Maui Discussion

Ask The Mayor: Are Sunscreens Now Reef Safe?

March 24, 2019, 12:30 PM HST
* Updated March 24, 11:18 AM
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Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino answers some of the most-asked questions submitted to his staff.

Q: I may be mistaken (I live in the UK) but I thought it was now the law that all sunscreen sold had to be reef friendly.

A: Last year, Gov. David Ige signed the first bill in the country to ban sunscreens containing two chemicals harmful to coral reefs. The banned chemicals are oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are used to help filter UV rays.

This law, however, does not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2021, so sunscreen with the chemicals can still be sold over the counter.

Research has shown these chemicals to be toxic to our juvenile coral and disruptive of the symbiotic relationship between the coral and algae. The coral larva encases itself in its own skeleton, where it falls to the bottom of the sea and dies.


The FDA recently proposed new regulations to improve American sunscreens to make them more “safe and effective,” but regulators will need to consider its process of how it approves new ingredients.


Some experts and dermatologists recommend people use mineral sunscreens that use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which physically block the sun’s rays and are believed to be safer for reefs. People have shied away from these sunscreens in the past because they leave a white sheen on the top of their skin.

It appears to be a small sacrifice, though, for the safety of our coral reefs.



Want to Ask The Mayor?

Submit your Maui County related questions to Mayor Michael Victorino by email at [email protected], by phone at (808) 270-7855 or via mail to 200 S. High Street, ninth floor, Wailuku, Hawaiʻi 96793.

Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the “Ask the Mayor” column.

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