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These SPF formulas do not contain oxybenzone, a common sunscreen ingredient believed to contribute to coral bleaching in Hawaii and the Caribbean.

By Kathleen Mulpeter
October 15, 2019

If you've been following the news this week, you may have heard that Hawaii just became the first U.S. state to pass a bill banning sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, chemicals that work to shield skin from harmful UV rays. If the bill is signed into law by the state's governor, more than 3,500 sunscreen products will be prohibited in the popular vacation spot starting in 2021.

If you're thinking to yourself, What is oxybenzone, anyway? you're not alone. The ingredient "is extremely common in chemical sunscreens," David Andrews, PhD, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), tells Health. "It's found in the vast majority of sunscreen with an SPF over 50 and is an ingredient we've flagged as a concern for nearly a decade now."

Proponents of the bill believe these chemicals are contributing to gradual but vast coral bleaching and death. A 2015 study published in Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology identified high concentrations of the compound in waters near coral reefs on Hawaiian and Caribbean beaches, particularly in popular tourist spots. 

"Hopefully, this action in Hawaii actually leads to [new] products across the U.S. market," says Andrews. "We think the market is long overdue for improvement."

Although many sunscreen products contain oxybenzone—including face and body sunscreens as well as some SPF-infused moisturizers and lip balms—there are still plenty of options out there that are free of the controversial ingredient. When in doubt, the best way to determine whether an SPF formula has oxybenzone is to simply flip over the bottle and scan the ingredient list. To make your search easier, though, we've rounded up a few oxybenzone-free products that have received a 1 or 2 ranking, rated the lowest risk by the EWG.

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