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The Best Sunscreen for Mexico: Biodegradable and Reef Safe Sunscreens

Are you heading to Mexico for a beach vacation filled with sun sand and sea!? If it’s a yes, this post on the best sunscreen for Mexico (or any beach destination, actually) will help you choose the perfect sunscreen for your skin protection and little damage to the environment.

So if you haven’t purchased your sunscreen yet, read on.

Mexico’s coastal areas are synonymous with blue sky, high temperatures, summer vacations, beaches, and, of course, A lot of sun.

This also means we need to be very careful to avoid getting burned during our holidays and prevent long-term damage to our skin and health!

So, if you are heading to Mexico, how about checking which is the best sunscreen to pack in your suitcase?


Why should we use sunscreen?

If not, you should. I have learned it the hard way!

Sunscreens are a great ally when it comes to preventing the harmful effects of UV radiation on the skin.

These include burns, spots, photoaging, and even skin cancer. This is why the use of sunscreen is recommended by every dermatologist out there.

Also, according to the World Health Organization, most cases of skin cancer are related to sun exposure, which is why besides applying good sunscreen, you should also take other actions to protect yourself.

So, trying to stay in the shade when outdoors, covering exposed areas, and wearing sunglasses are very welcome.

(Side note – I am not saying I am doing it, only that’s what we should be doing 😜)

The damage caused by the sun accumulates over time, and prevention strategies help reduce future changes and risks.

And one very important note: sunscreen needs to be used regardless of where you are and even on cloudy days!

After all, just because the sun is hiding, it doesn’t mean that the UV rays are not reaching your skin, right?

woman on a beach in mexico


Should I choose UVA and UVB sunscreen?

Choosing the best sunscreen to take to Mexico is a process that may require you to pay attention to a few small details. The first – and perhaps most important – of these is to assess what kind of protection it can offer you.

Be careful to find a sunscreen that protects your skin against both UVA and UVB rays.

UVA rays are rays emitted throughout the day, regardless of the season and temperature. UVB rays are more intense, emitted mainly during the summer between 10 am and 4 pm.

While UVA is responsible for spots and skin aging, UVB is responsible for sunburn. Both, however, can cause skin cancer, which is why protection against both of them is so important.

woman on a floating device in the water in Mexico


What is the best sun protection factor (SPF)?

Having found the sunscreen that minimizes the effects of UVA and UVB rays, it is time to evaluate the protection factor of the product you are going to buy. It is worth remembering that the protection factor (or SPF) classifies the product’s capacity to act against UVB rays. Therefore, the higher it is, the more protected you will be.

Just to get an idea, a person who does not apply sunscreen is unprotected, while a person who applies an SPF 30 filter is up to 30 times more protected against burns.

All SPFs are capable of filtering more than 90% of UVB rays, which is why many experts say that the choice of the ideal sunscreen should be made together with a dermatologist. They will know how to indicate whether you need almost total protection or not based on your type of skin.

Anyway, it is important to know that SPF 15 filters about 90% of UVB, SPF 30 filters 95%, and SPF 50 can reach 98% of protection.  The logic of choice should follow the characteristic of the skin: the lighter and more sensitive it is, the higher should be to the chosen protection degree.

It is worth reinforcing, however, that high SPF does not mean longer protection.

Regardless of its SPF, sunscreen should always be reapplied every two hours on the whole body or whenever you go into the water, exercise, or sweat a lot.

Woman on a swing in a beach in Mexico


Is it better to use sunscreen in cream or spray?

Today you can find both cream and spray sunscreens on the market. But which one to take home?

In terms of greater protection, both the cream and the spray guarantee the quality of their blocking. What is important to evaluate in this question is the protection against both types of rays and the SPF factor.

The spray sunscreen can be easier to apply because it requires less dedication when it comes to spreading all the protection on your body.

However, some prefer creams to ensure that you are not leaving any point unprotected. The choice, in this case, is personal.

So, when traveling to places where you will get a lot of sun, such as Mexico, it is essential to protect yourself against the UVB rays.

And, unlike what most people think, using sunscreen does not mean that your skin will not tan, quite the opposite! It prevents sunburn and other damage to the skin caused by sun exposure.

And, as a bonus, it keeps your tan for longer. So, your Mexican tan is safe!

Also, in addition to checking the type of sunscreen, for a destination such as Mexico, it is important to check if the product is waterproof and if it is environmentally friendly. But we’ll talk about this in a little bit.

Tulum beach sunbeds


Best sunscreen for Mexico City and (every city in Mexico) Beaches

Best sunscreen for Mexico Cities

As soon as the first rays of sun appear in the city, the gardens and outdoor areas fill up with people.

However, we don’t always think about protecting our skin, because we tend to associate sunscreen with the beach. But it is in these moments, when the skin is not prepared for the sun, that the risk of sunburn is the greatest.

Our top choice

In the city, UV radiation is also everywhere. When you go outside, UV rays can easily reach your face, neck, and hands.

Also, the phenomenon of urban pollution (carbon monoxide, vehicle exhaust fumes, and heavy metals) aggravates the harmful effects of the sun.

Especially since the glass facades of city buildings strongly reflect the sun’s rays. Even worse, UVA radiation (which penetrates deeper into the skin than UVB) can even pass through windows, so that it reaches you even in your car or inside your hotel.

And the hotter the weather, the more the skin pores open and dilate, making the skin more prone to absorbing pollution particles. It is this very pollution that is largely responsible, like the sun’s rays, for the premature aging of the skin.

So, to protect your skin not only against the sun but also from pollution, look for a sunscreen with zinc and magnesium.

In addition, the antioxidant properties of some sunscreens have soothing properties against UV stress and pollution and can play a role in stabilizing sunscreen formulations while increasing their effectiveness.

Tulum Beach aerial view


Best Sunscreen for Mexico Beaches

Our top choice

As well as remembering the importance of protecting ourselves from the sun, we would like to emphasize the need to take care of the environment.

Every year during the summer millions of people go to the beaches to cool off in the water. We know, that sunscreen is obviously important for protection against the risks of ultraviolet rays. Everything seems great, right?! But, in fact, we have a big problem from an ecological point of view.

The chemicals carried by the millions of people who visit beaches each year take about 6,000 tons of sunscreen products that are dissolved in the ocean. These chemicals, including organic filters that are beneficial to humans, can weaken and kill corals and their symbiotic algae.

These algae, called zooxanthellae, provide energy through photosynthesis to the corals that harbor them. This enables the corals to build the reefs, which serve as habitats for millions of marine animals.

But some of the substances in sunscreens accelerate the growth of a virus inside the algae, which weakens them and eventually kills the corals. This process is worsened by the effects of climate change, with the higher ocean temperatures and more pollutants released by humans.

The presence of humans anywhere in the water near a reef is a possible pathway for contamination. In addition to being washed from swimmers’ skin into the water, sunscreens can reach the sea by other means.

Some components of sunscreens can be detected in urine within 30 minutes after application!

So, when you flush or wash off sunscreen in the shower, chemicals from the cream go down the drain.

For cities near coral reefs and without sophisticated sewage management and treatment systems, this pollution is inevitable. Any coral reef near a major human occupation is potentially vulnerable to a pollution path.

And this is why we have to try better to protect the marine environment with our choice of sunscreen.

Even though most sunscreens are no longer a threat to the environment because the market offers several options for choosing sunscreens that do not harm the seas or the oceans, it is always good to be extra careful.

woman pouring sunscreen on her hand

The sunscreens that must be avoided

Compared to conventional sunscreens, environmentally friendly ones include natural biodegradable physical filters that protect the skin as well as the marine fauna.

🚫 If you want to choose a biodegradable sunscreen, you should pay attention to its composition, as it SHOULD NOT include chemicals such as the following (among other additives and preservatives):

  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • Enzacamene
  • Octisalate
  • Homosalate
  • Octocrylene
  • Aminobenzoic Acid
  • Avobenzone

This is not to say that you should eliminate from your life all those sunscreens that do not meet these requirements.

But you should pay more attention to them, especially when you go to the beach. This way, you can use some sunscreens for walks around town and others to help keep our planet’s oceans “healthy”.

woman pouring sunscreen on her legs


Best biodegradable sunscreens for Mexico

As we said, there is a range of chemicals in sunscreens that are potentially toxic to corals.

Actually, some of them – including methoxycinnamates and camphor – are even on the International Chemical Secretariat’s SIN (Substitute It Now) list based on their negative effect on humans as well.

So, instead of harsh chemicals, reef-safe sunscreens usually contain only mineral or physical blockers, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

The good news is that many pharmaceutical companies are now offering more reliable hand-made sunscreens made from plant-based (phytoprotectants) and mineral-derived ingredients without chemical additives.

This way, you can help protect marine environments by choosing mineral-based sunscreens that do not have negative effects on the ocean.

Your efforts, combined with those of millions of other like-minded swimmers, divers, and beach lovers, can help keep the oceans healthy for future generations (or at least reduce the damage).

So, here are some of the best biodegradable sunscreens which are safe to use when you go into the ocean.

Kokua Sun Care Hawaiian SPF 50 Natural Zinc Sunscreen

Hawaii-based Kokua Sun Care offers the revolution in natural and REEF SAFE zinc sunscreens and after-sun serum with antioxidant-rich ingredients grown in Hawaii, as well as high-end sun care accessories.

Kokua’s flagship SPF 50 water-resistant zinc sunscreen SPF 50 has no toxic chemicals and no stinging in the eyes.

It rubs on clear and smooth with high-performance broad-spectrum protection using a high percentage of non-nano zinc oxide as the only active ingredient.

As a plus, it also deeply nourishes the skin.

Hello Bello SPF 50 Sunscreen Mineral Lotion

Hello Bello’s reef-friendly, water-resistant SPF 50 sunscreen has broad-spectrum protection using one simple active ingredient: zinc oxide. So, it protects against both types of UV rays (UVB and UVA) on its own!

Plus, it contains soothing and moisturizing cocoa seed butter, avocado, cucumber, chamomile, and many more. In the end, this sunscreen has a lotion-like consistency that is neither too thin nor too thick.

Raw Elements Certified Natural SPF 30 Sunscreen

Raw Elements uses non-nano zinc oxide as its only active ingredient.

Zinc oxide forms a physical barrier on the skin, reflecting and scattering the sun’s rays rather than absorbing them. It is the best performing ingredient for blocking UVA and UVB rays.

All ingredients that complement its formula are certified organic or certified natural, besides being sustainably sourced.

So, Raw Elements is biodegradable and poses no threat to the health of oceans, marine ecosystems, and the world’s coral reefs.


Best sport sunscreen for Mexico

When doing physical activities outdoors, the body is subjected to direct sunlight on practically all of the skin, except the parts protected by clothing, for an extended period of time.

An activity sunscreen helps you to protect yourself despite the excessive exposure and sweat caused by the sport.

Contrary to what many may imagine, the sunscreens suitable for the practice of sports have different characteristics from the filters used in daily life and for going to the beach.

After all, doing physical activities is different from just walking under the sun, right?

When practicing sports it is normal that the body starts to produce a lot of sweat. If the sunscreen is not water-resistant and does not have a good grip, it is likely to lose its effect as you sweat.

So be sure to invest in appropriate products such as sunscreen for sports and brands that are specialized in the cosmetics industry, ensuring a quality filter specific for this use.


Badger Sport SPF 40 Mineral Sunscreen Cream

Ranging from 98 to 100% organic and natural ingredients, Badger sunscreens are among the best toxin-free sunscreens out there.

What is very interesting about the brand itself is that they are careful with both their sunscreen content and the containers themselves, which are free of BPA and 50% of it is made of recycled plastic.

Now on to the Badger Sport sunscreen, with a very simple formula of 4 ingredients it is water-resistant while still protecting you from the sun.

Curiously, this is one of the first sunscreens ever to be certified as Protect Land + Sea by the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory.

This is a new seal used to verify that a product is free and clear of the pollutants that harm coral reefs, sea turtles, and other aquatic life.

Thinksport SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen

As the name says, Thinksport is the sunscreen to use when doing sports. It is a water-resistant and reef-safe sunscreen that protects your skin for up to 80 minutes.

Its formula was designed specifically so it does not run down your face when you are sweating.

Plus, it has no harmful ingredients, it is biodegradable and although it has a scent it is very light and does not linger.

Waxhead Sunscreen Paste

It doesn’t get any simpler than Waxhead’s sunscreen stick. This sunscreen also has only 4 ingredients but they are all very natural: zinc oxide, organic coconut oil, beeswax, and organic vanilla extract. Waxhead melts into your skin while you enjoy the delicious natural fragrance.

Interestingly, it is possibly the safest sunscreen for pregnant women.

Plus, it’s also safe for the environment so it will not harm corals or marine life.

All Good Sport Face & Body Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30+

Not only is All Good Sport sunscreen reef-safe, but it is also safe for humans as well, using a physical rather than chemical formula.

This is another water-resistant and easy-to-spread sunscreen. So, it is great for those days you are being active and need something quick and easy to use but that also does its job.

This also offers lip balms, zinc butter, and sun sticks. And besides protecting yourself, with this sunscreen, you are supporting a woman-founded and -run company and an active member of the Safe Sunscreen Council.


Best light sunscreen for Mexico cities

Nowadays, many moisturizing creams and even some makeups include an SPF filter in their formulation, which is perfect if you are in the city.

If this is not the case with your cosmetics, you should add sun protection of at least SPF 20 to your morning routine to protect yourself from UV rays by choosing the right protection for your skin type.

Also, remember to look for light sunscreens and those with antioxidant properties to protect your skin against not only the sun but also city pollution.

sunscreen on a shoulder

CeraVe Hydrating 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

Free of oxybenzone and the other components listed above, CeraVe ensures that this mineral sunscreen is compliant with Hawaii’s new rules of being an eco-friendly sunscreen.

The fragrance-free lotion reflects UVA and UVB rays with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Meanwhile, ceramides and niacinamide calm reddened skin and reinforce its natural barrier.

CeraVe sunscreen goes on semi-clear, smooth, non-greasy, and easy to rub in. Just be aware, that this might leave a white cast on your skin.


Best sunscreen for pale skin

People with pale skin and very white skin types usually have freckles on the face, so the skin burns very easily and never gets tanned, staying reddish.

Also, it has a low tendency to tan and burns very easily. So, the ideal is for the sunscreen to have a minimum SPF of 50.

However, not only pale skin needs this extra care. Other types of sensitive skin fall into the same category and as such deserve the same attention.

These include people whose family has a history of skin cancer, for example.

Also, during any skin treatment, it is necessary to increase caution concerning the sun, so the SPF should be higher.

But remember, most dermatological procedures should not be performed in the summer. For this, prefer the arrival of autumn or winter.

So, which are the best sunscreens for pale and sensitive skin?

ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+

ISDIN is a 100% mineral-based sunscreen designed to have a lightweight consistency. Although the label describes it as designed for actinic damage, pale skin can also benefit from its components given how sensitive it can be.

What makes ISDIN stand out are the Photolyase enzymes in its composition, which have been shown to help repair damage caused by the sun.

Babo Botanicals Zinc Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30

Babo Botanicals is a fast-absorbing, non-whitening, and lightweight sunblock for very sensitive skin. 

Being based on zinc and other minerals, this is another great water-resistant sunscreen, which makes it a great sunscreen to use at the beach.

More importantly, it was formulated specifically for very sensitive skin being developed with 100% non-nano zinc. It is also fragrance-free.

Australian Gold Botanical Sunscreen Mineral Lotion SPF 50

You have probably heard of Australian Gold as this is a very traditional sunscreen brand. Well, they also offer a powerful sunscreen that is just perfect for sensitive skin.

Their mineral lotion SPF 50 is non-chemical and non-whitening while being rich in vitamins and antioxidants.

It soothes your skin, especially if it’s already sensitive or inflamed from something else, such as sunburn, glycolic acids, or Retin-A treatment.

Because of its thick viscosity, this product does not run, and because it is a zinc-based rather than a chemical-based sunscreen, it is highly recommended for sensitive skin such as pale skin.

In fact, this sunscreen is so thick that it sticks on your face even if you rub it with your hands, and it takes some washing to completely remove it.


Best sunscreen for darker skin

In fact, the presence of melanin can increase the protection of darker skin tones exposed to UVA and UVB rays.

But what many people don’t know is that even though melanin can help prevent skin diseases, it is not effective against blemishes, scaling, and burns.

Also, precisely because of the higher amount of melanin, black skin stains easily, so it needs daily photoprotection in all seasons, and of course with more attention in summer.

And one important point when choosing a sunscreen for darker skin is that it is important that it be as invisible as possible.

After all, nobody wants that grayish or whitish look on their face, right? Bare Republic Mineral Sunscreen Lotion could serve the purpose.

Oaxaca colorful street

Bare Republic Mineral Sunscreen Lotion

The first thing you will notice about this sunscreen is that it leaves absolutely no white cast on your skin, which is perfect for darker skin tones.

And besides giving you that much-needed sun protection it is light, smooth, and very easy to apply.

Cruelty-free, fragrance-free, and with an effective mineral formula it also works as a primer if you plan on putting make-up on top.

They offer both the gel and the matte option, which also makes for a perfect everyday use sunscreen.

Best Sunscreen for Mexico: final thoughts

As you could read, no matter where you are traveling in Mexico, basking in the sun on the Caribbean coast, or strolling on the streets of Oaxaca, make sure you carry your sunscreen with you ( and possibly wear it 🙂

Remember though, that you can enter a cenote in Mexico with the sunscreen on no matter what kind.

In this case, bring it with you and you can put it on after you swim ( if you are not going back in the water)

Mexico Travel Planning Guide

Do I need travel insurance to travel to Mexico?

I would do it if I were you. You never know what can happen and know that no matter what, you will be covered with any expenses will give you peace of mind, and make your travel worry-free. You can check out World Nomads or SafetyWing which I have used alternatively depending on my needs of the moment.

Can I drink tap water in Mexico?

No, you can’t! Maybe in some areas or in some homes where they have installed water filters but to be on the safe side, I would say, never drink tap water in Mexico. Carry a water bottle with you and fill it up where you find available potable water sources. Most of the hotels have those.

Is it safe to drive in Mexico?

The short answer is: depending on where you are. Although in general if you stick to the main roads and don’t drive at night you should probably be safe. In lesser tourist areas you should probably check the local news to stay up to date. Driving in the Yucatan Peninsula is easy everywhere, even at night, although I would still avoid it. I usually use Discover Cars because the site offers the options to compare prices among different car rentals and you can add their own full coverage.

Read more on my guide on Renting a car in Mexico.

Will my phone work in Mexico?

It will probably work, especially if you have a European or US phone, but your roaming rates may be to the stars (check with your SIM provider). Even if have an affordable international rate, you will be much better off by buying a Mexican SIM Card. It’s cheap, easy to set up, and it will keep you connected with your friends, family, and, more important, google Maps so you will never get lost!

Is it safe to travel to Mexico right now?

The short answer is, yes it is. However, there are parts of Mexico that are indeed troubled and you should avoid for now, and others that are super safe and easy to travel around. Regardless of where you are you should always use some common sense rules such as, never flaunt expensive clothing, accessories, electronics, or money and keep a low profile. Read more on my detailed guide on safety in Mexico. If you are traveling to a specific destination I have got you covered as well:

Do I need any vaccine to travel to Mexico?

No, there is no vaccine requirement (of any kind) to travel to Mexico

Do I need a visa to travel to Mexico?

If you are coming from the US or Europe you don’t need a VISA to enter Mexico. Once you get in you need to fill out a form which you need to keep with you until you leave. If you don’t have it you will pay a fine. Although the tourist visa for US and European travelers used to be 6 months long which you could easily renew by leaving the country for a couple of days and going back, nowadays they have been stricter. You may be asked how you would sustain your living and other similar questions. Sometimes they even ask you to show your credit cards. It seems odd but they can do that. If you intend to stay longer than a usual couple of weeks’ vacation time, just be honest and explain your plans. If you are not from the US, check this site to see if you need a visa