With nearly 200 miles of pristine shoreline, Hawaii is a hugely popular vacation spot. Every year, millions of visitors from around the globe flock to its many islands to enjoy the famously public beaches and bask in the tropical climate. But if you plan to visit the Aloha State anytime soon, you may want to check your sunscreen stash to make sure your products pass muster.
The Hawaii sunscreen ban
In 2021, Hawaii became the first state to say "no" to the sale, use, and/or distribution of certain sunscreens because of their negative impact on environmental and human health. Specifically, they enacted a ban on all products containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, pointing out that the common chemicals are toxic to coral reefs and may also be harmful to human health.
The ban on oxybenzone and octinoxate went into effect on January 1, 2021 and was later followed by Senate Bill 132, which aims to ban "...the sale, offer for sale, or distribution in the State of any sunscreen that contains avobenzone or octocrylene, or both, without a prescription issued by a licensed healthcare provider." If passed, the ban will take effect on January 1, 2023.
However, more recently, a new ordinance went into effect October 1, 2022 in Maui County (which comprises the inhabited islands of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai) that bans the sale and distribution of all non-mineral sunscreen (i.e., any sunscreen that uses an active ingredient other than zinc oxide and titanium dioxide).
And similarly, in Hawaii County (the "Big Island"), a ban on non-mineral sunscreen will go into effect on December 1, 2022.
Why are coral reefs so important?
Not only do healthy coral reefs serve as a home for countless marine species, but they also provide protection for our coastlines, create countless jobs in the food and tourism industries, and supply food for many coastal communities. In addition, coral reefs have been called the medicine cabinets of the 21st century because so many of the marine organisms that live in the reefs have been used to develop novel medicines and treatments.
The downside? According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), "Human activity and a warming planet are rapidly degrading these precious and fragile ecosystems." Such activity includes the use of chemical sunscreen products with ingredients known to cause significant damage to healthy coral.
Both oxybenzone and octinoxate can cause coral bleaching—which is more than just colorful corals turning white. Bleaching occurs when the coral (a living organism) is under stress, prompting it to expel the microscopic algae living in its tissues. Those algae are what give coral its bright and beautiful colors.
Stressors can take several forms, including a change in water temperature, too much sunlight, and, of course, pollution in the form of toxic chemicals. This is important because bleached coral rarely survives, and entire reef ecosystems can be wiped out as a result.
Recognizing the need to protect both aquatic and human life, several other popular beach locations have followed Hawaii's lead and introduced similar bans on chemical sunscreen products. These include Key West (Florida), the U.S. Virgin Islands, Bonaire (in the Caribbean), Palau (in the Western Pacific), and certain destinations in Mexico.
The solution? A safer, mineral-based sunscreen
Do all of these bans mean that you have no choice but to risk exposure to harmful UV rays every time you head to the beach? Not at all.
The existing bans prohibit the use (and, in some cases, the sale and distribution of) chemical sunscreens, but they encourage the use of mineral-based sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and titanium oxide. These products are considered "reef safe" alternatives, and research suggests they are better for both the environment and your skin.
So, whether you're planning a beach vacation or simply want to safeguard your skin the next time you head outdoors, myDerm Mineral SPF 33 formulas are a smart and simple option to help protect your skin and the planet.
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