We all know how important it is to apply sunscreen as the weather gets warmer.
Not only can unprotected sun exposure cause painful burns, but skin damage from UV rays can also lead to squamous and basal cell skin cancers, or even melanoma.
Wearing sunscreen is one of the easiest and most common methods of protecting your skin from sun damage.
But did you know that your choice of sunscreen can help to protect more than just your skin?
By purchasing cruelty-free sunscreen, you can keep your skin shielded from damaging rays while supporting positive change in the drug testing industry!
We’ve compiled a selection of the best cruelty-free sunscreens on the market currently, so now you can look after your skin and promote animal welfare in a single purchase!
Best Cruelty-Free Sunscreens: Our Top 5 Picks
In a rush? You can save time by checking out our top pick:
1. Best Overall: Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion
Beyond the fun brand name and adorable logo, the formula of Sun Bum’s Original SPF 50 sunscreen lotion is enough to make any cruelty-free beach lover smile!
The Sun Bum sunscreen is dermatologist-approved and hypoallergenic, so you can apply copious amounts as often as you need without worrying about irritating your skin.
This sunscreen is oil-free, so it’s suitable for use on oily and acne-prone skin. However, it also has a moisturizing effect, so it will work for dryer skin types as well.
Sun Bum Original contains vitamin E, which is not only thought to be a protective nutrient against UV rays but also reduces inflammation and rejuvenates the appearance of the skin.
This sunscreen formula is also vegan and reef-friendly. ‘Reef-friendly’ means that the product doesn’t contain oxybenzone or octinoxate – 2 chemicals known for coral bleaching.
So, as well as being cruelty-free, the Sun Bum sunscreen doesn’t contain any animal-derived ingredients and won’t have a negative impact on the ocean’s ecosystem!
- SPF 50
- Suitable for all skin types
- Contains vitamin E
- May burn the eyes if applied to the face
Related: Is CeraVe cruelty-free?
The SPF 40 Unseen Sunscreen from Supergoop! is a revolutionary product in the world of sunscreen manufacture and application.
The formula provides a decent amount of UV protection due to its relatively high sun protection factor and, of course, it’s completely cruelty-free.
But that’s not all – this sunscreen is also vegan and reef-safe (according to Supergoop!’s statement about all of their products being reef-friendly by 2020), so you can wear it confidently knowing that you’ve taken a positive step towards protecting animal rights and ocean life!
Possibly the best thing about this sunscreen is that it’s completely invisible, weightless, and unscented – you won’t even be able to tell you’re wearing it! In fact, the Supergoop!
Unseen Sunscreen is so gentle, moisturizing, and weightless that it can be worn on the face as a makeup primer thanks to the oil-free formula.
Supergoop!’s Unseen sunscreen is also high in antioxidants, so it will help to repair and rejuvenate your skin while shielding it from the sun.
- 100% invisible
- High antioxidant content
- Works as a makeup primer
- May irritate sensitive skin
Australian Gold has manufactured many incredible cruelty-free sunscreen products over the years, but the Australian Gold Botanical Sunscreen with SPF 50 is the one that really stood out to us.
The Botanical Sunscreen is formulated using natural, plant-based ingredients, including Kakadu plum, red algae, and eucalyptus. These ingredients provide this sunscreen with its rich antioxidant content, which helps to soothe and repair skin.
This sunscreen is fragrance-free, so it’s suitable for use on even the most sensitive skin, and it’s also been tested and approved by pediatricians, so it’s also suitable for children (although medical approval should be sought before using this product on children younger than 6 months).
The formula doesn’t contain harmful chemicals such as phthalates, sulfates, petrolatum, or oxybenzone. Therefore, this sunscreen is advertised as reef-safe. The product is also vegan, so anyone sticking to a plant-based lifestyle can use it!
- Rich in antioxidants
- Contains natural, plant-based ingredients
- Suitable for children
- Some customers report a drying effect
If you have particularly sensitive skin or are looking for a sunscreen for babies or children, we’ve found the cruelty-free product for you!
This sunscreen boasts a completely vegan, reef-safe, non-toxic formula that doesn’t contain any parabens or para-aminobenzoic acids, making it safe not only for sensitive skin but also for the oceans.
Thinkbaby’s Safe sunscreen has a high sun protection factor and the highest level of water resistance (80 minutes), so it’s perfect for children (even babies and toddlers) and adults alike who want to enjoy the ocean at the beach whilst keeping their skin protected for as long as possible.
This sunscreen is easy to apply and absorbs into the skin. It is advertised as not leaving behind any oily residue or smell; however, some customers have reported that this may not apply to those with oily skin.
It’s also very thick and noticeably white. However, from a protection standpoint alone, this is one of the best cruelty-free options out there!
- SPF 50+
- 80-minute water resistance
- Not ideal for oily skin
Alba Botanica is another brand with an extensive range of high-quality, cruelty-free sunscreens, but the Hawaiian Sunscreen spray with coconut oil really is the best of the best!
The Hawaiian Sunscreen Spray is made with coconut oil extract, avocado oil, and shea butter. These plant-based butters and oils give this sunscreen its hydrating, soothing, and nourishing quality.
All of these ingredients contain antioxidants for anti-inflammatory and moisturizing purposes.
Because this formula doesn’t contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, it is reef-friendly. It’s also completely vegan.
The SPF 50 sun protection and 80-minute water resistance mean that the Hawaiian sunscreen spray will provide long-lasting protection without interfering with your summer fun!
The spray applicator makes for easy and lightweight application without the streaky whiteness that is typical of high-protection sunscreen.
- Contains plant-based butter and oil extracts
- Easy application
- Generally reef-safe
- Less affordable than some other products
Cruelty-Free Sunscreens: Buyer’s Guide
From the products we’ve reviewed, we hope you’ve been able to see the level of quality and variety that is available on the market in terms of cruelty-free sunscreen.
All of the products we’ve discussed are amongst the very best cruelty-free sunscreens out there, but the fact remains that the perfect sunscreen for one person may not be ideal for another.
To find your perfect cruelty-free sunscreen, you’ll need to consider the ingredients, consistency, and sun protection factor, as well as the product’s vegan and reef-free status. Read on for more information!
Just because a sunscreen product is cruelty-free doesn’t mean you should buy it without taking the time to look at the ingredients!
While cruelty-free sunscreen brands are working hard to create a better world for humans and animals alike, they haven’t forgotten about the importance of caring for and nourishing your skin while protecting it from the sun.
That’s why so many cruelty-free sunscreen products also contain natural and highly beneficial ingredients with soothing, repairing, moisturizing, and revitalizing properties.
A high antioxidant content is a fantastic skincare bonus that can be found in many sunscreens.
Vitamin E, coconut oil, avocado oil, and shea butter all provide a hit of antioxidants that will help to soothe any inflammation and keep your skin looking fresh, hydrated, and young in the long term.
Kakadu plum is an excellent natural ingredient that is high in vitamins E and C (in fact, it’s the fruit with the highest vitamin C content in the entire world!)
Due to its antioxidant and gallic acid content, Kakadu plum is an anti-inflammatory that will help to counteract any irritation caused by applying any product to your skin.
Eucalyptus is another natural anti-inflammatory that has actually been used historically by aboriginal tribes to help heal wounds and fight off infections. In sunscreen, this ingredient has a soothing, cleansing, and revitalizing effect.
If you’ve noticed that your skin has been looking dull or aged, we recommend a cruelty-free sunscreen containing red algae!
Red algae can help to improve skin hydration and smoothness. When used consistently, red algae will make your skin appear younger and healthier.
Sun Protection Factor
Sunscreen’s primary purpose is, of course, to protect your skin from damaging rays. The best way to figure out whether or not a particular sunscreen is up to the job is by looking at the sun protection factor (or SPF).
Now, there are some sunscreens available on the market with sun protection factors of up to 100.
This can make people with very sensitive skin feel as though they need to buy a sunscreen with the highest possible SPF to be fully protected.
However, scientific research shows that this isn’t really the case.
While SPF 50 can block up to 98% of potentially harmful UVB rays, sunscreens rated at SPF 100 generally only provide an extra 1% of protection, which is unlikely to make any real difference, especially for the extra cost.
Therefore, the cruelty-free sunscreens we’ve reviewed in this article are mostly factor 50, with just 1 exception for the Supergoop! sunscreen, which is factor 40.
Factor 50 sunscreen, when applied correctly and diligently, should provide enough protection for very fair or sensitive skin. Factor 40, meanwhile, should be more than enough for people with slightly less burn-prone skin.
Consistency and Application
One of the main reasons why so many people hate using sunscreen comes down to its typical sticky, creamy consistency and streaky application.
We’ve tried to include as many products as possible in our review section that deviate from the norm in terms of consistency (and, therefore, application) so you can enjoy your time in the sun without feeling cakey or being left with white residue.
If you’re looking for an invisible sunscreen that you can apply under your makeup or even use as a primer, we recommend an oil-free, clear formula like the one promoted by Supergoop!
For an easy, streakless application with other products, your best bet is a spray-on bottle that will distribute the sunscreen evenly and lightly over your skin.
Vegans make up a significant portion of the customer base for cruelty-free products since many people who live a vegan lifestyle are committed to reducing animal suffering.
However, just because a product is cruelty-free doesn’t automatically mean that it’s vegan (for more on this, see our FAQ section).
Luckily, many cruelty-free sunscreen products are also vegan-friendly – it’s just a case of reading the labels to find out.
Some manufacturers will clearly label their product as suitable for vegans, but this is less common in the drugs and cosmetics industries than in the food industry.
Therefore, your best bet for finding out whether a product is vegan is to check the list of ingredients (another reason why being aware of the ingredients that make up your cruelty-free sunscreen is so important!).
All of the products included in our product reviews are vegan as well as cruelty-free, so our vegan readers can use any of our top 5 cruelty-free sunscreens.
Unfortunately, many sunscreen formulae contain harmful chemicals that can negatively impact the ocean’s ecosystems as the product wears off in the water. The most common offenders in this area are oxybenzone and octinoxate, both of which are responsible for coral bleaching.
When coral is bleached, it is weakened, more susceptible to disease, and will struggle to reproduce, which is disastrous for the ecosystem it supports.
Thankfully, more and more sunscreens (particularly cruelty-free sunscreens) are being manufactured without these chemicals, making them reef-safe and ocean-friendly. As you can see, many of the sunscreens we’ve reviewed are reef-safe.
However, please be aware that ‘reef-safe’ or ‘reef-friendly’ usually refers specifically to the absence of oxybenzone and octinoxate, and doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is completely free from any potentially harmful chemicals, so please be sure to either check the individual ingredients or contact the manufacturer if you have any concerns.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is cruelty-free sunscreen also vegan?
Not necessarily. ‘Vegan’ and ‘cruelty-free’ are 2 different labels and certifications that can be applied to cosmetic products, and while they often do overlap, they don’t mean the same thing.
For a product to be cruelty-free, it needs to have been certified as not having been tested (in their complete form or individual ingredients) on animals.
If a product is labeled ‘vegan’, on the other hand, it means that it doesn’t contain any animal-derived ingredients.
Why should I buy cruelty-free sunscreen?
We get it – shopping cruelty-free can be tough! Between vague labeling and issues of availability, limiting your purchase options to non-animal-tested products can seem like an overwhelming and even frustrating task.
That’s why we felt it was so important to write this article.
There are plenty of high-quality, cruelty-free sunscreen options now available on the market, and this way, you don’t have to spend hours searching through stores to find them.
The reason shopping cruelty-free is so important is that animal testing practices can be incredibly traumatic, painful, and potentially life-threatening for our animal friends.
Many people mistakenly assume that, in this day and age, animal testing practices must be highly regulated and virtually risk-free.
This, unfortunately, isn’t the case at all. Statistics from the past 5 years tell us that there are over 7,000 animal testing facilities operating within the U.S. and less than 200 inspectors from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture to enforce the Animal Welfare Act between them. Because of this, estimates of how many animals are tested on in the U.S. each year are highly variable, but the Humane Society places this number at over 25 million, with PETA estimating closer to 100 million.
It’s also difficult to ascertain what percentage of these animals survive the testing process, but estimates are as low as 3%, and those animals that do survive often live with physical or mental trauma from their ordeal.
Now, because sunscreen is labeled as an over-the-counter drug as opposed to a cosmetic product, animal testing is more frequently required legally in compliance with the Food and Drug Administration policy.
The only way around this is for developers and manufacturers of sunscreen products to use established ingredients that are already FDA-approved.
Therefore, it’s arguably even more important to buy cruelty-free sunscreen because supporting sunscreen brands that aren’t tested on animals will contribute to gradual change in the testing practices for sunscreen and other cosmetic-adjacent over-the-counter drugs.
Another excellent reason to shop for cruelty-free sunscreen is that skin products that haven’t been tested on animals also tend to contain less potentially harmful or irritating chemicals (think sulfates and parabens) since manufacturers can’t rely on cruel testing practices to check for reactions.
Therefore, cruelty-free sunscreen doesn’t only benefit the animals – it’ll also benefit your skin!