Hawaii Sunscreen Ban: What You Need To Know

Hawaii made history as the first state in the U.S. to implement a ban on the sale of sunscreens containing harmful chemicals for coral reefs.

The ban, which took effect on January 1, 2021, targets sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, both of which contribute to coral bleaching and damage marine life.

As a result of this law, both residents and visitors in Hawaii need to seek out reef-safe sunscreens to protect their skin while also preserving the fragile marine ecosystems.

Background of the Hawaii Sunscreen Ban

hawaii beach

In an effort to preserve marine ecosystems, Hawaii took the initiative to ban the sale and distribution of sunscreen containing harmful chemicals.

The Hawaii State Legislature passed Act 104 in 2018, which prevented the sale and distribution of sunscreen containing oxybenzone and octinoxate starting in 2021.

These chemicals are known to impair plant growth, stunt and deform animals, and contribute to coral bleaching.

The ban was further expanded with HB1860 HD1, which added homosalate, octocrylene, and octisalate to the list of prohibited chemicals, taking effect from January 1, 2021.

The Department of Health was also granted the authority to adopt rules to add any additional harmful chemicals to the sale and distribution ban.

As part of the effort to protect Hawaii’s marine ecosystems, the Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources also banned the use of such sunscreens by commercial vessels, such as boats that take tourists for swimming and snorkeling, a year before the statewide ban took effect.

Details of the Banned Chemicals

In Hawaii, the sale of sunscreens containing harmful chemicals such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, avobenzone, and octocrylene is prohibited.

These chemical sunscreens can negatively impact marine life, particularly coral reefs.

Oxybenzone and octinoxate were the first two chemicals to be banned in the state.

They can bleach and damage coral reefs, resulting in their decline.

Both chemicals can also accumulate in marine life, potentially harming their reproductive systems.

Recently, Hawaii expanded the ban to include avobenzone and octocrylene.

These chemicals are known pollutants and can cause similar damage to marine ecosystems.

Besides these four chemicals, other potentially harmful ingredients in sunscreens include homosalate, octisalate, and parabens.

Although not currently banned in Hawaii, it’s essential to be aware of these ingredients when choosing a sunscreen.

Opting for mineral-based sunscreens, with active ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, not only protects your skin but also helps preserve marine life.

Effects on Coral Reefs

hawaii coral reef

Coral reefs are vital components of marine ecosystems, providing habitat and shelter for a wide variety of marine life.

However, pollution and harmful chemicals are putting these delicate ecosystems at risk.

These chemicals are known to cause coral bleaching and inflict genetic damage on coral organisms.

Bleaching of coral occurs when the algae that live within corals are expelled, leaving the coral with a white appearance and making it more susceptible to disease.

Coral bleaching also affects the overall health and resiliency of the entire reef ecosystem.

The ban has also expanded to include commercial vessels, which take hundreds of tourists out for water activities like swimming and snorkeling daily.

Reef-Safe Alternatives

When visiting Hawaii, choosing a reef-safe sunscreen is essential to protect the coral reefs.

These sunscreens do not contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, and instead, use minerals like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

These ingredients create a physical barrier that filters out UV rays without harming marine ecosystems.

To ensure you’re using reef-safe sunscreen, look for products labeled as mineral-based or mineral sunscreen.

Several brands offer excellent alternatives. For example, Kokua Sun Care is a top choice recommended by experts as it doesn’t contain phenoxyethanol, which can cause skin issues.

Sun Bum offers another reliable option that adheres to Hawaii’s sunscreen laws.

Here are a few tips to choose a suitable reef-safe sunscreen:

  • Check the labels and avoid sunscreens containing chemicals like oxybenzone, octinoxate, avobenzone, and octocrylene.
  • Opt for sunscreens that use non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
  • Look for products that have a “reef-safe” or “reef-friendly” certification on the packaging.

More Tips On Hawaii’s Sunscreen Ban for Tourists

Which sunscreens are considered reef safe?

Reef-safe sunscreens are those that do not contain harmful chemicals like oxybenzone, octinoxate, avobenzone, and octocrylene.

Instead, they use mineral-based active ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

These minerals provide effective sun protection and are less detrimental to Hawaii’s coral reef ecosystems.

When choosing a sunscreen to use in Hawaii, look for products labeled as “reef-safe” or those containing only mineral-based ingredients.

How does the sunscreen ban affect tourists visiting Hawaii?

The sunscreen ban in Hawaii primarily affects the types of sunscreen products you can use while spending time at Hawaii’s beaches and natural areas.

As a tourist, you’ll need to ensure that your sunscreen is reef safe to comply with the regional regulations.

The law doesn’t outright ban sunscreen use, but rather prohibits the sale and distribution of sunscreens containing harmful chemicals like oxybenzone, octinoxate, avobenzone, and octocrylene without a prescription.

As a result, you might want to buy reef-safe sunscreens before your trip or choose from options available at local Hawaiian stores.

Do they confiscate banned sunscreens at Hawaiian airports?

There is currently no information to suggest that authorities confiscate banned sunscreens at Hawaiian airports.

However, it’s essential to be aware of and respect the local regulations regarding sunscreen use.

By choosing reef-safe sunscreens and adhering to the rules, you’re not only protecting the environment but also avoiding potential issues during your visit.

To ensure a hassle-free trip, it’s best to either pack a reef-safe sunscreen beforehand or purchase one at a local store upon arrival in Hawaii.

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