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The Best Reef-Safe Sunscreen, and Why It's So Important to Pack Some This Summer

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So, you're packing for a beach vacation. You excitedly gather all your swimsuits, cover-ups, sundresses, sandals, and your favorite hat and sunglasses. Maybe you even remember to pack a beach bag. One extremely important item you're likely to forget, however, is sunscreen. Yes, you can probably pick some up at your destination (prepare to pay a pretty penny if you're staying at a resort or hotel), but it's better to be prepared.

Whether we choose to use it or not, we all know sunscreen works wonders to protect our skin—and you should wear it every single day (even if it's cloudy or you're spending your day indoors). But when it comes to environmental impact and the health of our sea-dwelling friends, not all sunscreens are created equal.

Here's what to know about reef-safe sunscreen, and the best brands to buy for your face and body. (The selection of reef-safe sunscreen in a typical beach shop may be limited, so we strongly recommend buying some before you go and bringing it with you.)

What is reef-safe sunscreen?

Reef-safe sunscreen does not contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, two chemicals commonly used to block UV rays. These chemicals are known to cause coral bleaching. In addition to harming our oceans, they can even end up in the seafood we eat.

What are some brands that make reef-safe sunscreen?

COOLA, All Good, Thinksport, Kokua, Alba Botanica, Raw Elements, Babo Botanicals, Hello Bello, and Manda Organic are some of our favorite reef-safe sunscreen brands. Neutrogena's Sheer Zinc Dry Touch Sunscreen is also reef-safe, but many of the brand's most popular sunscreens are not.

What size sunscreen can I pack in a carry-on?

You can bring sunscreen on a plane, but the TSA-approved size is only 3.4 fluid ounces or 100 milliliters. Pack it in a clear, resealable bag with your other small liquids and you won't have any issues at security.

What is the best face sunscreen that's organic and coral reef-safe?

San Diego-based COOLA's classic, organic face sunscreen is our go-to. It's light but long-lasting and full of antioxidants.

What is the best spray sunscreen?

Again, we have to go with COOLA. This time, it's their Guava-Mango Eco-Lux Sport Sunscreen Spray. It's water-resistant, anti-aging, reef-friendly, and smells like a tropical vacation in a bottle.

Does COOLA make a travel set?

Yes, and it includes best-sellers for face, lips, and body, all of which you can pack in your carry-on.

Looking for more reef-safe sunscreen picks? Check out our other favorite SPFs below:


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