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Hawaii Is Trying to Ban Sunscreens That Are Toxic to Coral Reefs (Plus 5 Nontoxic Swaps We Love)

2 min read

For many of us, the Hawaiian Islands conjure images of paradise: azure waves racing to kiss the shores of pristine beaches, lush mountains rising high enough to touch the sky and a beautiful abundance of plants, flowers and fresh food—and that’s just life above sea level. The underwater coral reefs surrounding these islands were once ripe with native marine life, but now, they stand in the ocean, bleached—resulting in the leaching of nutrients, ecosystems in turmoil and threatening the life that depends on them. This month, as the first state in the U.S. to do so, a bill has been passed for Hawaii to ban sunscreens with chemicals toxic to its reefs and marine life.

Each year, an estimated 14,000 tons of sunscreen ends up in oceans across the world; in 2015, Haereticus Environmental Laboratory found that an average of 412 pounds of sunscreen was left behind every day (let that sink in) on the Hanauma Bay reef in Oahu—one of the most popular snorkeling spots on the island. The new ban will prohibit the sale and distribution of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, chemicals that scientists have discovered contribute to coral bleaching. In their place, beachgoers can opt for sunscreens with non-nano mineral blockers like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—safer for the environment, and safer for you and your loved ones.

If the bill is signed by the governor, the ability for Hawaii to ban sunscreens toxic to its coral reefs will go into effect in 2021.

Headed to the beach (any beach!) this summer? There’s no need to ditch the sunscreen altogether and risk damaging your skin to sunburn. Consider these reef-safe sunscreens to not only protect your skin, but the precious marine ecosystem, as well.

1. Erin’s Faces

2. Raw Elements 

3. Suntegrity 

4. Babo Botanicals
5. All Good 

Want more info about nontoxic sunscreen? Read our worry-free guide to sunscreen shopping, including more of our favorite picks.

About The Author

Amy Flyntz

Amy Flyntz

Amy Flyntz is a Brooklyn-based writer and the founder of Amy Flyntz Copywriting. She spends her days weaving words to woo the masses, reading memoirs (and her horoscope) and snuggling with her rescue dog, Linus.