Reef Safe Sunscreens allowed in Hawaii
Reef safe sunscreens are free from oxybenzone and octinoxate. By limiting these ingredients, there is less impact on Hawaiian reefs and marine life.
As of January 1, 2021 Hawaii legislation has banned the sale of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate. This legislation was passed because of the significant negative impact on Hawaii’s marine ecosystem that these chemicals have. Enacted as a two-year pilot program, the focus to start in on protecting Hanauma Bay and Waikiki Beach. The hope is that only reef safe sunscreens will be used across all Hawaiian Islands.
Part of this program includes the installation of sunscreen dispensers at both locations. These dispensers have sunscreen that is reef safe and free from oxybenzone and octinoxate. So, if you forget sunscreen at home and are in Waikiki, don’t worry. There are ample sunscreen dispensers around Waikiki Beach. This accessibility to reef safe sport sunscreens makes it easy to reapply between Waikiki surf session.
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Many of the big box stores stock sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, the two ingredients that are banned in Hawaii. The Hawaii sunscreen ban requires the use of reef safe sunscreens. Look for logos like the ones below when shopping for sunscreen.
Because of the sunscreen ingredient ban in Hawaii, locals and visitors alike are required to purchase only reef safe sunscreens. To make it easy to find the best sunscreens for Hawaii I have compiled a list of my favorites.
The two ingredients that Hawaii has officially banned in sunscreen are octinoxate and oxybenzone. Other ingredients like Homosalate and Octocrylene are also toxic to the reef. Research has shown that there are negative impacts to coral reefs due to these ingredients.
Coral safe sunscreens are not only great for reefs, they are also made with better ingredients for your skin. Our top picks are made from the best ingredients that we could find. Each brand has their own take on quality and pushes the boundaries on well made sunscreen.
I provided my favorites for this article based on first hand use over a decade of surfing in Hawaii. These sunscreens are much thicker because of they are made from 20%+ zinc which is a heavier ingredient. Some brands offer Clear Zinc which blends in better to the skin. Nevertheless, these are heavier sunscreen creams and that sometimes takes getting used to.
Clean ingredients and clear zinc makes the Badger Sport Mineral Sunscreen the best marine safe sunscreen for Hawaii. When it comes to products I consume or use on my body, I feel that less is more when it comes to ingredients. Badger has only four total ingredients; one active ingredient (zinc) and three inactive ingredients. Plus, 98% of their ingredients are organic.
The Budger Sport sunscreen stays on extremely well in rough ocean conditions. I’ve used Badger a lot over the years and am consistently impressed with the sun protection their formula provides. When surfing, you are moving around a lot. Having a sunscreen that stays on during intense physical activity is a must in Hawaii.
I have ranked Badger as the number one reef safe sport sunscreen for Hawaii because of the following features:
A great go-to reef safe sunscreen for your face and body. Raw Elements is made from certified all natural ingredients and is loaded with biologically active antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. While Badger opts for a less-is-more approach, Raw Elements uses a variety of extracts to protect your skin.
I like how Raw Elements uses Bio-Resin tubes which are made from sugarcane waste. These little steps in reducing plastics go a long way.
The Raw Elements face stick is convenient to put in your board shorts pocket for reapplication in the water during long surf sessions. While not as effective as applying to dry skin, I find that it still helps give me an extra coating of sun protection.
Purchase Raw Elements Sunscreen ($19.49) and save 10% with code KLUBB10.
Brands with big marketing budgets will “green wash” their products to make the cut on compliance while still using ingredients known to be harmful to coral reefs. The worst brand I have found is Sun Bum.
Sun Bum Reef Safe products contain harmful ingredients like Octocrylen which is one of the top 10 ingredients in Sunscreen that can harm marine life according to National Ocean Service’s NOAA. So, even though they meet the lowest standard for Hawaii Act 104, Sun Bum sunscreen is not reef safe.
Sun Bum hides behind friendly love letters telling customers how much they care, stating, “Because above all else, we’re a group of friends whose values prioritize love for our planet, the animals and each other.” (Sun Bum website).
As shown above, Sun Bum lists just few of the ingredients that have been proven to be harmful to marine life. However, they fail to leave off Octocrylen, which is an ingredient in Sun Bum “Reef Safe” Sunscreens. Octocrylen is a chemical that can harm marine life according to NOAA. Don’t be fooled by fancy marketing collateral and sweet letters on their website, Sun Bum sunscreens are not reef safe.