Hawaii Sunscreen Ban – What You Need to Know!

Maui Surfer Girls - June 21, 2018
Elizabeth Smith

Hawaii lawmakers passed bill SB2571 in May, prohibiting the sale of over-the-counter sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are used in more than 3,500 of the world’s most popular sunscreen products. Research shows that these chemicals are a threat to coral reefs, marine life, and human health.

This first-in-the-world bill is currently awaiting Governor Ige’s signature, and is set to take effect on January 1, 2021.

We still had a few questions about the Hawaii sunscreen ban, so we emailed Senator Mike Gabbard, who introduced the bill earlier this year, and he responded right away with the following:

Maui Surfer Girls: Will the ban affect daily moisturizers that contain SPF or just sunscreens specifically?

Senator Gabbard: It would be both. Anything with a labeled SPF product is regulated not as a cosmetic, but as an over-the-counter drug and regulated by the US FDA. So consumers will know by identifying an SPF factor on the label and that tells them it’s a sunscreen.

MSG: Is there anything that will prevent visitors from using sunscreens that they bring with them? Can people order the banned sunscreens online to be shipped to Hawaii?

SG: Yes, the ban is at the retail level and wouldn’t impact tourists bringing it in their luggage.

It would be legal to order the products online and have them shipped in. The issue here is that the point-of-sale is not in our islands. Previous versions of the bill looked at banning the use of sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate, but it didn’t seem workable to police the beaches, as you can imagine.

The key is going to be education. As you may know, our tourism industry is already stepping up on this issue. For example, Aqua Aston Hospitality Hotels launched a “safe sunscreen” program for all of its resorts with its guests. Hawaiian Airlines also has a “sunscreen and reef protection” education program that was programmed for all of their Hawaiian interisland flights, and many of their mainland-to-Hawaii flights.

An important thing to point out is that SB 2571 is having an impact worldwide. Already, Bonaire, an island municipality of the Netherlands, passed a legislative resolution banning oxybenzone/octinoxate sunscreens in all of their marine reserves. Palau has also banned all sunscreens in their Jellyfish Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

MSG: How have the sunscreen companies and retailers reacted to this bill?

SG: The sunscreen companies and the retailers are learning that these chemicals are a problem and seem to be moving in the right direction. There are 15 other FDA approved sunscreen drugs. The most commonly used sunscreens are now Avobenzone + Octocrylene and Zinc Oxide/Titanium Dioxide. A whole “cottage” industry has arisen to provide safer sunscreen products to the public. At least 10 sunscreen companies have been incorporated in Hawai`i in the past two years. Already, in large retail stores such as Costco and Target, they’re selling in bulk Alba Botanica “Hawaiian Sunscreen” that is already compliant with SB2571 – since May 2017. All the major sunscreen companies sell SB 2571 compliant product lines.

Thank you to Senator Gabbard for taking the time out of your busy day to help spread a little more information about this exciting bill, and thank you for working so hard to protect Hawaii’s reefs!!!