Up to 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen end up in oceanic coral reef areas every year. It has been discovered that products containing the ingredients Oxybenzone or Octinoxate can cause coral reef bleaching – coral reefs are an important marine ecosystem, and once damaged through bleaching very rarely recover, putting marine wildlife and biodiversity at risk. In response to this discovery, Hawaii was the first country to ban all sunscreens containing either ingredient back in 2018.
If you are eco-conscious, there is a lot to consider and a hell of a lot of conflicting information out there. Planetary has trawled through multiple reports, rating systems, and eco-guides to make this summer easier for you, and bring you our 5 favourite brands that consistently appear in the top rankings across the board for all 6 of our identified enviro-categories: Sustainable or Free from Palm Oil, Cruelty Free, Vegan, Plastic Free Packaging, Ethically Produced, and Microplastic Policy.
Before we start our Top 5, let’s talk quickly about palm oil…
Palm oil is found in many of our everyday products, yet we often cannot guarantee that it has been produced and sourced ethically. Unethical sourcing is seeing our forests being cleared and many species endangered, such as the orangutan. Some companies that appear on our list declare use of sustainable palm, where palm oil is produced and sourced in line with RSPO guidelines (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil). However, it is always best to do your research, as unethically sourced palm oil could be lurking amongst ingredients without you knowing. Some of the names palm oil may be disguised as in sunscreen are as follows:
Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate
Vitamin A Palmitate
Vitamin E and Vitamin E Tocopherol
1. The Green People
The Green People brand stood out instantly in Planetary’s research for ethical, eco-friendly sunscreen as it seemed to pop up in almost every table we looked at! Topping tests for being cruelty free, plastic free packaging alternatives and boasting a policy on tackling microplastics, The Green People tick many boxes for the eco-conscious. They are also listed as an ethical product, using sustainably sourced palm oil and only natural ingredients in their products, and categorically state that they have never used Oxybenzone or Octinoxate… result! Read more here.
Holding an Ethical Shopping accreditation since 2008, Odylique appeared highly in not just sustainable palm oil ranking tables, but also for their ethical production and for their sunscreens being vegan. Whilst Odylique is Oxybenzone and Octinoxate free, they do utilise Zinc Oxide, which whilst providing one of the most effective natural protections against the sun, according to other brands could also harm the environment if a particular chemical reaction was to occur… they include the compound widely used in natural products as part of their mineral sunscreen ingredient, which you can read more about here. On balance and due to their recognised accreditation, their pros and cons appear a lot less problematic than other brands and so we welcome Odylique our top 5!
Despite flying under Planetary’s radar prior to this article, Shade has quickly become one of the UK’s favourite ethical sunscreen brands. They were classified as ‘Gold’ in The Green Parent Natural Beauty Awards 2019 and are ranked exceptionally highly by respected review group, Ethical Consumer. Their products are mineral based, sustainably sourced and plactic free (both in microplastics and their packing!) Shade use only 4 ingredients in their sunscreen (which you can read about here) Once again they shun the toxic inclusion of Oxybenzone and Octinoxate making Shade a reef-friendly option, but do utilise Zinc Oxide in the same was as Odylique. Their sunscreens aren’t vegan as a key ingredient is bees wax, however they are palm oil free and are never tested on animals.
4. Neal’s Yard
Neal’s Yard Remedies sunscreens, created in the UK in Devon, were highly ranked in our researched polls and were the first company to be rated 100/100 for their ethical commitment but independent assessor, the Ethical Company Organisation. All products by Neal’s Yard are approved under the Cruelty Free International Leaping Bunny programme, the internationally recognisable gold standard for cruelty free products, and their website lists the various ingredients they avoid using. Not only that, but Neal’s Yard Remedies as a company have been carbon neutral for over 10 years, use 100% renewable energy, are helping to tackle climate change, strive for zero waste, support global communities AND protect bees… that’s a quite a personal statement and secures this brand as a firm Planetary favourite! You can read their sustainability statement here.
Badger was the fifth company to appear frequently in the top 1-5 of ranked eco-friendly and ethical sunscreens. Their products have received top ratings from the Environmental Working Group for safety and efficacy and uses only all natural and organic ingredients, and do not test these on animals. Their website statement confirms that they are reef-safe and do not use harmful chemical components such as Oxybenzone or Octinoxate in their sunscreens, and provide a useful blog that goes into more detail about the environmental impact of sunscreen ingredients, which can be viewed here. Another plus point for Badger is that their sunscreen creams and sunscreen sticks have been independently lab-tested and are biodegradable! Palm oil is perhaps Badger’s most controversial ingredient within their products, however the brand relies on multiple certification standards to ensure they source this ingredient as sustainably as possible, even noting their supply chain on their site.
We hope you enjoy a sunny, safe and eco-friendly summer!
(Planetary in no way endorses the above products nor guarantees their effectiveness. Consumers should undertake their own research before investing in any healthcare product, particularly if they react to specific allergens. Planetary has not received any sponsorship or payment for advertisement of the above brands.)