Blog: A taste of what you may find on Maui

Non-mineral sunscreen is now illegal on Maui

Check your luggage…. don’t bring that non-mineral sunscreen on your Maui trip! Why? On October 1, 2022 a new Maui County ordinance went into effect, banning the sale and use of non-mineral sunscreens in Maui County. The State of Hawaii had already passed such a law in 2018 (Act 104, Session Laws of Hawaii 2018, which is codified in Section 342D-21 Hawaii Revised Statutes), but it seems now it is being enforced.

Why would they ban non-mineral sunscreen?

Many popular sunscreens contain oxybenzone or octinoxate which are harmful to the reefs. As I read the County ordinance, the pre-amble points to the fact that many residents of Maui County depend on the reefs for their livelihood, be it from fishing or tourism.

reef fish as seen at the Maui Ocean Center
reef fish at the Maui Ocean Center

Which sunscreens can you use?

In Maui County you are now only allowed to use sunscreens containing zinc or titanium oxide. Of course, you can also choose not to use sunscreen but instead us UV protectant clothing etc.

According to this KITV4 news story, ‘Mineral-based sunscreens don’t come off as easily in the water, and scientists have found the particles are too large to be absorbed by corals.’

Personally I dislike applying sunscreen, so I avoid being outside when the UV rays are the strongest. By the way, due to Hawaii’s relative proximity to the equator (20 degrees latitude, compared to the US mainland or even Canada), the UV index is usually at high or extreme. Do make sure you are taking precautions to avoid a nasty sunburn.

What does this mean for you?

While the law provides for fines of up to $1000/day, I haven’t heard of any plans for roving beach patrols. Instead it seems the goal is to educate both residents and visitors alike and get voluntary compliance. So many come to enjoy the reefs through snorkeling and diving, we all want to ensure the reefs’ health. The County has in fact installed mineral-based sunscreen stations at some beaches.

Even if you don’t wear sunscreen into the water, know that when you shower off at the beach but also back at the condo, your sunscreen will make its way back into the ocean. Please do your part.

What is your favorite mineral-based sunscreen?

But now I’m curious – have you found a good mineral-based sunscreen? According to what I’m reading online, they don’t just come in those pasty white lotions anymore. Apparently you can get mineral-based sprays also, although as with non-mineral sunscreen, sprays don’t cover as well as lotions.

A number of years ago (before the ban) I blogged about sunburn remedies. I hope you don’t need them, but here they are….