This Sunscreen Danger Is Real

This story was originally published July 13, 2016.

In case you haven't noticed, we take sunscreen very seriously around here. If you want to avoid skin cancer and delay the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, you and your SPF should be in a loving, committed partnership. But, as with any relationship, you have to go through a vetting process first. That's because all sun protectors aren't created equal. In fact, one of the most common ingredients on sunscreen labels is seriously jeopardizing the health of the world's coral reefs.

A study published in October 2015 showed that oxybenzone, a popular UV-filtering ingredient, is threatening coral — especially in tourist-heavy areas such as Hawaii and the Caribbean. Not only does the chemical kill coral, it also causes early DNA damage that stunts the growth of the organisms living in it.

If you've ever been snorkeling, you know how magnificent coral is. Looks aside, some varieties are considered keystone species in our aquatic ecosystem, meaning many animals' lives are dependent on the colorful organism. Coral reefs are crucial to recreational fisheries, the tourism industry, and medical research. Coral has provided advancements in the treatment of certain cancers and HIV, so who knows what we could learn from it in the coming years — that is, if we don't run the reefs into the ground first.

Luckily, doing your part to minimize the damage couldn't be simpler: Carefully read your sunscreen labels and screen your potential purchases for oxybenzone. Instead, opt for mineral-based varieties that use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which protect without any guilt.

Click through this comprehensive list of the best oxybenzone-free sunscreens and find the right one for your lifestyle, whether you're into extreme sports or just need some daily protection for the commute to work.

Body & Sport
Not only does its spray bottle make application foolproof, but this sunscreen is biodegradable, water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, and cruelty-free.

Alba Botanica Very Emollient Fragrance Free Clear Spray, $8.79, available at Walmart.
This water-resistant sunscreen contains non-nano zinc oxide, which protects the skin from UVA and UVB rays without leaving a white, streaky mess all over your skin. Plus, it contains aloe vera-leaf juice and antioxidant-rich green tea to soothe your skin.

BeautyCounter Protect All Over Sunscreen, $32, available at BeautyCounter.
Don't be put off by the "baby" label on this sunscreen stick: Its gentle formula (even the most sensitive skin won't get irritated) and high protection factor makes it a great one to throw in a gym or beach bag for on-the-go touch-ups.

Aveeno Baby Natural Protection Face Stick, $9.99, available at Walgreens.
For years, we cringed at the thought of applying a coat of greasy sunblock to our delicate, oil-prone faces. But things have come a long way, and there's now a slew of non-sticky options that promise protection sans pimples. This one from La Roche-Posay absorbs quickly and contains antioxidants to fight free-radical damage caused by UV exposure.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral, $33.50, available at La Roche-Posay.
This silky, lightweight liquid protects the skin with an SPF of 50 while layering beautifully under makeup.

BareMinerals Mineral Shield Daily Prep Lotion, $30, available at BareEscentuals.
Not into liquid or cream formulas? No problem, because sunscreen comes in powder form, too. This one from Colorescience is an editor favorite and can be dusted onto bare skin or on top of makeup as a setting powder.

Colorescience Sunforgettable SPF 30 Mineral Powder Sun Protection, $57, available at Colorescience.
The good news: This doesn't contain any potential irritants like mineral oil, phthalates, or sodium lauryl sulfate, meaning it's great for sensitive skin. The bad news: SPF 15 is a bit measly, so top it off with another if you'll be spending a lot of time outside.

Yes To Carrots Nourishing Daily Facial Moisturizer, $14.99, available at Target.
This vegan moisturizer contains a host of powerful antioxidants, heavy-duty hydrators, and, of course, zinc oxide.

Éminence Tomato Day Cream SPF 16, $66, available at Dermstore.
We've been using this face lotion for years now, thanks to its ultra-light, super-hydrating, and non-irritating formula.

CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM with SPF 30, $16.49, available at Ulta Beauty.
Tinted sunscreens are an easy way to cut down your morning routine. This one from Suntegrity offers sheer coverage and sun protection in one easy package.

Suntegrity 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen, $45, available at Suntegrity Skincare.
This delivers just enough coverage to even out your complexion and give it a matte finish, but the downside is that it only comes in one, light-medium shade.

SkinMedica Essential Defense Mineral Shield, $38, available at SkinMedica.
This CC cream offers the highest SPF, and coverage that can compete with your regular foundation. Plus, the creamy formula leaves one helluva glow on the skin.

Need more sunscreen options? Hop on over to The Environmental Working Group for a longer list of other coral-safe options.

It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream with SPF 50+, $38, available at It Cosmetics.
This goopy, green cream by Dr. Jart+ cancels out redness on the skin and utilizes potent plant extracts, like raspberry leaf, to soothe inflammation throughout the day, while also protecting against rays with oxybenzone-free SPF 30.

Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment, $52, available at Sephora.
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