While the labels “reef friendly” and “reef safe” are common marketing tools for sunscreen products, these terms are not regulated and can be highly misleading. Before purchasing or using sunscreen, read the ingredients label and choose only mineral sunscreens made with ‘non-nanotized’ zinc oxide or titanium dioxide—natural mineral ingredients.
Because it's important to limit the amount of any kind of sunscreen getting into our water systems and ocean, it’s best to taker additional sun protection measures such as covering up or seeking shade as a first line of defense.
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Non-mineral sunscreen is any sunscreen that uses an active ingredient other than zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (mineral UV filters). When we swim in the ocean or shower at home, these non-mineral sunscreens (containing petrochemical UV filters) can wash off, enter our rivers and ocean, and harm corals and other marine life. According to NOAA, damage includes but is not limited to:
For more information, please see: Skincare Chemicals and Coral Reefs
Ordinance No. 5306 becomes effective on October 1, 2022 and will be enforced by the Department of Environment, Environmental Protection & Sustainability Division. Money from fines collected for violation are deposited into the environmental protection and sustainability fund.
Only mineral sunscreens may be sold, offered for sale, used, or distributed in the County of Maui. Non-mineral sunscreen can only be used with a prescription issued by a licensed healthcare provider.
Any product marketed as a topical use to prevent sunburn is subject to this ordinance; products containing non-mineral active ingredients are prohibited under the ordinance.
According to EWG, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide lotions are among the best choices on the American market. Mineral sunscreen provides strong sun protection with few health concerns and does not readily break down in the sun. For more information, please see EWG’s Sunscreen Guide.
Because no sunscreen is completely waterproof—and it is important to limit the amount of any kind of sunscreen getting into our water systems and ocean—the first line of defense in protecting your skin is avoiding peak times (between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm), seeking shade, and wearing protective clothing such as hats, long-sleeved shirts and sunglasses or rash guards and wetsuits in the water.
A notice of violation will be mailed that may require any or all of the following:
More information can be found in Maui County Code section 19.530.030.
Increased awareness about the negative impacts of non-mineral sunscreen has accompanied a sharp rise in the availability and variety of mineral sunscreens. As a result, there are many mineral sunscreen types and brands that range from mists, sprays, powders and thin serums that are light and easy to apply to thicker lotions.
Because everybody’s preferences are different, it’s best to experiment with different brands to find the one you like the most. However, lotions are advised as aerosols can pollute the air and sand. The small particles found in mists, sprays and powders can also be harmful to your health if inhaled.
Thousands of visitors and residents enjoy Maui County beaches, parks and nature reserves every day. In popular snorkeling locations, chemicals are washing off people every single day. Even if you are far from the ocean, chemicals washed off your body as you bathe will eventually end up in our ocean.
By removing a known stressor from the picture—petrochemical sunscreens—we increase the health and resilience of coral reefs so that they can be better equipped to handle the threats posed by pollution and climate change.
Using only mineral sunscreen is one step we can all take right now to protect the marine habitats that make Maui Nui unique.