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Hawaii County Follows Maui’s Lead, Decides To Ban These Types Of Sunscreens

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A coral reef in HawaiiPhoto credit: Ocean Image Photography / Shutterstock.com

More areas in Hawaii are banning certain sunscreens when a new law goes into effect later this year.

Hawaii County passed a law banning the sale of non-mineral sunscreens. This means sunscreens containing any active ingredient other than titanium dioxide and zinc oxide will be banned from sale on Hawaii Island starting December 1.

Banning Harmful Sunscreens

In 2018, Hawaii became the first state to pass a law prohibiting the sale of over-the-counter sunscreens with the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. Lawmakers say these ingredients are contributing to the destruction of the state’s coral reefs and other ocean life. The law went into effect on January 1, 2021.

Starting on October 1, 2022, only mineral sunscreens will be allowed in Maui County. The county made this decision because chemicals in some sunscreens can wash off bodies and harm coral and other marine life. The sale, distribution, and use of non-mineral sunscreens are banned without a prescription.

Protecting The Reefs

SaveTheReef is a project dedicated to saving the world’s oceans and marine life through several initiatives.

It says “these ingredients form an actual physical block to shield skin from absorbing any rays (whereas chemical filters absorb UV and turn it into heat that’s released from the skin.) They come in a couple of different options. Both nanoparticles — a smaller particle size — and traditional zinc oxide sunscreens are both safe and effective, and both will be considered safe for reefs,” explains Joshua Zeichner, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City for SavetheReef.org. “The only difference is the cosmetic feel on the skin.”

Reef-friendly SPF uses physical UVA and UVB filters instead of chemical ones. To find reef-safe sunscreen, look for these active ingredients: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.  Hawaii.com put together this list you can find at most retailers.

Harmful Sunscreen Ingredients

To make sure your sunscreen is “reef friendly,” SaveTheReef.org says to make sure it does not have these ingredients:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Octocrylene
  • Homosalate
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
  • PABA
  • Parabens
  • Triclosan
  • Any nanoparticles or “nano-sized” zinc or titanium (if it doesn’t explicitly say “micro-sized” or “non-nano” and it can rub in, it’s probably nano-sized)
  • Any form of microplastic, such as “exfoliating beads”

Other Areas With Sunscreen Bans

Other beach-focused destinations have taken similar steps to protect coral reefs.

Island nations including Palau, Bonaire, and Aruba have also banned oxybenzone and octinoxate sunscreens. The Florida Keys also passed a similar ban in Key West.

When you visit the U.S. Virgin Islands you are asked to only use mineral sunscreen. Oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene have been prohibited since July 2019.

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