Hawaii May Ban Sunscreen


From Banana Boat to Coppertone, major sunscreen brands may soon have to revamp their products or stop selling them in Hawaii, which is looking out for its coral reefs. (Washington Post)

Sunscreens are probably damaging oyster reefs, too.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

Sunscreens work by both reflecting and absorbing ultraviolet radiation.
Photograph by Maria Stenzel, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

  • The Aloha State, Hawaii, may ban some sunscreens. What is sunscreen?
    • Sunscreen is material that blocks some of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. By preventing this radiation from reaching a person’s skin, sunscreen protects skin from harmful burns, and even some forms of skin cancer.
      • Sunscreens block two types of UV radiation.
        • UVA contributes to wrinkles, age spots, freckles, and some cancers.
        • UVB causes sunburns and some cancers. (Think B for burn.)
      • Sunscreens block UV radiation by both reflecting and absorbing it.
      • Sunscreens are labeled with a number indicating their SPF (sun protection factor). SPF indicates the sunscreen’s strength.
        • An SPF 30 sunscreen, for example, provides 30 times the protection of no sunscreen. So, if you normally begin to burn after 10 minutes in the sun, a healthy dose of SPF 30 will allow you to stay in the sun without burning for five hours.
          • How’d we get from 10 minutes to five hours? Math time! 10×30=300 minutes. There are 60 minutes in an hour. 300/60=5.
          • It is important to remember that reapplying sunscreen does not start the clock over. More sunscreen just replaces what has worn off.
          • Stop at 50. SPF ratings higher than 50 have not been proven to be more effective than SPF 50.
      • Sunscreens come in liquids, sprays, gels, and waxes.


  • Why have Hawaiian legislators passed a bill to outlaw sunscreen?
    • That’s overstating the scope of the bill. The bill would ban the use of certain organic compounds (oxybenzone and octinoxate) in sunscreen.





Washington Post: Hawaii might be about to ban your favorite sunscreen to protect its coral reefs

Nat Geo: Is Your Sunscreen Hurting Oysters? Probably.

Live Science: How Does Sunscreen Work?

Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources: Coral Reefs

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