Two sunscreen chemicals to avoid – Oxybenzone and Octinoxate

Why is it so easy to get a sunburn in the Hawaiian Islands? Hawaii is the state located closest to the equator where UV rays are most intense. That makes a good sunscreen one of the essential items you need on a Hawaii vacation. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, you should use a broad-spectrum, SPF 30 or higher sunscreen.

Though there are plenty of sunscreens with SPF 30 and higher, there are two commonly used chemicals that will be banned from sale in Hawaii. Those two chemicals are oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Why are oxybenzone and octinoxate being banned?

Studies have shown that oxybenzone and octinoxate damage and kill coral reefs. One 2015 study found that just a single drop of oxybenzone attacks coral per this article.

Why are coral reefs important?

There are many reasons as discussed in this article. Two of perhaps the most important are that coral reefs provide:

  • habitats and shelter for a multitude of fish and other marine organisms
  • coastline protection from the damaging effects of wave action and tropical storms

What are the best sunscreen ingredients that don’t harm coral reefs?

Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are mineral-based sunscreen ingredients that are safe for coral. They are also considered to be healthier sunscreens for humans, too.

How can I find a sunscreen that contains Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Dioxide?

The Environmental Working Group creates a list of the healthiest mineral -based beach sunscreens. We have tried a number of mineral-based sunscreens. So, far ThinkSport and ThinkBaby brands have proven to be the best all around in terms of safety, absorption, feel, water resistance and price. We purchase ThinkSport from Amazon. According to the manufacturer, the base ingredients for ThinkSport, ThinkSport Kids and ThinkBaby are all the same, so we buy whatever version is cheapest.

What if I prefer a chemical-based sunscreen?

Mineral-based sunscreens can feel a little heavier than traditional chemical-based sunscreens. If your preference is to use a chemical-based sunscreen, then Sun Bum products are what we recommend. In our experience, they apply really well and have protected us from sunburns. All Sun Bum products are free of oxybenzone and most have been or will be reformulated with out octinoxate per their website. We purchase Sun Bum from Amazon.

How else can I avoid sunscreens with harmful chemicals?

Hats and clothing can also provide very good sun protection. We recommend that you wear a rashguard that has built in sun protection. With sunscreens, you must re-apply after swimming or sweating or even simply just wearing them for a couple of hours, but you don’t have to worry about that with a rashguard.

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