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The Best Sustainable + Reef Safe Sunscreen for Brown Skin

By now, hopefully we all know that we need to take care of our skin. That means wearing sunscreen every day. The bad news is that not all sunscreens are created equal and some ingredients can be harmful to the environment. When you wash off your sunscreen at the end of the day or when you swim at the beach, some of these chemicals can enter our water systems. For this reason, scientists recommend non-nano mineral sunscreens like zinc oxide. Unfortunately for us brown people, that usually means a really bad white cast. Well, I want to protect my skin and the environment without looking like Moaning Myrtle so I've been trying several sunscreens from sustainable companies that are safe for the environment and that do not leave the dreaded white cast.


This was the first low waste sunscreen I ever tried. I got this sunscreen for Christmas but it normally costs $19.95 for a 1oz tube. They have SPF 30 and SPF 50 options available. The formula is pretty thick and while the tube makes it a little easier to spread, you still have to rub it in with your hands. Though the sunscreen is tinted I don't think it blends well into the skin and looks more like a layer of foundation or concealer. It also stays pretty tacky all day. The color was too cool for my yellow undertone but Avasol has more recently added warmer tones to their line. I will also warn you that it's not super easy to take off but that probably makes it excellent for sport and water activities. It also has a strong cocoa scent so if that is something you do not like, I would stay away from this sunscreen. While I personally don't love the formula, it is definitely a great option for brown skin if you find the tone that matches you best.

Why is it sustainable?

This sunscreen comes in a compostable tube and the sunscreen is made with ingredients like non-nano zinc oxide, which is safest for our planet.


Another option is Kinship. Their sunscreen is SPF 32 and costs $25 for 1.75oz. It's marketed as a sheer, moisturizing sunscreen. It isn't completely sheer but it is definitely pretty close. I can only see a little bit of caking around the creases of my nose and parts where my pores are a bit larger. It has a bit of a thick feeling but I wouldn't say it feels hydrating. Thankfully, it loses its tackiness pretty quickly so you can't even tell you're wearing it after a while. It also has a bit of a cocoa smell but not as strong as Avasol. I think this would be a great option if you wear make up on top as it's sheer enough but still gives you a bit of coverage that can be hidden with the rest of your makeup. Though the container is plastic, the tube and cap are made of 30% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic.

Why is it sustainable?

This sunscreen is also formulated with non-nano zinc oxide. Though the packaging is plastic, it is made from post-consumer recycled plastic most of which was removed from oceans. If you are unable to recycle your tube in your curbside recycling, you can send it back to Kinship to be recycled.


Lastly, Cocokind, which also has an SPF of 32. It's $25 for 1.7oz though you can get the subscription for $23. The application is pretty great with this sunscreen and feels almost like a conventional sunscreen. It blends relatively well and though there is still a bit of a white cast, it fades away after a couple of minutes. This sunscreen is also the most fragrance free though it still has a bit of a smell to it that I feel is in all these zinc oxide sunscreens. It does stay a little sticky and makes you look a little oily at first but it's manageable. Overall, this is another great option specially if you like to go barefaced.

Why is it sustainable?

This sunscreen is also formulated with non-nano zinc oxide. The tube is made from bioplastics derived from sugarcane, which can then be recycled. Cocokind has ethical labor practices and they even list carbon emissions produced by their products.

Use my referral link for $5 off the Cocokind Daily SPF sunscreen.

I should also mention I've tried the Meow Meow Tweet sunscreen as well. Though this sunscreen is an excellent sustainable + reef safe option, it was absolutely WHITE on my face so I did not include it on this list. The formula had a bit of a scent to it which I personally didn't like but my husband was fine with. It was also supposed to be moisturizing but it had a watery consistency and just slipped around on the face. It was very strange but we ended up giving it to my husband's sister since she has a paler complexion than us. I wouldn't recommend it for brown skin though.

Some take aways

I go back and forth between Cocokind and Kinship but if I had to choose just one I would probably go with Cocokind. While both companies are making strides to be better to the environment, I think Cocokind is much more transparent about their practices and efforts for reaching sustainability goals in the future. In terms of formula, even though I look a little more greasy and don't love the lack of fragrance, I would still choose the Cocokind over the Kinship formula. But I won't lie to y'all, I miss the smell of sunscreen and I never thought I would say that. I appreciate that these sunscreens are naturally scented or fragrance free, as many people have sensitive skin, but I personally prefer a bit of fragrance. I will continue searching for a sunscreen that I love but in the meantime I will use these up.

It's also important to mention that these sunscreens are not cheap especially for something you should be using on a daily basis and reapplying. So until I am filthy rich, I am also considering using a more affordable option (with the best ingredients I can manage) on a daily basis and using these sunscreens, that are better for the environment, when I have a direct connection to water at the beach or pool, etc.

Remember to do the best you can with your current resources. While it's important to try and protect our planet the best we can, we also need to take good care of ourselves and if that means buying a cheaper sunscreen you'll wear everyday so be it.

Do you want to see the sunscreen in action? Head over to my Instagram where I posted a reel on how the Kinship and Cocokind sunscreens apply.


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