5 Best Low-Waste Vegan Sunscreens

June 4, 2021


Since going vegan and deciding to live an (imperfectly) zero-waste, ethical life, I have gone through so much frustration when it’s come to finding sunscreen. Out of all of the switches that I’ve made in my life, this has been the hardest to do because there aren’t many vegan, cruelty-free, low waste, effective sunscreens on the market. I’ve pretty much tried them all at this point, and I’ve not only found a few effective ones (because believe me, with ginger skin like mine it must be really effective if I don’t want to have boiling skin), but I’ve found ones that are better than anything else I’ve ever used in my life. They’re moisturizing, protective, and smell great…and they’re reef safe! So if you’re wanting to switch to a more ethical, sustainable, and effective option for your SPF, here are my five top picks as an environmentalist!

  1. Mix Zinc Oxide into your daily moisturizer: This may sound weird if you’ve never done it, but it works so well! It’s cost effective, and you can decide how much you need! What I do, is I mix a little into my facial oil that I use everyday (I make mine and have it in a glass dropper bottle) by swirling it around, and then I put it on my face like normal. When I go outside, I mix some into my low-waste body lotion and it works great. It’s lightweight, and won’t give you acne.Best Vegan & Cruelty-Free Natural Mineral Sunscreens Farizad’s Veil Sun Reflector (Zinc Oxide, aloe powder, frankincense)
  2. 100% Pure Beauty Yerba Mate Mist: I absolutely love this brand. I get low-waste makeup from them (their maracuja brown mascara smells like brownie batter!), and I absolutely love their company model. It’s founded by three people, including a woman and people of color, and everything is natural and cruelty-free (although one of their mascaras has beeswax in it). They offer student discounts, and each purchase helps them donate vegan meals to dogs and plant trees. They’re also partnered with a number of charities that they support! Their sunscreen is a spray and it comes in metal. It smells amazing (it has a jungle-esque scent), feels light, and has SPF 30. It’s made with tea, among other beautiful ingredients, so it’s extremely hydrating as well. The one downside is that it ships with plastic packing to keep the products safe, but I reuse that stuff to ship my own packages.
  3. Empire Squid Organics sunscreens: This brand is incredible, as they offer entirely low-waste options for everything from face powder, moisturizer, perfume, to yes—sunscreen! They have a lot of different options, which is rare, and they even have one that smells like raspberries! I have only used their original one, but I love it. It comes in a glass jar, and it looks very thick, but it spreads on very light so you don’t need to use a lot. I like to keep mine in the fridge, so that it feels soothing on my skin on hot days. After the jar is empty, you can reuse it to make candles, to keep trinkets in, or for planters! All of their lotion-style sunscreens have beeswax in them, but you can ask them to make it vegan and they’ll use a floral wax for no extra charge.
  4. Public Goods sunscreen: I have only tried their lotion version, which came in tin, but it appears they only make a spray now. I’ve heard it’s even better and lighter, and it’s water resistant! This is a pretty cool shop to know about, as they have a lot of product offerings that come in tin, like this one, as well as glass! They do refills as well, making this a circular model which is ideal for the planet. This is a really cool company to support, as everything is accessible and made with ethics in mind. Even their “plastic” packaging on some of their other products is made with bioplastic instead of petroleum-based plastic!
  5. Wear a hat: The most simple of all the solutions is to wear a hat (and more clothes), or use an umbrella! Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most eco-friendly and effective! So if you have a hat that offers a lot of coverage, consider wearing that to protect yourself from the sun. If you want to be really effective, do what I do and use both a hat and sunscreen!


Going out in the sun should be just as safe for those who are aiming to reduce their waste, as it is for those who normally buy plastic. You should never have to sacrifice your health or safety for products, and these sunscreens further prove that.

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Photo: Emily Iris Degn; Earthwise Beauty

Emily Iris Degn
Emily Iris Degn is an environmental travel writer, editor, passionate eco-journalist, professional artist, and published eco-poet. She is from the San Juan Islands, but currently lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her incredible partner and beloved sea shell collection. You can find her in many spaces on Instagram: @emilyirisdegn @happyvegansfeed @emfallstoearth @emilydegnart OR at emilyirisdegn.com.


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