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August 14, 2017

An estimated 7.6 million people visit Hawaii each year. And while we are sure most are responsible travelers, visitors to the beautiful island state may be unwittingly carrying with them a chemical compound capable of killing off Hawaii's world-famous reefs.

As the Los Angeles Times explained, research has shown that oxybenzone, a chemical present in most sunscreens, is extremely harmful to the state's fragile coral reefs.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) further explained in 2015 that the chemical "is found in more than 3,500 skin care products worldwide for protection against the sun's harmful effects. The compound has been found entering the environment both through wastewater effluent and directly from swimmers wearing sunscreens."

NOAA added that oxybenzone causes coral bleaching, DNA damage, and "gross deformities of baby coral."

To help stave off further damage from this harmful chemical, Aqua-Aston Hospitality, Hawaii's largest chain of hotels and resorts, is teaming up with eco-friendly, mineral-based sunscreen Raw Elements to provide visitors with a safe (and free) alternative.

All visitors have to do is swap out any oxybenzone-containing sunscreen they may be carrying with them for a free bottle of Raw Elements at check-in or at towel stations around the various resorts. Aqua-Aston will also provide Raw Elements sunscreen stations throughout the properties, according to the Times. Beyond the hotels, the sunscreen can also be found for free at Honolulu's Waikiki Aquarium.

Related: The Best Sunscreens for Every Type of Traveler

The sunscreen, which was formulated by Rhode Island lifeguard Brian Guadagno, is made up of 23 percent zinc oxide, along with black and green tea extracts, hemp seed oil, and a few other delicious ingredients including mango and cacao seed butters. It smells nearly good enough to eat and feels just as decadent going on your skin.

Guadagno came up with the brand after discovering "how harmful chemical sunscreens are for our personal health and the health of our environment," he noted on the Raw Elements site. "I was really horrified at this discovery. I went on a quest to find a safe and effective solution, but one just did not exist."

Related: What Really Happens to Your Skin When You Get a Sunburn

After a great deal of research, Guadagno began mixing his own eco-friendly sunscreen in his home kitchen with the goal of developing a natural and environmentally safe alternative to big brand names.

"I really felt there was a huge void and so many people needed access to this type of sunscreen, Guadagno said on his site, adding,  "We are committed to having a positive impact on all that we do."

You can buy a stick of your own for $13.59 at amazon.com.

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