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There’s nothing quite like the sight of sunburned tourists…

What brings travelers to an island? Is it the crystal blue waters? The magnificent deep sea diving, coral reefs or just palm trees and drinks with the little umbrellas? There’s no question that water tourism is one of the biggest drivers to the world’s best island destinations, with no shortage of keen snorkelers ready to explore the best reefs and dive spots which adorn these iconic hotspots. New research suggests that many popular sunscreen brands around the world contain a chemical which is damaging aquatic and marine life, and islands are responding with sunscreen bans.

Oxybenzone And Octinoxate

Oxybenzone and Octinoxate are chemicals which provides UV coverage in many of the most popular sunscreen brands around the world. Despite positive UV protection effects for the skin, Oxybenzone is also known to permeate the skin, leaving deposits in the body for undetermined amounts of time. But while this all raises plenty of questions for human bodies, it’s the chemicals effect on coral reefs which an increasing number of nations are worried about. Research suggest Oxybenzone is killing coral reefs, and as a main draw to sustained tourism, it’s a risk some islands are aiming to curtail. Octinoxate is believed to bleach coral reefs, which effectively kill off the living organisms. Natural sunscreens, such as those using Zinc Oxide would still be available, and are arguably more effective.


Hawaii is magnificent. It’s also the first wildly popular destination with plans to ban up to 78% of the world’s most famous sunscreen brands. You can still bring the sunscreens with you, but any sunscreen with Oxybenzone or Octinoxate will be banned from sale on the islands from 2021 onward. The move has instantly been met with praise furor, as U.S. lobbying groups on behalf of the chemical sunscreen makers express the confusing message banning certain sunscreens sends to people in search of UV protection. At the same time, environmental and tourism groups have embraced the newly outlined laws, which will protect the resources that drive travelers to these destinations.

Bonaire And Beyond

Hawaii is the first, but is expected to be far from the last. The Caribbean island of Bonaire has also made a matching pledge, banning chemical sunscreens from 2021. Nations which depend heavily on marine life and natural resources, such as Australia, New Zealand, The Bahamas and many more are expected to launch new guidelines for travel from 2021 onward. Can you even imagine Australia without a living and thriving Great Barrier Reef?

HT: ViewFromTheWing.

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