The majority of sunscreens on the market contain ingredients that are killing the coral reefs.
“[R]ecent research published in the journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, […] found that oxybenzone poses a significant hazard to Hawaiian coral reefs and reduces their resilience to climate change. The chemical damages DNA, disrupts endocrine and can kill coral. According to the National Park Service, between 4,000 and 6,000 tons of sunscreen wash off of beachgoers into American waters each year.”
A bill just signed in Hawaii states that, starting January 1, 2021, people will not be allowed to sell any sunscreen that contains oxybenzone and octinoxate without a prescription in the state of Hawaii.
Update: The country of Palau is also banning chemical sunscreen as of 2020. More HERE.
February 6th, 2019 UPDATE: Key West voted to ban sale of chemical sunscreens. More HERE.
While people can bring in sunscreen with those ingredients, you should really consider the alternatives.
Sunscreens come in two different types: chemical barrier and physical barrier.
Chemical barrier sunscreen contains ingredients like the Hawaii-banned oxybenzone and octinoxate and also octisalate and avobenzone. They work by changing UV rays into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin. You must put this sunscreen on 20 – 30 minutes BEFORE heading into the sun for them to be effective.
Physical or Mineral barrier sunscreen contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These elements sit on your skin and reflect the sun away.
There are PROS and CONS for both types on sunscreen but the chemical barrier sunscreens can not only make your brown spots worse (yikes!), but they are also harmful to the aquatic life where you vacation.
There are plenty of options for physical /mineral barrier sunscreen. It is more expensive but I think it’s worth it. Personally, I like Green Beaver, Aveeno Baby and Badger (especially their ‘Sport’ sunscreen). I also bought Live Clean this year but haven’t used it yet.
You can find 3 mineral options (Aveeno, Live Clean and Thinkbaby) at Walmart at the lowest price I’ve found. You can also buy them online and in most health food stores.
Remember: Reapply often (set a timer if you need to!), and be sure your skin is dry when you put on the sunscreen or it’s not going to stick. (related: Three Ways You’re Not Using Sunscreen Properly)