Top 5 Ethical Sunscreen Products That Work

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Today Georgina Rawes from Ethical Consumer reveals her top five ethical sunscreen products.  From organic ingredients to wash-on formulas, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the range available.  Over to Georgina:

The sun’s out –  well sometimes.  And it’s certainly time to dust off the shorts, slap on the sunscreen, and head outside.

However, before you reach for your usual sun cream or lotion, why not try one of the ethical brands that are rising in popularity.  There’s no need to scrimp on quality or performance.  They’re great for you and good for the environment.  What’s more, they’re easy on your pocket too.

ethical sunscreen guide

Sunscreen – but not as we know it…

We all know the benefits of using good quality sunscreen.  Recent advances in sunblock technology have brought about a whole range of highly effective chemical and mineral sun filters, absorbers, and reflectors to the market.  There is a dazzling array of brands offering every kind of application, use, and formulation.  From helping to protect against burning, premature ageing, skin cancer, and more.

Whilst the products themselves are highly effective, a lot of the companies behind the biggest brands don’t focus hard enough on the things that matter to us all.  These include issues such as animal rights and the environment.

Our Ethical Standards

Here at Ethical Consumer, we’re champions of ethical practice.  We’ve produced reports on over 40,000 companies, brands, and products on all aspects of ethical behaviour.  This year, we’ve turned our attention to sunscreens to bring you our top 5 ethical sunscreen products.

Every company featured below has high ethical standards including:

  • Fairtrade products
  • Organic and natural ingredients
  • Cruelty-free formulations produced without testing on animals
  • The vegetarian and vegan products
  • Clear sustainability standards
  • Limited environmental impact
  • Fair workers’ rights, and clear and just supply chain management

How am I protected?

Sunscreens contain substances that protect against both UVA and UVB radiation.  

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is the measure of the protection against UVB radiation.  The UVB radiation causes burning and is a factor in some skin cancers.  

The ‘star’ system that you see on the bottle is a measure of protection against UVA radiation.  This is linked to skin ageing and skin cancer.  

A broad-spectrum sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays.  This is the safest option.  The British Association of Dermatologists recommends the use of a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 combined with a high UVA rating.

How do they work?

There are two main types of active ingredients in sunscreen.  The first is chemical sunscreens that absorb UV light.  The second is mineral sunscreens which reflect the rays.  Many products contain both mineral and chemical sunscreens.  However, some companies choose to use one over the other.

Mineral sunscreens are the traditional and natural alternative.  The use of nano-particle versions minimises the white appearance of the lotion. There have been some concerns raised about nano-particles.  However, so far there is no conclusive evidence that they cause a risk to health or the environment.

Chemical sunscreens have been used more recently.  These deliver an easy application in a variety of sprays and liquids. Again, they have been declared safe for use on skin.  They have also not been found to have any adverse effect on the environment.

Our top 5 feel-good ethical sunscreen products

And so, to our favourites:

1.  Odylique Natural Sunscreen

This exceptionally pure, 100% natural, ethical sunscreen is great for very sensitive skin.  This includes babies and children.  The mineral zinc oxide is the active ingredient, delivered in non-nano format.  As such, it offers broad-spectrum UVA and SPF30 UVB protection.

Odylique’s formulation protects the skin whilst actively caring for it.  This is through its mixture of nine organic botanicals.  These include Fairtrade raw shea butter and Karanja seed to replenish and soothe.  The formulation also contains a mixture of chamomile, rosemary, and sea buckthorn to calm sun-sensitive skin.  

The light, non-greasy formula makes for easy application and for immediate protection.  In fact, this was the first sun lotion to be accredited as both Fairtrade and organic.  We definitely take our sun hat off to this ethical pioneer.  

Find it here* at Big Green Smile.  Prices start from £15 for a 50ml tube.

2.  Neal’s Yard Wild Rose Moisturising SPF 

This nourishing 100% mineral sunscreen offers protection from UVA and UVB rays.  As well as offering SPF30 protection with up to 12 hours moisturisation, it can also be worn instead of face cream.

The non-nano active sunscreen zinc oxide is combined with nourishing oils.  These include a rich blend of antioxidant-rich wild rosehip oil.  You’ll also find nourishing shea butter and moisturising baobab oil.  What’s more, with 50% organic ingredients, this cream is Vegetarian Society approved.  It’s also accredited as Cruelty-Free.

Find it at Neal’s Yard, where the product retails at £25 for 50ml.

3.  Badger Sunscreen Collection

Badger offers a whole range of ethical sunscreen for every use.  You’ll find an active sports range to scent-free versions, as well as baby and children ranges.  You can even find a DEET-free bug repellent version.

Non-nano Zinc oxide is the active ingredient in all Badger sunscreens.  This offers broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection.  In terms of SPF, this ranges from 25-30, depending on the product.

The all-natural formulations include USDA certified organic ingredients and nourishing oils.  These include oils such as sunflower, extra virgin olive, and jojoba.  The formulations don’t clog pores.  They also contain antioxidants such as vitamin E and sea buckthorn extract.  This helps protect the skin from free-radicals.  

If you’re looking for a wide selection of choices then this is the brand for you.  From water-resistant to tinted versions, there is an option for everyone.  UK stockists are limited though.  The best selection is found on Amazon*

4.  Green People Sun Lotion

Vegan accredited and organic certified, Green People offers a range of ethically-minded sun lotions.  These offer broad-spectrum coverage in SPF 15-30.  

Based on nanoparticle zinc oxide mineral sunscreen, this rich lotion doesn’t clog pores.  What’s more, it retains moisture to give a long-lasting smoothing effect.

The standard 30SPF fragrance-free version contains 78% organic ingredients.  These include sunflower oil, olive fruit oil, and Fairtrade palm oil.  Aloe vera, avocado, chamomile, and green tea also form part of the active plant ingredients.

Green People offer baby and child versions, and a specific facial sunscreen.  They also offer a tan accelerator range.  Here, carob fruit extract naturally enhances the production of melanin.  This speeds tanning by 25% and enhances the body’s natural defenses.

Visit the Green People website* to buy.  Prices start from £5 for 30ml.

5.  Lush Solid Sunscreen Wash

Lush is well known for its innovative approaches to packaging and application with solid shampoo bars and bath bombs, and plastic-free make-up.  As such, the sunscreen is no exception.

The solid block is made from a mixture of organic sesame oil and organic and Fairtrade cocoa butter.  Here it’s combined with chemical sunscreens.  It’s then scented with a fragrant mix of rose absolute, chamomile blue, and eucalyptus blue oils.  Meanwhile, Calamine powder completes the formulation.  This provides a calming effect for delicate skin.   

To apply, simply glide the product over your skin in the shower. 

Each 100g bar contains enough for three full-body applications.  Visit the Lush website to buy online for £8.95.  

Discover more ethical sunscreens

Check out the full Ethical Consumer product guide to ethical sunscreen online.  See a large range of brands and how they compare on a whole range of ethical criteria.  From the environment and animal welfare. To supply chains, and politics, sustainable practices, and more.

And now you’re sorted for sunscreen, be cool at the pool with this handy guide to ethical swimwear.

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