Hawaii Sunscreen Ban - Maui Surfer Girls
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Hawaii Sunscreen Ban

Hawaii Sunscreen Ban – What You Need to Know!

Hawaii lawmakers passed bill SB2571 in May, prohibiting the sale of over-the-counter sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are used in more than 3,500 of the world’s most popular sunscreen products. Research shows that these chemicals are a threat to coral reefs, marine life, and human health. 

This first-in-the-world bill is currently awaiting Governor Ige’s signature, and is set to take effect on January 1, 2021.

We still had a few questions about the Hawaii sunscreen ban, so we emailed Senator Mike Gabbard, who introduced the bill earlier this year, and he responded right away with the following: 

Olowalu Coral Reefs
Mahalo to Joe West Photography for the beautiful drone shot of Olowalu’s coral reefs and the West Maui Mountains! (Click image for Joe’s website)

Maui Surfer Girls:  Will the ban affect daily moisturizers that contain SPF or just sunscreens specifically? 

Senator Gabbard: It would be both. Anything with a labeled SPF product is regulated not as a cosmetic, but as an over-the-counter drug and regulated by the US FDA. So consumers will know by identifying an SPF factor on the label and that tells them it’s a sunscreen.

MSG:  Is there anything that will prevent visitors from using sunscreens that they bring with them? Can people order the banned sunscreens online to be shipped to Hawaii?

SG: Yes, the ban is at the retail level and wouldn’t impact tourists bringing it in their luggage.

It would be legal to order the products online and have them shipped in. The issue here is that the point-of-sale is not in our islands. Previous versions of the bill looked at banning the use of sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate, but it didn’t seem workable to police the beaches, as you can imagine.

The key is going to be education. As you may know, our tourism industry is already stepping up on this issue. For example, Aqua Aston Hospitality Hotels launched a “safe sunscreen” program for all of its resorts with its guests. Hawaiian Airlines also has a “sunscreen and reef protection” education program that was programmed for all of their Hawaiian interisland flights, and many of their mainland-to-Hawaii flights.

An important thing to point out is that SB 2571 is having an impact worldwide. Already, Bonaire, an island municipality of the Netherlands, passed a legislative resolution banning oxybenzone/octinoxate sunscreens in all of their marine reserves. Palau has also banned all sunscreens in their Jellyfish Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Hawaii Sunscreen Ban New Rules
Relax under the Hawaiian sun with your reef-friendly sunscreen! Image: Kat Gaskin


MSG:  How have the sunscreen companies and retailers reacted to this bill?

SG: The sunscreen companies and the retailers are learning that these chemicals are a problem and seem to be moving in the right direction. There are 15 other FDA approved sunscreen drugs.  The most commonly used sunscreens are now Avobenzone + Octocrylene and Zinc Oxide/Titanium Dioxide.  A whole “cottage” industry has arisen to provide safer sunscreen products to the public.  At least 10 sunscreen companies have been incorporated in Hawai`i in the past two years.  Already, in large retail stores such as Costco and Target, they’re selling in bulk  Alba Botanica “Hawaiian Sunscreen” that is already compliant with SB2571 – since May 2017.  All the major sunscreen companies sell SB 2571 compliant product lines.

Thank you to Senator Gabbard for taking the time out of your busy day to help spread a little more information about this exciting bill, and thank you for working so hard to protect Hawaii’s reefs!!! 

Besides wearing reef-safe sunscreen, there are a few things you can do to help protect our reef:


Give your sunscreen time to absorb! 

Apply sunscreen prior to arriving at the beach- before you even leave your home or hotel –  to give the sunscreen time to absorb or adhere to your skin.

hawaii new sunscreen ban
Wearing a wide-brim hat is another reef-friendly way to stay sun-safe, as modeled by MSG Founder Dustin Tester
Wear a Rash Guard and a hat! 

A simple way to reduce the amount of sunscreen that you need to apply (or risking missing a spot!) is to wear a rash guard. A growing trend (which we LOVE!) is surf pants!  No risk of sunburned bums, losing bikini bottoms, wedgies, or rashes if you are on a soft-top surfboard. Check out these prAna surf pants, which work great for yoga too!   Hats may not be practical when you are learning how to surf, but once you’ve mastered the basics, throw on a hat to help with the sun protection! 


Surf pants are another way to reduce the amount of sunscreen worn over the reef, as worn by Liz, MSG’s marketing and surf school manager, and the author of this article


Choose Reef-Friendly Activities! 

Everyone in the water, whether you are surfing or snorkeling, needs to be cautious not to touch or stand on the coral.

Besides providing reef-friendly sunscreen for our staff and students, our instructors actually surf beside our students during our lessons, instead of standing in the ocean and just pushing them in, like some schools have been known to do! Keep your body and gear away from the coral, as this contact can hurt you and will damage the delicate coral animals. Even when you are on a sandy bottom, if its anywhere near the coral, its best to stay off the bottom because stirred-up sediment can settle on coral and smother it.

Our instructors surf next to you to push you into waves, while some other companies allow their instructors to stand on the reef while pushing students in!


When you are surfing and you fall, which happens to everyone, you will want to land as shallow as possible, not only to avoid injury, but to avoid damage to the reef.  


hawaii sunscreen ban news snorkel maui
The water at Ukumehame Beach Park is so clear you can surf and snorkel at the same time.


Check with your snorkel tour or other activity operators to see if they provide reef-safe sunscreen, like our friends at Sail Maui!


Hawaiian sol reef safe sunscreen We are excited to be working with Hawaiian Sol Sunscreen, offering reef-friendly sunscreens for our instructors and guests.

According to Sean Shanks, National Sales Director of Hawaiian Sol, “the Hawaiian Sol Team wants you to be safe in the sun, and be able to witness the wonders our marine ecosystems have to offer.  That is only done by eliminating harmful chemicals from sunscreens that can damage the skin more than the sun, and keep those same chemicals from attacking the splendors of our Coral Reefs and Marine Life. Let’s all do our part in preserving our beautiful ecosystems.”



Do you have any more questions about the Hawaii Sunscreen Ban?? Please contact us on Facebook or Instagram, or through our Contact Us page, to let us know what you would like to know!!!


Want even more information on being Reef-Safe while Surfing? Read this blog post here

Want to book a Surf Lesson? Click here. 

Thinking about coming to a Women’s Surf Camp? Click here. 



More about Maui Surfer Girls: 


Maui Surfer Girls was established in 2001 with a mission to build self-confidence in women through the sport of surfing. Maui Surfer Girls builds life-long bonds through a community of strong female role models and has been recognized nationally for their signature surf camps and co-ed surf lessons.


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