So you’re packing for snorkeling in Hawaii!
Or maybe you’ll just be swimming in Hawaii without necessarily snorkeling, like swimming off the shores of the great beaches of Oahu, or the great beaches of Maui, or the great beaches of the Big Island.
Either way, you probably have SUNSCREEN on your list of what to pack for Hawaii!
And, you may have heard of a more specific type of sunscreen… reef-safe sunscreen.
What IS reef-safe sunscreen?! Why wear reef-safe sunscreen in Hawaii?
“Reef-safe” sunscreen refers to sunscreen that is safer for the coral reef of the ocean that is around Hawaii (and the rest of the marine world).
When you go into the ocean along the shores of Hawaii, whether that’s swimming, snorkeling, or really just standing around, the sunscreen you wear washes off into the ocean.
That means the chemicals from that sunscreen also go into the ocean.
And there are ocean scientists that say that those chemicals can make their way directly to the marine life of the ocean world.
And these ocean scientists also say that the effect of those sunscreen chemicals is BAD for the marine life, including coral reef.
Around coral reef is among the spots that turtles and colorful tropical fish look for their food. The coral reef is what can make Hawaii a top snorkeling destination!
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Is it illegal to wear sunscreen that’s not reef-safe in Hawaii?
There is what’s been called a Hawaii sunscreen BAN.
Essentially this is a ban against selling any sunscreen product that’s not deemed to be reef-safe sunscreen, according to State of Hawaii standards.
This ban refers to a ban of SALES of certain types of sunscreen, so it’s geared towards the actions of the stores.
This means that you shouldn’t be able to BUY any sunscreen that’s NOT reef-safe when you are actually in Hawaii, because the stores shouldn’t have it. (Although, you may still find some NOT reef-safe sunscreen in Hawaii, as apparently stores are able to continue selling such products until they run out of their supply from 2020.)
So there won’t be any police officers roaming the beaches of Hawaii checking what sunscreen you have in your beach bag.
👆 Say ALOHA to the friendly police officers of the Honolulu Police Department! 😄
More below about what sunscreen to bring to Hawaii!
Aside from sunscreen, also see more of what to pack for outdoor activities in Hawaii!
- The perfect type of shirt for swimming in Hawaii
- Do you need water shoes for Hawaii?
- Best shoes for hiking in Hawaii
- THE top things to pack for Hawaii
Plus, to sail the ocean and go snorkeling off the shores of Hawaiian islands, see these amazing Hawaii tours:
- Oahu: Sail on a Hawaiian canoe to go snorkeling to a small island off the coast of Oahu
- Maui: Sail and snorkel along the coastline of another island near Maui
- Kona: Sail and snorkel to Kealakekua Bay
- Kauai: Napali coast sail and snorkel
No you don’t need to go on a snorkeling tour in order to go snorkeling in Hawaii (there are many snorkeling beaches in Hawaii), but it can make for an amazing Hawaii experience out on the ocean!
If you’re headed to Maui, be sure to see the best Maui adventures.
Do you REALLY need to wear reef-safe sunscreen in Hawaii?!
Can you bring your own sunscreen to Hawaii?
It is not a “requirement” to wear reef-safe sunscreen in Hawaii.
So yes, you can bring your own sunscreen to Hawaii from home.
But in the spirit of the law (more on this below), it would be very nice if you DID wear reef-safe sunscreen when you are in Hawaii.
So it would be nice if you do decide to bring sunscreen to Hawaii from home that you choose to make it the “reef-safe” kind of sunscreen.
What’s the best sunscreen to buy for Hawaii when you want to protect the ocean environment?!
The quick list of the best sunscreen for Hawaii, deemed reef-safe according to the Hawaii sunscreen ban:
- Sun Bum mineral sunscreen
- Neutrogena sheer zinc mineral sunscreen
- Aveeno positively mineral sensitive skin sunscreen
- Thinksport safe sunscreen
If you are looking at different sunscreen brands, below will tell you how you can know if your sunscreen of choice is reef-safe!
How to know if sunscreen is reef-safe?!
There are basically 2 main sunscreen ingredients that are often cited as most definitely NOT being reef-safe.
The ingredients you want to avoid in sunscreen for your Hawaii vacation:
Now, it’s important to note that these aren’t the only ingredients that are considered to be not as safe for reef, according to the people who are strong advocates for reef-safe sunscreen and reef-friendly sunscreen.
But oxybenzone and octinoxate are the 2 sunscreen ingredients that the State of Hawaii has made a part of the so-called Hawaii sunscreen ban.
So from this, we can conclude that these 2 ingredients are probably the currently known worst sunscreen ingredients when it comes to the health of the ocean environment.
It can be up for debate whether this should be the only criteria to call a sunscreen product “reef-safe.”
But for the purposes of your Hawaii vacation in 2021, we will use the State of Hawaii’s action (aka what they made into law) as the guideline for what’s considered reef-safe sunscreen.
Read more on the official word about why the Hawaii sunscreen ban exists.
Here are some products from a few sunscreen brands.
These are products that don’t contain the ingredients that are a part of the 2021 Hawaii sunscreen ban.
Ingredients for Sun Bum mineral sunscreen lotion SPF 50: WITHOUT oxybenzone, WITHOUT octinoxate
See the current ingredients list directly from Sun Bum.
Read the reviews for Sun Bum reef-safe sunscreen.
Buy Sun Bum reef-safe sunscreen:
Ingredients for Neutrogena sheer zinc mineral sunscreen SPF 50: WITHOUT oxybenzone, WITHOUT octinoxate
See the current ingredients list directly from Neutrogena.
Read the reviews for Neutrogena reef-safe sunscreen.
Buy Neutrogena reef-safe sunscreen:
Ingredients for Aveeno positively mineral sensitive skin sunscreen lotion SPF 50: WITHOUT oxybenzone, WITHOUT octinoxate
See the current ingredients list straight from Aveeno.
Read the reviews for Aveeno reef-safe sunscreen.
Buy Aveeno reef-safe sunscreen:
- Popular Aveeno sunscreen lotion
- Popular Aveeno sunscreen face milk
- Popular Aveeno sunscreen lotion for kids
Ingredients for Thinksport safe sunscreen lotion SPF 50: WITHOUT oxybenzone, WITHOUT octinoxate
See the current ingredients list directly from Thinksport.
Read the reviews for Thinksport sunscreen.
Buy Thinksport reef-safe sunscreen:
- Popular thinksport sunscreen lotion
- 2 pack of 3 oz lotion
- 2 pack of lotion + stick
- Popular thinksport sunscreen lotion for kids
Check the sunscreen ingredients!
No matter which sunscreen brand you go for, if you’re looking to be at least somewhat reef-friendly, be sure to check the ingredients to confirm.
EVEN if it says it’s reef-safe.
EVEN if it’s a mineral sunscreen.
EVEN if it says it’s oxybenzone-free.
Some sunscreen brands may deem the sunscreen to be reef-safe or reef-friendly as long as it doesn’t contain oxybenzone. (But they still may have octinoxate.) This is why if you REALLY care to at least try to make your sunscreen safer for the ocean, you will want to be sure to look at the label of the ingredients of the sunscreen product that you actually have in your hand.
And if you want to take it a step further, in addition to oxybenzone and octinoxate, then also check for octocrylene and avobenzone.
The list could go on, but oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, and avobenzone are more commonly cited chemicals that are said to also be at the top of sunscreen ingredients that’s not reef-friendly.
👆 As seen at a local beach in Hawaii. What sunscreen ingredients some locals in Hawaii would like you to avoid.
The way sunscreen is made can change!
So this is another reason why you’ll want to check to confirm the current sunscreen ingredients, and more specifically the ingredients of the actual sunscreen bottle that you plan to use. The ingredients of sunscreen products can change. The ingredients listed above are from checking in spring 2021.
How can you make it so that you can wear LESS sunscreen?!
Wear swimming clothes!
The less skin you have exposed, the less sunscreen you have to wear!
You can cover up your skin more by wearing a swimming shirt or a rash guard.
So if you wear a swimming shirt, it means that you’ll be using far less sunscreen. That means less sunscreen will be entering the ocean. It also means you have to be less concerned about having to reapply sunscreen too.
And if you take the word “sunscreen” literally, as in something that “screens” the sun, then actually, the BEST sunscreen for Hawaii is a swimming shirt!
The less sunscreen YOU wear, the less sunscreen that gets into the ocean! (And less chemicals that you are rubbing onto your body!)
It’s possible to find short sleeve swimming shirts and long sleeve swimming shirts that are made of material designed to protect against the sun’s UV rays.
See more: Finding a swimming shirt for Hawaii
But even if you do wear a swimming shirt, you’ll still have exposed skin, so you will still want the traditional sunscreen for the rest of your body!
And that’s a bit about reef-safe sunscreen for Hawaii!
More things to pack for snorkeling in Hawaii:
- Do you need to wear water shoes when snorkeling?
- Does a cheap waterproof phone case work for underwater pictures?
Plus the list of top things to pack for Hawaii!
HAPPY HAWAII BEACH TIME WITH REEF-SAFE SUNSCREEN!
Top things to pack for your Hawaii vacation!
The ultimate beach towel for travel?!Turkish towels are considered to be more absorbent and lightweight than your average beach towel. Be sure to check out turkish towels like these!
The cheapo way to waterproof your phoneYou can take underwater pictures with a simple waterproof phone case like this. Touch screen may not work well underwater - try the volume button to snap the pic instead!
Wear less sunscreen by wearing a UPF swim shirt!Wearing a swim shirt means less skin that's exposed to the sun which means less sunscreen you need to apply! See about wearing swim shirts with UV protection like these when you're snorkeling.
For a Hawaii experience you are sure to remember, get out on the open water to sail the ocean!Look for the reviews!
- OAHU: Take a look at a morning sailing trip like this one that includes snorkeling and sailing with the iconic Waikiki skyline as your backdrop. (It comes with a good chance that you'll be swimming with turtles!)
- MAUI: Take a look at a catamaran cruise like this one from West Maui to the coast of Lanai that can include snorkeling, seeing the West Maui Mountains and Lanai cliffs from the boat, and maybe even seeing some turtles and dolphins!
- BIG ISLAND: Take a look at a catamaran cruise like this one off the Kona coast for the chance to swim with manta rays at night. (One of THE most popular types of tours in Kona!) Or for a daytime boat ride, take a look at a sailing trip like this one off the Kona coast to go snorkeling at one of the best snorkeling spots on the Big Island.
- KAUAI: Take a look at a catamaran sunset sailing trip like this one along the famous Na Pali coast.