We are only a few days into 2021 and already we have some good news for you! On January 1st, Hawaii became the first US state to ban the sale of sunscreen that contains the coral-harming chemicals oxybenzone or octinoxate.
We certainly think so, especially because coral reefs are already endangered by global warming. And while we all love snorkeling, the sunscreen we slather on our bodies is having a direct effect on the disappearance of reefs. The hope is that Hawaii's ban on certain sunscreens can help to preserve their coral reefs, and hopefully foster new growth. Although Hawaii's reefs only cover a little more than 0.1% of the sea surface, they are home to a quarter of all known marine fish.
Have Other Places Done the Same?
Luckily, Hawaii is not alone in the effort to help conserve and save coral reefs. In fact, Palau has enforced the strictest bans to protect its environment, which are prohibited in sunscreen, as well as in shampoos, liquid soaps, and conditioners. Among Hawaii, these places have banned or are in the process of banning certain sunscreens:
- Since January 1st, 2020
- Oxybenzone, Octinoxat, Octocrylene, 4-Methyl-Benzylidene Camphor, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Butylparaben, Benzylparaben, Triclosan, Phenoxyethanol
- Manufacture, import, sale, use
- US Virgin Islands
- Since March 30, 2020
- Oxybenzone, octocrylene, octinoxate
- Sale, possession, use
- Since July 1st, 2020
- Production, import, sale
- Date still open
- Oxybenzone, octinoxate
Which Sunscreens Are Safe to Use?
There are basically two types of sunscreens. The first has a chemical effect and converts UV radiation into heat. These make up the majority of the sunscreens available from the US and unfortunately usually contain one or more harmful substances. The second is a mineral sunscreen, which is in most cases the more environmentally-friendly choice. Its white pigments lay on the skin and reflect the sun like small mirrors. Therefore they leave a light white film on the skin, but are considered to be particularly kind to the skin and are therefore also ideal for people with sensitive skin. The main ingredients in this type of sunscreen are usually zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
When choosing sunscreens, it is important to check the labels carefully. Many products now have labels and badges on which "reef-friendly" or "reef safe" is written. Unfortunately, these badges are not awarded according to uniform standards and it's often the case that some harmful substances (such as Oxybenzone, Octinoxat, Octocrylene, 4-Methyl-Benzylidene Camphor, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Butylparaben, Benzylparaben, Triclosan, Phenoxyethanolare) still included. While these sunscreens, such as Badger brand sunscreen, maybe a little pricier than regular sunscreens you will be able to swim happily knowing you are making a real difference.