The Best Eco Friendly Mineral Sunscreen You Can Buy

"Eco-friendly" may be a relative term, but Hawaii and Mexico have signed bills into legislation banning two reef-toxic and potentially human-toxic active ingredients found in chemical sunscreens. According to recent research conducted by ecotoxicologists in Hawaii and the Virgin Islands published in the journal "Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology," these ingredients are "bleaching" — that is, killing — coral reefs by damaging their endocrine and immune systems to a point at which they're left with an even lower threshold for globally-warming waters.

Chemical sunscreens work well, which is why most of us who wear sunscreen have been using them since their inception. But how, exactly, do they work? They soak into our skin, where they then absorb UV rays by using one or more of the following "active," or sun-screening organic compounds: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octisalate, octinoxate, octocrylene, and homosalate.

These chemicals have proven toxic to small marine and possibly other aquatic animals, and even if you're not spending the day by the sea, will enter watersheds when you rinse them off in the shower. They also might be toxic to you, but the scientific jury's still out on that as of yet.

Mineral-based sunscreens, on the other hand, almost exclusively use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, which mostly remain on the skin's surface and reflect UV rays. This is why it's so difficult to get these heavy metals to rub in, because, as a matter of principle, they don't. We've found several great options that blend in better than other mineral sunscreens without sacrificing protection.

Plus, there are a couple of ways to reduce the streaky mess mineral sunscreens tend to leave on our skin and clothes. For one: Apply this paste well before you step outside, but also before you get dressed, and let it soak in as much as possible. This seems to help reduce staining on clothes. And secondly, though tinted mineral-based sunscreens will still stain your clothes, they seem to blend surprisingly well with most skin tones, despite being an alarming pale orange in the tin.

We've tested several mineral sunscreens to find the best ones that are effective, look good, and won't hurt the environment.

Here are our top picks for the best mineral sunscreen you can buy:

Editor's Note: We'll frequently update this guide because we're continually testing mineral-based sunscreens as we come across them.

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