Visiting Hawaii? The Essential Guide to Sunscreen Use After the Ban

As a locale known for its stunning beaches and marine biodiversity, Hawaii has taken a pioneering step to protect its delicate ecosystem by implementing a ban on the sale and distribution of sunscreens containing certain harmful ingredients. Starting on January 1, 2021, sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, both of which have been proven to damage coral reefs and marine life, are prohibited from sale within the state. While visitors are still allowed to bring sunscreens containing these ingredients, it is highly encouraged that travelers opt for reef-safe and mineral-based sunscreens to minimize their impact on the environment.

Building on the initial ban, the updated Hawaii sunscreen ban as of 2022 also includes the prohibition of avobenzone and octocrylene. This further reflects Hawaii’s commitment to preserving its coral reefs, marine life, and overall marine environment. The ban is not an outright ban on the use of sunscreens, but rather on the sale and distribution of sunscreens with the listed ingredients. This highlights the delicate balance between protecting human skin and the environment.

Choosing the right sunscreen while visiting Hawaii requires careful attention, as the terms “reef safe” or “reef friendly” are unregulated and might be misleading. Prospective buyers should look for sunscreens containing mineral UV-blocking ingredients such as oxide and titanium dioxide, avoiding smaller nanoparticles, and checking for the absence of other reef-harming chemicals. By following these guidelines, both visitors and locals can enjoy Hawaii’s beautiful outdoor offerings while contributing to the preservation of its unique and sensitive ecosystems.

The Hawaii Sunscreen Ban Explained

A New Dawn for Hawaii’s Reefs

Imagine waking up on a bright, beautiful Hawaiian morning, ready to hit the waves, snorkel among the reefs, or simply lounge on the sandy shores. But did you know that as of January 1, 2021, the sunscreen you slather on could be a subject of great concern to Hawaii’s delicate ecosystem? That’s right! Hawaii has enacted a ban on sunscreens containing harmful ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate.

The Reason Behind the Ban

You might be wondering, “What’s the big deal about these ingredients?” Well, science has shown that these chemicals can cause real havoc to coral reefs and marine life. Imagine those dazzling underwater worlds you see in documentaries – those environments are fragile, and chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate can cause them to bleach and die. Heartbreaking, isn’t it?

Beyond Oxybenzone and Octinoxate

But wait, the plot thickens. In 2022, Hawaii’s sunscreen ban was updated to include two more sneaky culprits: avobenzone and octocrylene. Just like the infamous oxybenzone and octinoxate, these substances are no friends to the coral reefs either. So, the ban has grown to be more encompassing, making sure our underwater buddies have a fighting chance.

Not an Outright Ban on Use

Here’s a little twist, though – the ban is not on the use of these sunscreens but on their sale and distribution within the state. So, if you’re planning a vacation to Hawaii and have a favorite sunscreen, you can still bring it along. But why not join the movement and opt for reef-safe and mineral-based alternatives? After all, we’re all guests in the home of these beautiful creatures, and the least we can do is show some respect.

How to Follow the Sunscreen Regulations

Navigating the sunscreen aisle with Hawaii’s new regulations in mind doesn’t have to be a chore. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you make informed choices, protect your skin, and contribute positively to the stunning marine ecosystems of Hawaii.

Understanding Reef-Safe Labels

Reef-safe labels may sound reassuring, but it’s crucial to know that terms like “reef safe” or “reef friendly” are not regulated. Here’s how you can truly identify reef-friendly sunscreens:

  • Read the Ingredients: Check for the absence of oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, avobenzone, and other harmful chemicals.
  • Look for Mineral Ingredients: Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are your reef-friendly allies.
  • Avoid Nanoparticles: Opt for micro-sized (or non-nano) mineral sunscreens to avoid potential toxicity.
  • Seek Certifications: While the term “reef safe” isn’t regulated, some organizations provide certifications for reef-friendly products. Keep an eye out for these!

Choosing the Right Sunscreen

Your journey to sun-kissed skin without harming the reefs starts here:

  • Know the Banned Substances: Familiarize yourself with the banned chemicals like oxybenzone, octinoxate, etc.
  • Look for Mineral-Based Options: Seek sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as active ingredients.
  • Check the Particle Size: Ensure that the sunscreen is micro-sized or non-nano to minimize potential harm.
  • Consult Reviews and Guides: Look for recommendations from trustworthy sources that highlight reef-friendly options.
  • Ask Locals or Experts: When in Hawaii, don’t hesitate to ask locals or skincare experts for suggestions tailored to your skin type and eco-conscious values.

Spotlight on Local Options

Hawaii is home to several local businesses that provide certified reef-friendly sunscreens. Supporting these businesses means nourishing your skin with the island’s natural goodness and contributing to the local economy. Here’s how to find them:

  • Visit Local Markets and Stores: Many local retailers specialize in natural, reef-safe products.
  • Ask Hotel Staff or Tour Guides: They often have great insights into local brands that adhere to Hawaii’s sunscreen regulations.
  • Explore Online Before Your Trip: Look for Hawaiian brands that are recognized for their commitment to both quality skincare and environmental stewardship.

Tips for Visitors to Hawaii

Ah, Hawaii, the paradise of the Pacific, where every sunset paints a picture and the ocean’s waves sing a soothing melody. If you’re fortunate enough to visit these enchanting islands, I’ve got some beauty and health-focused advice for you. This isn’t just about looking good; it’s about feeling good and doing good too.

Your Part in Preserving Paradise

First and foremost, let’s talk sunscreen, the trusty companion for any beach lover. Opt for mineral-based sunscreens with ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These sunscreens not only protect your gorgeous skin from harmful UV rays but also show some love to Hawaii’s coral reefs. Look for “reef-safe” certifications but always double-check the ingredient list – because a true beauty shines both inside and out.

Embrace the Natural Beauty

Hawaii offers a bounty of natural beauty products, from locally made aloe vera gels to macadamia nut oils. Explore the local markets and indulge in these natural delights. Trust me, your skin will thank you, and you’ll be supporting the local community too.

Stay Hydrated, Stay Radiant

With all that sunbathing and surfing, don’t forget to drink plenty of water. Hydration is a beauty secret that never goes out of style. Carry a reusable water bottle to minimize plastic waste and keep that radiant glow on your skin.

Respect the Sun, Embrace the Shade

Yes, getting that sun-kissed tan might be on your agenda, but remember, too much sun can be a beauty bane. Seek shade during the sun’s peak hours and wear protective clothing like wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses. Your future self, flaunting wrinkle-free skin, will be grateful.

Explore Healthy Hawaiian Cuisine

Embrace the flavors of Hawaii with fresh and nutritious local foods. From succulent fruits like papaya and pineapple to fresh seafood, eating healthy is a delicious part of the Hawaiian experience. It’s beauty nutrition, right on your plate!

Show Love to Your Feet

Those sandy beaches and rugged hiking trails are calling your name, but make sure you have the right footwear to keep your feet happy. And don’t shy away from pampering them with a gentle exfoliation using Hawaii’s rich volcanic soil.

Remember, visiting Hawaii isn’t just about taking beautiful selfies with breathtaking backgrounds. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in a culture that values harmony with nature. By taking care of your health and beauty in an eco-conscious way, you’ll truly become a part of Hawaii’s enchanting story. Aloha, beautiful!


What exactly is the Hawaii sunscreen ban, and when did it come into effect?

The Hawaii sunscreen ban is a law that prohibits the sale and distribution of sunscreens containing harmful chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate, which damage coral reefs and marine life. It went into effect on January 1, 2021, and was updated in 2022 to include avobenzone and octocrylene.

Can I still use my regular sunscreen if I’m visiting Hawaii?

Yes, you can bring and use your regular sunscreen in Hawaii. However, the sale of sunscreens containing the banned substances is prohibited within the state, so it’s recommended to choose reef-safe and mineral-based sunscreens that comply with the ban.

How do I know if my sunscreen is reef-safe?

Check the active ingredients label for harmful chemicals like oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, and avobenzone. Look for mineral ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, and be aware that terms like “reef safe” are not regulated, so always verify the ingredients.

What are some alternatives to sunscreens with the banned chemicals?

Mineral-based sunscreens containing ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are great alternatives. You can also look for products certified as “reef friendly” by credible organizations.

Will the ban affect other personal care products, like lotions or makeup containing these ingredients?

The ban specifically targets sunscreens, but it’s wise to be conscious of the ingredients in all personal care products, especially if they may end up in the water while swimming or engaging in water activities.

Why was the ban implemented? Is it really necessary?

The ban was implemented to protect Hawaii’s sensitive coral reefs and marine ecosystems from chemicals shown to cause harm. While there’s ongoing debate and research, the ban represents a precautionary step towards preserving Hawaii’s unique marine environment.

Where can I buy reef-safe sunscreens in Hawaii?

Many local stores, pharmacies, and resorts in Hawaii offer reef-safe sunscreens. You can also find products from local Hawaiian brands that adhere to the regulations of the ban.


The “Hawaii sunscreen ban” isn’t merely a law; it’s a testament to a society that recognizes the intricate relationship between human pleasure and environmental responsibility. Whether you’re a local resident or a visitor to these beautiful islands, the ban invites you to reflect on your role in preserving one of the Earth’s most captivating ecosystems. By choosing sunscreens that align with this protective vision and embracing an ethos that cares for both personal health and environmental welfare, you’re partaking in a global movement. It’s a step towards a world where beauty and nature flourish together, and your next trip to Hawaii could be a meaningful chapter in this inspiring journey. Aloha, and may your choices reflect the brilliance of your inner beauty and the wisdom of your heart.

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