Your Favorite Sunscreen May Become Illegal in Hawaii

Applying sunscreen
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Your sunscreen may soon be illegal in Hawaii.

Governor David Ige is expected to sign a bill this week that will make Hawaii the first state to ban sunscreens containing harmful chemicals in an effort to protect marine life.

The chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, while effective at preventing skin cancer, could be contributing to bleaching of coral reefs, according to several environmental studies. The chemicals can also kill new coral growths.

It's difficult to avoid these chemicals when purchasing sunscreen, as up to 70 percent of sunscreens currently on the U.S. market include oxybenzone or octinoxate. Major brands with the banned chemicals include Banana Boat, Coppertone, and Hawaiian Tropic.

The law will make it illegal to sell and distribute sunscreens with the chemicals. However, the law will not affect tourists who bring banned sunscreens from home. The ban will go into effect in 2021.

"When you think about it, our island paradise, surrounded by coral reefs, is the perfect place to set the gold standard for the world to follow," state senator Mike Gabbard, who introduced the bill, told the Honolulu Star Advertiser. "This will make a huge difference in protecting our coral reefs, marine life, and human health."

The island of Bonaire, in the Caribbean, will also ban sunscreens with these chemicals, starting in 2021.

Mineral-based sunscreens that don't come off in the water are among the best options for travelers who still want to protect their skin without harming the coral reefs. These sunscreens use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to reflect sun away from the skin. For some options, check out our list of reef-safe sunscreens.

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