If Your Sunscreen Isn’t Reef-Safe, Hawaii Doesn’t Want It

Now that the longest days of summer are here, it’s not surprising sunscreen is on many people’s minds. At our La Jolla medical spa, we’re all about keeping your skin healthy and youthful by making sure to slather on quality SPF daily, but if you enjoy snorkeling through colorful reefs, you may need to take a closer look at some of the ingredients on the back of the bottle before jumping in the water.

That’s because in our efforts to protect our skin from harmful UV rays, we may be damaging our ocean’s abundant sea life and reef system. And according to an article on NewBeauty, Hawaii and Key West are no longer going to let that happen.

What sunscreens were banned? And why?

Every year, it’s estimated that 14,000 tons of sunscreen are deposited into the ocean as we splash, surf, and snorkel—and that large volume of certain chemicals can be detrimental to marine life.

The products Hawaii has banned contain two reef-harming chemicals—oxybenzone and octinoxate—which are commonly found in sunscreen formulations. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are known to leach coral of nutrients, killing it and bleaching it white, in addition to impacting the development of other sea creatures. (Those chemicals are also prone to seeping into your bloodstream and causing adverse effects.) With upwards of 80% of reefs damaged or lost in the Caribbean alone, the world can’t afford to continue at this pace if we want to enjoy beautiful marine sights in our favorite tropical destinations.

A study conducted by the executive director of Haereticus Environmental Laboratory found that levels of oxybenzone in Hanauma Bay ranged from 30-parts-per-trillion to a whopping 29,000-parts-per-trillion—which is troubling since the toxic limit of this chemical is 10-parts-per-trillion. He projects that, at this rate, reef structures could start to disappear within the next decade.

I’ve tossed my SPF that isn’t reef-safe. What can I use instead?

If you look beyond common drugstore brands, you can find a number of options that do not contain these harmful chemicals. Here at LJC, all of our sunscreen products are deemed reef-safe—and as medical-grade products, you can also rest assured that their ingredients are clinically proven. Bonus: you’ll find that they probably feel far better on your skin and don’t interfere with makeup application!

Here are a few of our favorites:

Call or text us at (858) 452-1981 if you have any questions, or come visit the La Jolla skincare team at our medical spa in the San Diego area to try these options out and pick a favorite. Then go have fun in the sun knowing you’re doing your part to protect our oceans!