Recent studies prove chemicals in many sunscreens are damaging the environment, especially our coral reefs. And while sun protection is a must for almost every type of vacation, there are environmentally friendly ways to do it. But how do you decode the claims? Many brands that claim to be “environmentally-friendly” without earning the claim, and terms like UPF can be confusing (read more here). I’ve done the research so you can confidently trust these brands and products for true sun protection.
So, toss any sunscreen with oxybenzone in it (Hawaii even recently banned sunscreens with the chemical) and instead pack some of these products to help protect yourself from the sun.
Coolibar UPF 50+ Women’s Printed Beach Shawl
All of Coolibar’s products have a UPF rating of at least 50+, so you know you’re protected. The brand also was the first clothing company to receive The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation for sun-protective clothing. The Beach Shawl is a great multi-functional piece of sun protection to throw in your beach bag (or to keep warm on the plane).
Mad Hippie Facial SPF
This 100 percent natural skin care line makes an award-winning and popular facial sunscreen, Mad Hippie Facial SPF. The main ingredient is zinc oxide, which is a safe and effective broad-spectrum, physical blocking agent. Other ingredients include red raspberry seed oil, avocado oil, carrot seed oil, vitamins C and E, and ferulic acid.
Shihreen UV Protective Full Brim Hat
A hat is a must for face and scalp sun protection, but can be challenging to pack. Shireen’s UV Protective Full Brim Hat (available on the socially-conscious brand The Grommet) is made of a cotton blend fabric that bounces back when stuffed in a bag.
I recently tested out these dresses and discovered the technical fabric is a dream to wear for travel. Zanni’s fabric actively shields against UV rays and is sourced from a sustainable mill in Italy. Overall these dresses are stylish, minimalist, and trans-seasonal.
BoomBoom Athletica Bubble Mesh Hoodie
Founded as an alternative to big name athletic brands by ultra-marathoner Ann Johansson, BoomBoom Athletica uses UV-protective fabrics from specialized factories in the E.U.. Select styles are available with Nordstrom and I love this versatile hoodie—it’s cool enough to wear in the heat and stylish enough to wear outside of the gym.
SmartWool Men’s Everyday Exploration Short Sleeve Henley & Women’s Merino 150 Baselayer Top
Believe it or not, merino wool is actually a cooling fabric in the summer as it has moisture management, breathability, and odor resistance. Merino wool is also naturally UV-blocking, and SmartWool stands behind its “sheep to shop” supply chain partners.
While the brand is known for socks, many of its tops are great for travel and outdoor activities. This short sleeve Henley from SmartWool for guys is quick-drying, versatile, and moisture-wicking (in addition to offering UV-blocking sun protection). Ladies, check out the Merino 150 Baselayer short sleeve top, available in stylish patterns and colors.
Sunski Seacliff Polarized Sunglasses
Eco-conscious brand Sunski delivers affordable, lightweight, and environmentally-friendly sun protection for your eyes. The frames are made from recycled plastic and the brand donates one percent of sales to environmental non-profits. All Sunski shades are polarized and prices start at just $55. The Seacliff unisex style is versatile in its look and function.
DYLN Living Water Bottle
Reduce plastic waste and protect yourself from the dehydrating effects of the sun with a reusable water bottle . The DYLN Living Water Bottle alkalizes water via a diffuser. Drinking alkalized water helps to maintain your body’s acid-alkaline homeostasis and has health benefits like improving memory, promoting cardiovascular health, aiding with digestion, and boosting the immune system. It also “micro-clusters” the water to help with greater hydration. The replaceable diffuser lasts for 400 refills and the bottle is stainless steel, free of BPA and plastic.
Playa Natural Endless Summer Spray
Protect your hair and scalp with a natural UV filter shield. Playa’s Endless Summer Spray gives you “beach hair” while filtering out harmful rays. Playa’s products are all paraben-, sulfate-, and cruelty-free, so you can feel good about your purchase.
Aella Ankle Skinny Pant
The Matte Skin fabric on Aella’s pants and blazers is UPF/UV-protective, as well as stretchy, wrinkle-resistant, breathable, and even machine-washable. Aella makes comfortable and sun protective work wear, so you can head to a rooftop happy hour after the office with no worries. I tested out the Ankle Skinny Pant, which have the comfort of leggings but the look of trousers.
If you’ve seen photos of people in Burma wearing matte-yellow patterns or designs on their cheeks, foreheads, or noses, you’ve seen thanaka. The powder, which is made of pulverized bark, is revered for its sun protection and antibacterial qualities. Since thanaka powder naturally filters harmful UV light, it can be used as an organic and natural sunscreen when mixed with water. On Etsy you can buy it as a pure powder with no preservatives. Since it’s made from bark, it’s naturally vegan and cruelty-free.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 8 Best Travel Sunglasses for Summer 2018
- How to Keep Kids Safe from the Sun on a Beach Vacation
- World’s Worst Places to Get a Sunburn (and How to Prevent It)
Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
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