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Protect Your Skin (and the Planet) with These Clean Sunscreens

A green tube of sunscreen; a pink tube on top of a coconut shell; a white tube on a white/teal striped towel
Biossance/Volition Beauty/Farmacy

Sunscreen is a must-have item for any summer checklist. If, like many folks, you prefer using clean products instead of the more traditional brands, though, you might be unsure which sunscreens fall into this category. That’s why we’ve done the research for you!

Sunscreens come in two main categories: chemical and physical. These refer to the mechanism used to actually block sunlight and protect your skin. Obviously, the chemical sunscreens use chemicals, while the physical types (also referred to as “mineral” sunscreens) use ingredients that form a physical barrier on your skin.

A number of factors influence whether a product is “clean” or “green.” These include everything from whether its production process is cruelty-free, to whether it’s environmentally friendly. If you’re looking to upgrade your sun protection to something greener this year, you’ll find some of our favorite options below.

Sun Bum Face 50 Sunscreen

A hand holding up a yellow tube of sunscreen; a white smear of sunscreen on a yellow background
Sun Bum

For a straightforward product that’s environmentally responsible, check out Sun Bum Face 50 Sunscreen. It’s a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 50 that’s vegan, cruelty-free, hypoallergenic, reef friendly, and free of parabens, gluten, oil, and fragrances.

Made with soothing aloe vera and antioxidant Vitamin E, the lightweight lotion moisturizes skin. It also protects you from the sun’s harmful rays, even on the hottest, brightest summer days. It’s perfect for people who like traditional sunscreens and textures, but want a cleaner, greener product.

Supergoop! Glowscreen SPF 40

Two white tubes with beige lotion smeared behind them

The Supergoop! Glowscreen SPF 40 provides SPF and blue-light protection with its clean, vegan, cruelty- and gluten-free, and reef-safe formula. The ingredients list features sea lavender for antioxidants and hydration, plus cocoa peptides for blue light protection.

Because the formula is intended for daily wear, it’s lightweight and designed to work well under makeup. The formula leaves skin radiant and glowing. It even doubles as a primer with a slightly pearlescent finish for glowing skin with or without makeup.

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Daily Defense

Several white tubes of sunscreen on a blue background
Drunk Elephant

Prefer a physical sunscreen instead of a chemical one? The popular clean skincare line, Drunk Elephant, has Umbra Sheer Daily Defense. This sheer physical sunscreen is free of chemical sunscreens, silicones, fragrances, essential oils, and is also cruelty-free.

If this is your first time using a mineral or physical sunscreen, be forewarned, though. These formulas can be a bit thicker and more textured than what you’re used to. They also tend to leave a slight white residue behind, as they’re mineral rather than chemical sunscreens.

Coola Classic Face Sunscreen with White Tea

A woman applies sunscreen to her face; a blue tube of sunscreen with leaves nearby

Botanicals are all the rage in skincare, and the Coola Classic Face Sunscreen with White Tea is no exception. This fragrance-free, organic lotion contains an SPF 50 sunscreen that’s vegan, and cruelty- and gluten-free, with a light texture that avoids the greasy feel of some sunscreens.

It’s made with a plant-based formula that combines safflower oleosomes, red raspberry seed, buriti, and meadowfoam seed oils, and prickly pear extract for a light, organic sunscreen. If you’re looking for some light, sheer sun protection, this is a fantastic option.

Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral Sunscreen

A green tube of sunscreen on a green counter with glass chemistry flasks next to it

The zinc oxide in the Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral Sunscreen provides SPF 30, thanks to mineral-based sun protection technology. It’s a lightweight lotion that, unlike some mineral sunscreens, typically doesn’t leave a white cast (although, as with any skincare product, individual experiences may vary).

Not only does it provide sun protection, but it also includes water lily to soothe and squalene for a hydrated, dewy skin look. With SPF 30, this sunscreen is best for everyday use as part of your routine, rather than for high-exposure situations, like a day at the beach.

Farmacy Green Defense Mineral Sunscreen

A white tube on a white-and-aqua striped towel; a white tube of sunscreen with a smear of lotion behind it

The Farmacy Green Defense Mineral Sunscreen uses zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for mineral-based, cruelty- and gluten-free sun protection. Instead of the usual chemical-based sun protection ingredients, it’s a physical, mineral barrier for SPF 30.

Like other lower-SPF mineral sunscreens, this is probably best for everyday use and/or a situation in which you can reapply relatively frequently. It also includes some chemicals that offer bonus skin benefits, such as black chokeberry, which has antioxidant properties, and marigold extract to help form a barrier against environmental pollutants.

Paula’s Choice RESIST Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 50

A blue tube of sunscreen with a few white dots of sunscreen on the surface next to it
Paula’s Choice

Looking for an all-in-one antiaging treatment and sunscreen? Pick up Paula’s Choice RESIST Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 50, a treatment that helps with keeping skin fresh and bright while also providing broad-spectrum SPF 50 protection.

Lightweight, gluten- and cruelty-free, and reef safe, it also contains oat and green tea to calm skin and black elderberry, goji, and pomegranate extracts to fight environmental damage. It’s a full-scale skin treatment that also provides significant sun protection. It’s perfect for anyone who’s serious about skincare and looking for a multipurpose, efficient product.

Volition Beauty Prismatic Luminizing Shield

A pink and white tube of sunscreen sitting in a coconut shell half and slices of kiwi
Volition Beauty

Looking for reliable sun protection with a little bit of glow? That’s what you get with Volition Beauty Prismatic Luminizing Shield. It’s a physical SPF 50 sunscreen that’s gluten- and cruelty-free, vegan, and hypoallergenic. It’s light enough not to clog pores and absorbs nicely to create a physical sun barrier.

Along with its great sun protection, this lightweight lotion leaves skin nourished and glowing, instead of greasy or with a white cast. Wear it without any makeup or under your daily “face,” and you’ll be ready for anything!

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »
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