Hawaii Makes History & Officially Bans The Sale Of Chemical Sunscreen

Mi-Anne Chan

Update:Hawaii lawmakers just made history: As of May 1, Senate Bill 2571 is officially in effect. Starting January 2021, the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone will be banned throughout the state of Hawaii, making it the first in the U.S. to enact such a law.

Update (April 2018): Although you can largely blame underwater heat waves for the majority of coral reef bleaching, evidence shows that enough of the damage comes from the hazardous chemical ingredients in sunscreen. Last year, lawmakers at the state and county levels in Hawaii proposed legislation to ban oxybenzone-containing sunscreens due to the mass amount of damage to the oceanic ecosystem, but were ultimately unsuccessful. Now, they're trying again — and this time, it might actually work.

On April 18, lawmakers gathered to support Senate Bill 2571, which aims to ban chemical-based sunscreens starting July 1, 2019. This includes regulating the sale, offer of sale, or distribution in the state of Hawaii of any sunscreen containing oxybenzone or octinoxate, or both, without a prescription issued by a licensed healthcare provider.

The bill is yet to pass, but if it does, it Hawaii will be the first state to ban sunscreen with toxic chemicals.

This story was originally published July 13, 2016.

In case you haven't noticed, we take sunscreen very seriously around here. If you want to avoid skin cancer and delay the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, you and your SPF should be in a loving, committed partnership. But, as with any relationship, you have to go through a vetting process first. That's because all sun protectors aren't created equal. In fact, one of the most common ingredients on sunscreen labels is seriously jeopardizing the health of the world's coral reefs.

A study published in October 2015 showed that oxybenzone, a popular UV-filtering ingredient, is threatening coral — especially in tourist-heavy areas such as Hawaii and the Caribbean. Not only does the chemical kill coral, it also causes early DNA damage that stunts the growth of the organisms living in it.

If you've ever been snorkeling, you know how magnificent coral is. Looks aside, some varieties are considered keystone species in our aquatic ecosystem, meaning many animals' lives are dependent on the colorful organism. Coral reefs are crucial to recreational fisheries, the tourism industry, and medical research. Coral has provided advancements in the treatment of certain cancers and HIV, so who knows what we could learn from it in the coming years — that is, if we don't run the reefs into the ground first.

Luckily, doing your part to minimize the damage couldn't be simpler: Carefully read your sunscreen labels and screen your potential purchases for oxybenzone. Instead, opt for mineral-based varieties that use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which protect without any guilt.

Click through this comprehensive list of the best oxybenzone-free sunscreens and find the right one for your lifestyle, whether you're into extreme sports or just need some daily protection for the commute to work.

Body & Sport
Not only does its spray bottle make application foolproof, but this sunscreen is biodegradable, water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, and cruelty-free.

Alba Botanica Very Emollient Fragrance Free Clear Spray, £8.39, available at Lucky Vitamin.

For years, we cringed at the thought of applying a coat of greasy sunblock to our delicate, oil-prone faces. But things have come a long way, and there's now a slew of non-sticky options that promise protection sans pimples. This one from La Roche-Posay absorbs quickly and contains antioxidants to fight free-radical damage caused by UV exposure.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral, £21.43, available at Blooming Way.

This silky, lightweight liquid protects the skin with an SPF of 50 while layering beautifully under makeup.

BareMinerals Mineral Shield Daily Prep Lotion, £26, available at Bare Minerals.

Not into liquid or cream formulas? No problem, because sunscreen comes in powder form, too. This one from Colorescience is an editor favourite and can be dusted onto bare skin or on top of makeup as a setting powder.

Colorescience Sunforgettable SPF 30 Mineral Powder Sun Protection, £36, available at Dermacare Direct.

The good news: This doesn't contain any potential irritants like mineral oil, phthalates, or sodium lauryl sulphate, meaning it's great for sensitive skin. The bad news: SPF 15 is a bit measly, so top it off with another if you'll be spending a lot of time outside.

Yes To Carrots Nourishing Daily Facial Moisturiser, £10, available at Beauty Bay.


Tinted sunscreens are an easy way to cut down your morning routine. This delivers just enough coverage to even out your complexion and give it a matte finish, but the downside is that it only comes in one, light-medium shade.

SkinMedica Essential Defence Mineral Shield, £30.16, available at Skin Store.

This CC cream offers the highest SPF, and coverage that can compete with your regular foundation. Plus, the creamy formula leaves one helluva glow on the skin.

Need more sunscreen options? Hop on over to The Environmental Working Group for a longer list of other coral-safe options.

It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream with SPF 50+, £30, available at QVC.

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