Here’s How Hawaii’s Sunscreen Ban Will Affect Your Favorite Brands

Observer - July 3, 2018
By: 
Sissie Cao

There are few better places to spend a holiday at in the middle of a scorching heat wave than a beach. And, as doctors and dermatologists tirelessly warn, it’s crucial to put on enough sunscreen before you go out. Stock up while you can, because new legislation in Hawaii may soon take your favorite sunscreen brands off store shelves.

Today, Hawaii Governor David Ige is expected to sign a bill passed in May that bans skincare companies from selling sunscreens that contain two chemicals deemed harmful to coral reefs.

The two chemicals in question, oxybenzone and octinoxate, have been found to cause mortality in developing coral, increase coral bleaching and cause genetic damage to coral reefs and other marine organisms, the legislation says.

This will be the first piece of legislation in the world to protect ecosystem by banning sunscreen. State Senator Mike Gabbard, who introduced the bill, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that Hawaii, which is surrounded by coral reefs, “is the perfect place to set the gold standard for the world to follow. This will make a huge difference in protecting our coral reefs, marine life and human health.”

“This legislation brings attention to the problem and offers a solution that other jurisdictions can be inspired by,” Gabbard told Observer in an email. “It’s likely other coastal states will be taking a look at this legislation, given the importance they place on protecting marine life and their tourism industries. I hope we can look back 20 years from now and see this as a moment we turned the corner on pollution and witnessed this law being replicated globally.”

Globally, coral reefs support about 25 percent of the Earth’s marine life. Hawaiian coral reefs account for 85 percent of all coral reefs in the U.S.; they are also one of the world’s most endangered. State lawmakers found that contamination of oxybenzone and octinoxate persists in Hawaii’s coastal waters, as the contamination is constantly refreshed every day by swimmers and beachgoers.

Oxybenzone and octinoxate are common active ingredients in chemical sunscreen, so the legislation will affect a number of popular sunscreen brands. Although the new law won’t take effect until January 2021, it’s helpful to know which products are environmentally safe if you want to enjoy beach-going without the moral burden of harming coral reefs.

So, we examined the 10 most popular sunscreen brands on the market right now (a combination of the Consumer Report’s 2018 recommendation and the best-sellers on Amazon.) Unfortunately, only three are reef-safe. Here are the details:

La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk: contains 3.86 percent oxybenzone,
Copperstone Sport SPF 50 Lotion Sunscreen: contains six percent oxybenzone,
Copperstone Water Babies Lotion: contains 7.5 percent octinoxate,
Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Lotion: contains six percent oxybenzone,
EltaMD Daily Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 40: contains 7.5 percent octinoxate,
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Non-Greasy Sunscreen Stick: contains three percent oxybenzone,
Alba Botanica Hawaiian, Coconut Spray Sunscreen: contains three percent oxybenzone,
Sun Bum Original Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion: safe,
Banana Boat Spray Sunscreen: safe,
Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen: safe.

Ingredients vary by product under the same brand. To find out for yourself, check the “drug facts” section on the sunscreen’s packaging.