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The Harmful Effects of Sunscreen on our Oceans

What to look for when you purchase sunscreen
October 07, 2017


Sunscreens have been making headlines lately due to their contribution to coral bleaching and ocean acidification. Coral bleaching is the phenomenon whereby coral loses its color and rejects symbiotic organisms, essentially killing the coral. While rising sea temperatures are the main culprit behind coral bleaching, researchers believe oxybenzone, a UV blocker used in many popular sunscreens, is aiding in the destruction of coral reefs as put forth in this 2015 study: "Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter, Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), on Coral Planulae and Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands."

While the researchers focused on oxybenzone, it's not the only ingredient in sunscreen that is harming the coral. Here are the five ingredients you need to avoid when purchasing sunscreen:

  1. Oxybenzone: used in over 3,500 different sunscreens worldwide
  2. Octinoxate: which lasts longer on the body than oxybenzone, but is used less frequently by manufacturers because it's known to be even more dangerous to the ocean
  3. Octocrylene
  4. 4-mehtylbenzylidene: 4MBC, which is banned in the U.S., but not in Canada and parts of Europe
  5. Butyparaben

Zinc oxide and organic sunscreens, especially those that are 100% biodegradable, while still possibly damaging, are believed to be much better alternatives than those using the five dangerous compounds listed above.

The best choice, though, is to avoid sunscreen altogether. Instead of sunscreen, we recommend you simply cover up when swimming in the ocean. Sun protection shirts and rash guards are cool looking and do a good job of protecting the skin. Wearing a hat to the beach is always smart. Using umbrellas and tents to create shade are also excellent ways to avoid direct sunlight.

We realize, however, that covering up isn't always practical. You came to Hawai'i to play in the sunshine! The non-profit, non-partisan Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a fantastic Sunscreen 101 guide that lists over 250 reef-safe sunscreens, including the best kid-friendly ones. They've even built a little Amazon store so you can purchase these products online. Additionally, there are a few locally made, reef-friendly sunscreens. Three examples are Raw Love, SolKine and Mama Kuleana.

On Maui, reef-healthy(er) sunscreens can be found at health food stores (such as Hawaiian Moons in Kihei, or Whole Foods in Kahului), as well as surf shops. Be sure to carefully read the active ingredients listed on the bottle because some manufacturers will say they are "reef-friendly," but then go ahead and use harmful ingredients. Again, avoid the five dangerous ingredients listed above, and you'll be doing your part to help save the coral reef.

The Hawai'i state legislature attempted to ban oxybenzone from our waters, but the bill stalled on the last day of the 2017 session. State lawmakers are already working to pass the bill in 2018. If it passes, Hawai'i will become the first state in the union to ban oxybenzone.

Blogs for October 2017

Best Malasadas on Maui - HOP To It

Posted on October 17, 2017

There are so many good malasadas on Maui, it's hard to narrow the list down to just five, but after weeks of agonizing research, we think we've come up with the definitive list. But first, the ground rules. We're sticking with bakeries and shops that serve malasadas "to… Continue Reading

Best Farmers Markets on Maui - HOP to it

Posted on October 16, 2017


The state of Hawai'i imports roughly 85% - 90% (by most estimates) of its food. This leaves Maui in a somewhat precarious situation. First, if for some reason we were cut off from the mainland, it wouldn't take long for there to be massive food shortages. Second,… Continue Reading

Safe Snorkeling in Maui

Posted on October 14, 2017


Known for the warm, clear waters and colorful marine life, it would be a shame if you missed the unique opportunity of snorkeling in Maui. Enjoyable for all ages, snorkeling offers the chance to glimpse at a whole other world built just under the water’s surface! Whether… Continue Reading

Classic Hawaiian Cookbooks - HOP to it

Posted on October 12, 2017


Sam Choy, Beverly Gannon, Peter Merriman, Alan Wong and Roy Yamaguchi, five of the original 12 members of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement, all have signature cookbooks. Like their restaurants, the books still hold up today. For many people, it isn't a trip to Hawai'i without visiting… Continue Reading

Best Food Trucks on Maui - HOP to it

Posted on October 11, 2017


Food trucks keep sprouting up on Maui and we couldn't be happier. The quality of food at the trucks listed below rival anything you'll eat at high end restaurants. While you'll find classic Hawai'ian dishes like poke, you can also find ethnic foods that are generally underserved… Continue Reading

Fun Facts About the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa

Posted on October 08, 2017

We are sure that you have heard of Hawaii’s state fish, the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa, and have been challenged to sound out this seemingly complicated set of letters. Lucky for you, we won’t make you do that and will often refer to this fish as “humuhumu” like the locals do.… Continue Reading

The Harmful Effects of Sunscreen on our Oceans

Posted on October 07, 2017


Sunscreens have been making headlines lately due to their contribution to coral bleaching and ocean acidification. Coral bleaching is the phenomenon whereby coral loses its color and rejects symbiotic organisms, essentially killing the coral. While rising sea temperatures are the main culprit behind coral bleaching, researchers believe… Continue Reading

Best Asian Noodle Joints on Maui - HOP to it

Posted on October 06, 2017

Noodle dishes and bowls come in all shapes and sizes. While Oahu may have some of the best ramen restaurants in the world, Maui definitely doesn't. But ramen isn't the only noodle dish in town. Maui does have excellent saimin, a local noodle soup, a bit like ramen,… Continue Reading

Best Tide Pools on Maui - HOP to it

Posted on October 05, 2017


Maui is blessed with miles and miles of sandy beaches. Not all beaches, though, have tide pools. In fact, most don't have them. But when you come across a great tide pool, you can use it as an ecological teaching moment for children or just enjoy the… Continue Reading

Best Golf Courses on Maui - HOP to it

Posted on October 04, 2017

Maui is home to many fine golf courses, far more than the five listed here. With the exception of one, all of the courses here are public. The one club that is private offers one-day guest memberships for visitors. From courses that double as PGA stops to municipal courses with… Continue Reading

Best Tropical Gardens on Maui - HOP to it

Posted on October 03, 2017


While it seems odd to spend money to see plants and flowers on Maui when they are so prevalent for free, sometimes it's helpful to see all the different types of flora in one location. For you Instagrammers, tropical gardens present excellent flower photo and selfie opportunities.… Continue Reading

Best Coffee Shop on Maui - HOP to it

Posted on October 02, 2017


A good coffee shop is somewhere you want to nest, a place where you can do anything from check your email to chat with friends. For this list, we aren't talking about the best coffee. Instead, we are talking about are the best places to enjoy coffee.… Continue Reading

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Our Latest Blogs

Best Malasadas on Maui - HOP To It
  (Posted: October 17, 2017)

Best Farmers Markets on Maui - HOP to it
  (Posted: October 16, 2017)

Safe Snorkeling in Maui
  (Posted: October 14, 2017)

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