With global warming and industrial wastes accelerating the coral bleaching and damaging marine ecosystem, it’s not surprising to see both responsible consumers and private sectors trying to make changes to their lifestyle/ business choice for the best of the environment. Starting with a small step, environmentalists and beach lovers have been campaigning for the ban on sunscreens with chemicals that are harmful for coral reefs, while promoting “mineral” or “physical” sunscreen options that are reef-safe.

(Image: Hiroko Yoshii/Unsplash)

Thankfully, the arduous campaigning has borne fruits. Reef-safe sunscreens have become available in drugstores nationwide and e-commerce platforms. The demands for this reef-friendly sun protection reflect just how people are environmentally conscious enough to make the responsible choice. On the side of the policy-maker, the Thai Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation has announced earlier this week a ban on four sunscreen ingredients that have proven to damage coral reefs. This means that sunscreens containing the following four chemical ingredients will not be allowed in national parks across Thailand: 

  • Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3, BP-3)
  • Octinoxate (Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate)
  • 4-Methylbenylid Camphor (4MBC)
  • Butylparaben

(Image: Francesco Ungaro/Unsplash)

As all of the four ingredients are common in sunscreens in the market, and not many consumers are keen on reading through the lengthy ingredient list to check for their presence, the easiest way second to checking for the “reef-safe” label, however, is to go for a physical, or mineral sunscreen. For those unfamiliar with the terms, chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the UV rays, but physical sunscreens, usually comprising mineral compounds like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, block or deflect and scatter the damaging rays.

While chemical sunscreens are more favoured due to their lightweight nature compared to mineral sunscreens’ heavier texture that leaves undesirable white cast, the latter has been loved by those with sensitive skin that can be easily irritated by harsh chemicals, and championed by environmentalists as a better option for coral reefs and marine lives. In addition, latest technologies in skincare have enabled several brands to formulate mineral sunscreens with much lighter texture and little to no white cast.


Most mineral sunscreens come with SPF30 or below as having a higher SPF level can leave a white cast on the skin. You can reapply during the day using SPF face mists or SPF mineral setting powder. Also, mineral sunscreens work by sitting on your skin to block the UV rays and they cannot be cleansed thoroughly with just normal cleansers. For those prone to blemishes, double cleansing with makeup removing oils or balms as the first step followed by your normal cleanser, is recommended.

Here, we’ve rounded up some of the best reef-safe mineral sunscreens to choose from.

(Hero and featured image: Aiony Haust/Unsplash)

This physical sunscreen from Drunk Elephant contains a 20% non-nano zinc oxide formulation infused with antioxidant-rich algae and sunflower sprout extract to protect the skin against UV rays and free radicals. The best thing is that it provides both nourishing properties and physical protection without leaving any white cast.



With products from REN clean skincare brand, one can expect environmentally-friendly and vegan formulas that are safe for your skin and the environment. REN’s broad-spectrum sunscreen can protect against UVA and UVB rays thanks to the 22% non-nano zinc oxide and oxybenzone-free formulation. Powered by rice starch and yellow passion fruit seed extract, REN Clean Screen will  keep the skin smooth and matte throughout the day while protecting against pollution and free radicals with its antioxidant-rich ingredients.



Supergoop! is a well-known brand amongst beauty bloggers. This beauty company is 100% dedicated to sun care, and when an individual or a company focuses on perfecting one thing, you can expect that the results will not be disappointing. Supergoop! Mineral Sheerscreen SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion can protect against UV rays and blue light. It has an ultra-sheer, lightweight formula that will feel barely there on your skin. Despite being a mineral sunscreen, you can be confident that it won’t leave any white cast on your skin thanks to the non-nano zinc oxide formulation and the brand’s innovation, which suspends the active ingredients in a sphere to achieve a clear, watery finish.


Featuring nothing but non-nano zinc oxide, Dermalogica’s Invisible Physical Defense is super sheer and weightless, allowing it to be easily blended into the skin. The formula provides added blue light protection and soothes the skin against environmental aggressors with the brand’s Bio-active Mushroom Complex and antioxidants from green tea to protect the skin against free radical damage while reducing UV-induced redness. This vegan sunscreen is gluten-free, cruelty-free and fragrance-free without artificial colours or fragrances, making it an ideal option for sensitive skin types.


This reef-safe, oil-free formulation defies all physical sunscreen stereotypes. It protects the skin against sun damage and photoaging from UVA and UVB rays, as well as harmful radicals, pollution, and blue light from phones and computer screens. The sunscreen is rich in antioxidants from bearberry, sea buckthorn, and lingonberry. The brand’s signature ferulic acid further protects the skin against premature ageing signs and delays the onset of dark spots and pigmentation from sun damage. Most importantly, it is non-greasy and fragrance-free, making it an excellent option for oily or sensitive skin.