Transitioning into a vegan lifestyle can be quite complicated at times. Even just the task of drastically altering what you eat can seem monumental to most people.
However, because this is a lifestyle surrounding not just food issues but ethical issues, making the choice to transition to a wholly vegan way of living can mean having to find replacements for tons of products in your day to day life.
Sunscreen is definitely on this list as it’s common to find animal products in these formulas.
While it might be a little difficult at first to find a good vegan sunscreen, I urge you to make the effort rather than just ditching sun protection altogether. If you aren’t sure where to look, the products mentioned in this guide are a good place to start.
After learning the basic tenants of a good sunscreen, you should be able to venture outside these product recommendations as needed to find new and different products that work for you.
After thorough research into requirements for vegan sunscreen to be effective, SimplySunSafe recommends Nurture My Body Baby Organic Sunscreen SPF 32 as the best vegan sunscreen. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 vegan sunscreens.
To make sure that your skin is properly protected by a vegan sunscreen, there are a few must-have features that you should look for:
Broad spectrum protection
Any sunscreen worth its salt is going to provide broad spectrum protection.
For many manufacturers this high level of sun protection is considered a selling point and so you can find it prominently mentioned on the packaging.
Usually the language will be something like ‘broad spectrum’ or ‘UVA/UVB protection’. This designation refers to what sort of UV rays a given sunscreen product can protect you from.
UV (ultraviolet) rays are a natural part of our experience of being outside and exposing our skin to the sun. Unlike sunlight, we cannot see these rays even though they are always present and always affecting us.
Different types of UV rays do different things, and it isn’t necessarily true that all sunscreen protect from all types of UV rays. When it comes to choosing a quality sunscreen, we want protection from two types of ultraviolet rays:
UVA rays can pass through glass, and so affect you even when you are inside a building or driving your car.
These accelerate the visible signs of aging by targeting your skin cells on the DNA level. This means wrinkles, sagging, and hardened leathery skin.
It can also lead to gene mutations that can cause skin cancer, because tiny damage to the skin cells’ DNA over time can affect its ability to reproduce properly.
UVB rays cannot pass through glass, they only affect you when you are outside in direct sunlight.
This type of ray is responsible for the immediately visible skin damage caused by the sun. Exposure causes skin to turn tan, then red, then purple, then blister if left untreated. This is what we know as a sunburn.
Repeated sunburns can also cause sun spots as your body tries to increase melanin (this is what makes your skin darker) production in order to combat sun damage.
When you are trying to remember the difference between these two, think of this: A is for aging, and B is for burning.
While it’s helpful to remember the distinction between the two in order to be a more informed consumer, neither one is good for you or desirable. For this reason you want to ensure you choose a product that provides broad spectrum protection.
Best Vegan SPF
If you’ve bought sunscreen before, you know that SPF ratings practically seem to scream at you from the shelves.
Sunscreen makers like to show off these ratings as a way to show how well their product works, and most consumers know that this number is somehow related to how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and product is for them. But what does it really mean?
This rating system can be a little bit misleading if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking at, so let’s try to clarify exactly what it means and how it works.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Theoretically, this should refer to how much longer you can stay in the sun without burning, while wearing a given product, compared to not using any protection at all.
Following this logic exactly, SPF 15 means you can stay out 15 times as long, SPF 30 means 30 times as long, and so on. However, there are a few problems with this way of considering SPF ratings.
The first is that regardless of strength, any sunscreen will lose effectiveness after a few hours of wear. The ‘life’ of a sunscreen on the skin before you need to reapply can also be reduced by particularly harsh sunlight as well as excessive exposure to water or perspiration.
The second problem is that SPF ratings are an incomplete picture of sun protection, because they only refer to protection from UVB rays. The ratio of UVA to UVB protection varies depending on the formula, but many sunscreens protect from UVB rays about 3 times as well as UVA.
Take a look at the table below for a more useful way of thinking about SPF ratings:
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
While lower SPF ratings are indeed largely ineffective, the highest ratings are not all the different from one another when it comes to overall sun protection.
This is why most doctors agree that SPF 30 is sufficient for most people.
If you choose an SPF over 30 due to sun sensitivity or for another reason, be sure you aren’t shelling out too much extra cash for it!
After all, it is only an extra percentage point or two of protection. That’s certainly not worth doubling your sunscreen budget for.
Physical is better than chemical
Just as important as how much protection a sunscreen gives you are the types of ingredients used to provide that protection.
Active ingredients in sunscreen formulas fall into two broad categories that allow us to classify sunscreens as either physical or chemical.
Physical sunscreens work by sitting overtop your skin and providing a shield-like barrier. UV rays cannot pass through the mineral ingredients and end up simply bouncing off without coming into contact with your skin.
There are two physical ingredients: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These can be used either separately or in combination with one another. Both provide broad spectrum protection, though of the two zinc has a better balance between UVA and UVB protection.
Physical sunscreens are effective immediately upon application, are safe for repeated use, and these ingredients are considered to be calming to the skin.
Chemical Sunscreens work by soaking down into your skin. Because of this process, these sunscreens must be applied about 15-20 minutes before you need them to be effective.
Once applied, they are intended to absorb UV rays before the rays have a chance to harm your skin.
Ingredients are usually used in combination and can includes: avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, and oxybenzone. These can cause skin allergy with repeated use, and are known to be irritating to skin conditions like melasma, rosacea, eczema, etc.
Oxybenzone in particular has also been shown to cross into the bloodstream with repeated use, where it can mimic hormones and disrupt the endocrine system.
There are pros and cons to both types of sunscreen. Although physical sunscreens may be more noticeable after application, overall they are far better for you. This is because they work better (stopping more light across a broader spectrum) and are safe to use on a regular basis.
When shopping for your perfect vegan sunscreen, be sure to choose a physical option rather than chemical.
Suited to intended use
Sunscreens also have a lot of miscellaneous features that can be useful to consider when buying a new sunscreen.
If you will be in very active, you may want a sunscreen with water resistance. These come rated for either 40 or 80 minutes of water resistance, after which you need to reapply.
Depending on your personal habits and preferences, you may want something very moisturizing, or something that works well for oily skin.
If you use cosmetics, you’ll want something that will blend well with your makeup.
If you have darker skin, you’ll want a product that’s tinted or that at the very least doesn’t leave a garish white cast.
Regardless of your needs, there’s a product out there for you.
The hard part is juggling quality protection, appropriate SPF, and all these extra while ensuring the formula is vegan.
With a little practice though, knowing what extra features make sense for you will become second nature and the process will get easier!
To help you figure all of this stuff out, read the detailed product reviews below and pick out the best vegan sunscreen for your needs!
Best Vegan Sunscreen Comparison
|Nurture My Body Baby||True Natural Neutral||derma e Antioxidant Natural||Block Island Natural Mineral||Goddess Garden Everyday|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (25.0%)||Zinc Oxide (22.5%) & Titanium Dioxide (6%)||Zinc Oxide (16.0%)||Zinc Oxide (22.0%)||Zinc Oxide (6.0%) & Titanium Dioxide (6.4%)|
|Water resistance||No||No||No||No||40 minutes|
5 Best Vegan Sunscreens
After through research that combined discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, and participating in skincare forums, SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best vegan sunscreens.
All of these sunscreens provide broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 or greater, do not contain oxybenzone, and (most importantly) are vegan.
Nurture My Body makes some great sunscreen products. Their Baby Organic Sunscreen provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 32 using only zinc oxide (25%) as the active ingredient.
That concentration of zinc is the highest on this list, and especially impressive considering how reasonably priced the product is. It isn’t inexpensive, per se, but the generous 4 ounce bottle does give you a lot of product to work with.
This sunscreen is not water resistant, so if you are planning a beach day it may not be the best fit.
It is, however, a vegan, certified organic sunscreen that is also fragrance-free and non-comedogenic. It’s even packaged in an attractive BPA-free blue plastic bottle.
When applying, the emollient formula spreads easily and, surprisingly, doesn’t leave as harsh of a white cast as you’d expect from a product that is 1/4 zinc.
- High concentration of active ingredient
- BPA-free packaging
- Slight white cast
- Not water resistant
If you need a natural vegan sunscreen with an extra bit of sun protection, True Natural’s Neutral formula is a solid choice. This sunscreen provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 50 using a mixture of zinc oxide (22.5%) and titanium dioxide (6%).
It’s specifically formulated for sensitive skin – being both unscented and gluten free to avoid allergy issues. It’s also soy-free, subbing the usual soy-based lecithin for a more allergy friendly sunflower lecithin.
A thinner formula, this sunscreen is easy to apply. It does leave a noticeable white cast, and is not water resistant. The white cast may not show on fairer skin, but is a noticeable contrast on darker skin tones.
As a result of the thinner, easy application formula, the sunscreen can also rub off on and possibly stain darker clothing. This is true of most sunscreens but is more likely with thinner formulas like this one.
- High SPF
- High concentration of active ingredients
- Light white cast
- Not water resistant
Derma e’s Antioxidant Natural Sunscreen provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 using zinc oxide (16%) as the only active ingredient.
The oil free formula makes this one of the best vegan sunscreens for the face. Whether it’s specifically the best for you depends on your skin type, though.
Due to the lack of oils and the high concentration of active ingredient this product may be too drying on the face for users with a dry complexion.
In combination or oily skin it actually has a wonderful balancing effect as the zinc absorbs excess oil. However, that much zinc on already-dry skin can cause the sunscreen to look dry and flaky on your skin.
This is another non-waterproof sunscreen. It blends very well with cosmetics due to the lack of oil in the finish, but you may have to add a bit of extra foundation to combat the white cast it leaves on darker skin.
What you don’t want to do is try to use less product with the aim of less of a white cast – you need generous coverage for sunscreen to be properly effective.
When applying you may find you have to rub a little bit more than usual as well – this is due to the lack of oil in the formula, as oil is typically what makes sunscreen ‘spreadable’.
- Oil-free face formula
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Moderately priced
- Not water resistant
- White cast
Block Island makes some wonderful organic products, and their vegan Face+Body Natural Mineral Sunscreen is no exception. This sunscreen provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 using 22% zinc oxide as the only active ingredient.
A higher concentration of active ingredient is always desirable, reassuring you that the sunscreen is going to really work for you and provide you with quality sun protection.
Formulated to be non-oily upon application and non-greasy in terms of finish, the ultra spreadable sunscreen goes on like silk and even has a bit of a mattifying effect on the skin.
It isn’t enough to be a white cast, but rather just a subtle lessening on your skin’s natural shine factor.
While many users say they’ve had success going in the water while wearing this product, it is not considered water resistant, so be sure to choose a water resistant sunscreen for those types of activities.
- Moderately priced
- High concentration active ingredients
- Minimal white cast
- Not water resistant
The last featured vegan sunscreen brand in this guide is Goddess Garden. Their Everyday sunscreen is a great vegan choice for, you guessed it, everyday use.
This formula provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 using a combination of zinc oxide (6%) and titanium dioxide (6.4%) as the active ingredients.
This lower concentration of active ingredients is part of the reason this sunscreen finds itself featured last.
Unlike the other products listed here, however, this sunscreen is water resistant. Everyday is rated as water resistant for up to 40 minutes. That key difference makes this product the go-to out of all these recommendations for water sports and the like.
When applying this formula, be prepared to rub a bit more than normal to get the product evenly distributed across the skin. This provides dependable water resistant protection, but the formula is noticeably thicker and not moisturizing.
- Water Resistant
- Low concentration of active ingredients
- Thick formula
I hope you’ve found this guide helpful and are ready to get started on finding the perfect sunscreen for you.
While SimplySunSafe does recommend Nurture My Body Baby Organic Sunscreen SPF 32 as the best vegan sunscreen, all five of the products featured here are great choices.
With this in mind, don’t fret if you find yourself having to try more than one before you find the best match for your individual needs.
I always try to find great recommendation for my readers. So, if there’s a vegan sunscreen you love and feel I’ve missed, please let me know! Learning about new product is just one more way to make these sunscreen guides as helpful as possible.