We know what to consider when trying to find a sunscreen that will work to nourish and protect our skin. But what are some things to consider when shopping for eco-friendly sunscreen? We’re putting packaging, ingredients and environmental impact on main street to help you make the best SPF decisions with the least amount of environmental impact.
What makes a sunscreen “eco friendly”?
There are several things to consider when it comes to finding an “eco friendly” sunscreen. Since a majority of SPFs on the market are packaged in plastic, one of the most obvious considerations is SPF packaging.
SPF packaging considerations
I wish responsible packaging decision-making was as easy as following the “choose glass over plastic” rule, but it’s not. Plastic is still typically the easiest method of deliverability and it’s what most brands choose to use. Here are some things to consider when buying:
- Is the packaging made from recycled materials?
- Is the packaging recyclable?
For example, one of the hottest trends right now is using ocean plastic to create plastic packaging. This is fantastic because it’s cleaning up our oceans and it’s not creating any new plastic….or is it?
Plastic has a recycling limit meaning there are only a certain number of times you can recycle, reuse and rebuild with the same piece of plastic. Packaging made with 100% post consumer plastic (PCR) can typically no longer be recycled, whereas something made with 50% PCR typically can.
So you can look at this one of two ways. Either, it’s better to use 100% PCR because it takes the onus off the consumer to find an appropriate way to recycle it. Or it’s better to use something like 50% PCR and 50% virgin plastic because now it’s possible to recycle that packaging again.
Additionally, a big part of the recycling onus is on consumers—roll up your sleeves girl! To ensure recyclable plastics have a chance at actually being recycled, remove any parts that are not recyclable (like pumps) and wipe sunscreen containers clean (yes, this means cut the plastic open and wipe out residual product).
But beyond this, most of the time, the bigger question is, does your local waste management operation have the capacity to recycle what can be recycled? It doesn’t matter how recyclable plastic packaging is if your town does not have the capacity to recycle it. You can always call your local waste management company to inquire.
That being said, we’ve seen some pretty cool workarounds to counter like:
For tough-to-recycle items, some brands have a send-back program where you can ship empires back and/or choose to partner with initiatives like TerraCycle who have the capacity to recycle items that typically can not be recycled.
RELATED: The Best Mineral Sunscreens for 2022
Additional eco friendly SPF considerations
After packaging, we can look at production, shipping, giving back and ingredients. There are several things to consider when it comes to choosing an SPF as far as ingredients go. We deep dive into all of that here. BUT when it comes to looking at SPF ingredients through the lens of environmental impact, here are a few additional things to consider.
- Does the formula contain ingredients that will harm the environment like microplastics, which accumulate in our ecosystem and harm wildlife?
- Or marine pollutants?
- Or chemical sunscreen barriers like oxybenzone and octinoxate, which threaten coral reefs?
- Are they prioritizing non-GMO and/or organic ingredients when possible?
- Is this formula a spray? (Most sprays are not reef-safe).
- Is the zinc oxide non-coated? (Zinc can be coated in silicone for example.)
Then we can also consider additional ways to reduce environmental impact like:
- Is the formula made in the USA? Local production can lower the overall carbon footprint of a product.
- Does the company give back? One way to help offset the production of new materials is to support initiatives like One Tree Planted or The Ocean Cleanup or 1% for the Planet.
- And (although not feasible for all companies, especially start-ups) consumers can also check to see if a company is B Corp Certified, which legally requires them to consider their impact on the environment, among other things.
Now, I’m not saying brands need to do all of these things to be considered “eco friendly.” What I’m saying is that these are some things to consider when you are standing in the sunscreen aisle of Target like 🤔.
Here are a few mineral, eco friendly sunscreen brands that are on our radar…
Best eco friendly sunscreen brands
Eir NYC’s Surf Mud and Surf Mud Pro comes in 100% plastic-free, compostable packaging. This mineral sunscreen is also reef-safe, formulated with natural ingredients and has a chocolatey-scented finish (cacao powder + cocoa butter).
Raw Elements just introduced their aluminum packaging. Aluminum is infinitely recyclable which is a huge pro (the plastic cap on the aluminum tube is also 100% recyclable). They also offer 100% plastic-free packaging as seen in their Zero Waste SPF 30 Stick and plastic-free tins. Raw Elements is also reef safe, formulated mostly with organic ingredients and 1% for the Planet.
ALL good is a brand to keep on your radar. This mineral sunscreen line offers a SPF 50 in a plastic-free tin and sunstick tubes are made from a minimum of 50% PCR. For all the moms, ALL good also offers a family size and a spray #praisebe. Reef safe, organic ingredients, Certified B Corp and 1% for the Planet.
Is it skincare or suncare? It’s both and we love it. Solara is not only raising the bar with their adaptogen and plant-powered SPF, this North American manufactured line is also 100% recyclable including the caps and pumps and housed in FSC Certified 100% recycled outers. Reef safe and incredible ingredients, try their Road Trip trio and thank us later. It’s one of my summer quarterly faves.
What eco friendly sunscreen brand is your go-to?
TOG Team Note: This article contains affiliate links. TOG uses affiliate links as a source for revenue to fund operations of the business and to be less dependent on branded content. TOG stands behind all product recommendations. Still have questions about these links or our process? Feel free to email us.