkle
Goddess Garden was created by partners Nova Covington and Paul Halter to offer skincare products that utilized the “power of nature.” Their first daughter was allergic to many of the chemicals in traditional cosmetics so they decided to create their own. You can read more about their story here.
- Great for sensitive skin
- Reef Safe
- Sheer Zinc
- Vegan and Certified Cruelty-free
The founders of Sun Bum started out making products for family and friends. They started a company in 2010 and grew their business from there.
Their mission is simple:
We care about the planet.
We care about the animals
We care about our families.
So, of course, we don’t use any ingredients that could harm any of them.
According to the Sun Bum website “About Us” page, at their Cocoa Beach office, employees:
- Play too much ping pong during work hours
- Listen to old albums
- Take surf breaks
- Bring dogs and kids to work
- Vegan and Reef Friendly (Octinoxate & Oxybenzone Free)
- Broad Spectrum Moisturizing UVA/UVB Sunscreen with Vitamin E
We LOVE Jason products. Larissa has used their shampoo for YEARS!
Founded in 1959, Jason sought to discredit the big companies and their dangerous chemical-laden products.
The team set to work creating body-loving products made with plant-based ingredients that lived up to their original mission, never compromising on quality or care.
That kind of commitment over a long period of time is why we love Jason.
- One 4 oz. bottle of JASON Kids Broad Spectrum SPF 45 Sunscreen
- Gently pampers sensitive skin while protecting it from the sun
- Water-resistant for up to 80 minutes
- Infused with calendula and chamomile-extract
- Free of parabens, phthalates, octinoxate, oxybenzone, and harsh sulfates
- Certified Cruelty-Free
And there you have it! Seven of the best cruelty-free sunscreens as recommended by the Vegetarian Zen community. Remember, keeping your skin safe from the sun is important every day. Keeping our planet and our animal friends safe is SUPER important, too!
Thanks for listening/reading!
Peace and Veggies,
Vickie and Larissa
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