Summer is here! (If you live in the northern hemisphere) and that means more sun exposure. The sun is burning brighter, it’s hotter, and you’re more likely to do outdoor activities like going to the beach, or even just lounging at the pool. Sun protection is something that should be taken seriously! Which is why I’ve tried to make a very comprehensive list of zero waste sunscreens options available on the market. That being said, the majority of these are ones you can buy online, and i’ve tried to gear it towards U.S. consumers, although there are some options that are based in the U.K. (Lush, Shade), Australia (Avasol & Surfyogis), and some that ship worldwide (Dirty Hippie Cosmetics). Don’t forget to try and source locally too! You never know what you might find at a shop nearby you that comes in plastic free packaging & is made following eco friendly guidelines.
Use Topical Sunscreen as a last resort
- wear a wide brimmed sunhat with UPF, or do what my boyfriend does and wear a beanie
- wear clothes that are tightly woven and cover the skin. (There is also UPF clothing available)
- Seek shade
- Invest in a UPF umbrella
- ALWAYS Wear UV protecting sunglasses
- Embrace your natural skin tone! Suntanning/bathing is dangerous as you’d be exposing yourself for long periods of time in UV radiation, which can lead to various types of skin cancer, skin damage, and yikes! – premature aging
Common Trends of Zero Waste Sunscreen:
- Beeswax based, with plant oils
- Come in either recyclable/reusable metal & glass, or compostable paper tube
- Completely Zinc Oxide based (Anywhere from 15~25% zinc oxide)
- Minimal, natural, simple, reef safe ingredients
Note: You can make your own sunscreen, Going Zero Waste has a good tutorial on how to make it zero waste, but it is hard to source zinc oxide without plastic, and refill shops that sell it in bulk are rare. There are also risks involved making your own zinc oxide based sunscreen, zinc oxide powder can cause respiratory problems when inhaled into the nasal cavity, so approach it with caution and wear/use the proper equipment and keep it away from children & animals. There is also no way to guarantee the efficacy of the formulation you produce, unless you were a trained cosmetic chemist and had the equipment to test it’s UV protection factor. If you are prone to burning, you may find it safer to buy a commercially manufactured sunscreen that has been tested so that if you apply the appropriate amount of sunscreen, you get the labeled SPF protection. Some of these options are handmade, and so i’ve tried to make it explicit which ones were formulated in a lab.
- U.S. based, commercially produced
- Recyclable & reusable metal tin (metal is better to recycle than glass & plastic)
- 3 oz tin: $12.50
- 7 oz tin: $22
- Ingredients: Non-nano uncoated zinc oxide 22%, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, *Cera Alba (Beeswax), *Butyrospermum Parkii (Fair Trade Shea) Butter, *Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Tocopherol (Sunflower Vitamin E), Polyhydroxystearic Acid *Certified Organic
- $12.50~14 for 1oz stick in biodegradable tube
- Water and sweat resistant (to 80 minutes)
- Broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection
- Non-nano particle, uncoated pure zinc oxide
- Cruelty-free, reef safe, biodegradable
- Top rated by the Environmental Working Group
- Convenient, effective protection
- Air-travel friendly
- Ingredients:Non-nano zinc oxide 22%, *Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Caprylic/capric Triglyceride, *Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, *Cera Flava (Beeswax), *Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, *Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Jojoba Esters, Carnauba, Tocopherol (Sunflower Vitamin E), Polyhydroxystearic Acid *Certified Organic
- Ships worldwide from Australia
- Pricing: $4.62~ 17USD
- Comes in either biodegradable tube or metal tin
- Marketed as Zero Waste
- Lime Scented
- Varieties that contain natural bug repellants
- Ingredients: Certified Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, Shea Liquid, Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter, Non-micronised Zinc Oxide, Candelilla Wax, Carnauba Wax, Carrot Seed, Raspberry Seed and Wheatgerm Oils, Natural Vitamin E, Steam Distilled Lime Essential Oil.
- Notes: This one seems really promising!
- Commercially produced
- $19.95 1 oz stick in compostable tube (SPF30+)
- $19.95 1 oz stick in compostable tube (SPF50+)
- Comes in several tints to avoid white cast
- Water Resistant (80 minutes)
- Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB Protection
- Ultra-premium Natural, Organic or Wildcrafted Raw Ingredients
- Safer choice for People & the Ocean
- Great for Adults and Children
- 100% Bio-based Product
- Clinically Tested/Allergy Tested
- Ethically Sourced & Sustainably Produced in the USA
- Also offers liquid sunscreen in metal containers, with refill packs to reduce waste
- Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 24.5% (Non-Nano, Non-Coated)
Titanium Dioxide 6% (Non-Nano, Non-Coated), Organic Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Organic Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Organic Helianthus annuus (Sunflower) Oil, Wildcrafted Euphorbia cerifera (Calendilla) wax, Organic Calophyllum Inophyllum (Tamanu) Oil, Organic Argania spinosa (Argan) Oil, Silica, Wildcrafted Theobroma Grandiflorum (Cupuacu) Seed Butter, Wildcrafted Mauritia Flexuosa (Buriti) Fruit Oil, Emu Oil, Organic Butyrospermum parkii (Shea Butter), Rubus idaeus (Red Raspberry) Seed Oil, Organic Beeswax, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Iron oxides, Organic Fragrance, Propolis, Plankton Extract, Mica, Wildcrafted Leptospermum scoparium (Manuka) Oil, Organic Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Organic Cinnamomum Zeylanicum Leaf Oil
- Notes: I’d recommended buying the SPF 50+ over the 30+, since it’s hard to find SPF that high in zero waste form, plus they’re the same price. The tubes also come in a plastic bag when bought, so make sure to ask for them to forgo it at checkout
- Commercially produced
- 1 oz in recyclable metal tin for $11, eligible for Amazon Prime
- UVA/UVB Broad Spectrum Protection
- EWG Top Rated Safest Sunscreen
- Very Water Resistant (80 minutes)
- Ideal for face, nose, ears, and more
- Ingredients: 25% Zinc Oxide, Organic Coconut Oil, Organic Beeswax, Organic Calendula Flowers infused in Organic Jojoba Oil, Vitamin E.
- Available at most health food stores & coops, best option if you are trying to avoid possible waste from buying online
- U.S. Based
- Comes in 2oz compostable paper tube ($13.95), or 2oz glass jar ($12.95)
- Eligible for Amazon Prime Shipping
- Water Resistant
- Rated Safe by EWG
Small Business / Handmade
- U.S. Based
- Comes in biodegradeable paper tube you can compost after use
- .5 oz tube: $8
- 2 oz tube: $12
- Shipping: ~$3 in U.S., ships worldwide
- Ingredients: organic coconut oil, organic shea butter, organic fair trade cocoa powder, organic beeswax, non-nano zinc oxide powder, organic avocado oil, red raspberry seed oil, carrot seed extract
- Ingredients: 25% natural non-nano zinc oxide, OG coconut oil, OG raw unrefined shea butter, OG mango butter, and OG cocoa butter, local beeswax, and non-gmo vitamin E (made from sunflowers).
- $13.49 for 1oz tube in compostable packaging
- $24.95 for 1.8oz in metal tin
- Free shipping to the U.S.A when you buy 5 or more
- Note: Doesn’t provide much information, or an actual SPF factor, I would weary of this one! Especially cause it’s overpriced & slightly gimmicky
EiR NYC – All Natural Surf Mud (Waterproof sunscreen for face + hair)
- 2 oz recyclable/reuseable metal tin for $28
- also comes in 1.5 oz compostable tube for $34
- Amazon Prime Eligibility
- Ingredients: Coconut Oil, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Powder, Beeswax, Tea Tree Oil, Zinc Oxide
- Notes: This one is ridiculously expensive and follows the same formula as all the other ones, but the label is nicer lol.
Lush’s The Sunblock SPF 30
- No packaging! & Vegan
- 8.95GBP for 100g
- Only available in U.K, but ships worldwide in eco-friendly biodegradable packaging.
- Will melt if bought during hot months
- Notes: Been interested in this, but waited to long to buy I guess as it’s almost guarnateed to melt on the way here. Will try buying it in winter and seeing if it’ll last me until summer next year.
U.K. based, but thought it was worth mentioning for U.K. readers. Made out of only 4 ingredients.
I plan to try out some of these and reviewing them, and am hoping they’ll work well, as it’s going to be hard to find a replacement for my Paula’s Choice sunscreen which is vegan, cruelty free, and well formulated, BUT comes in a plastic bottle.
References & further reading:
- Cooper, Ross G. “Zinc Toxicology Following Particulate Inhalation.” Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 12.1 (2008): 10–13. PMC. Web. 19 May 2017.
- Wasteland Rebel, “Zero Waste Sun Protection” August 8, 2016
- Paris to Go: “Plastic Free, Zero Waste Sunscreen”,
- Tiny Yellow Bungalow “Safe in the Sun: Zero Waste Sunscreen“, July 13 2016
- My Plastic Free Life “Plastic Free Sunscreen That Past the Burning Man Test” , September 11, 2012
- The Rogue Ginger, “Avasol: My First Plastic Free Sunscreen“
- Eco Boost, “Zero Waste Sunscreen“
- Royalty free stock photo from Unsplash, thank you!