These SPF formulas do not contain oxybenzone, a common chemical sunscreen ingredient that contributes to coral bleaching and negatively impacts your health.
If you're jetting off on a tropical destination this summer or winter, you might want to double check the ingredients in your sunblock before tossing it in your bag. ICYDK, Hawaii 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. Translation: More than 3,500 sunscreen products will be prohibited in the popular vacation spot starting in 2021. And it's not the only one to regulate what beach goers can bring to the shore—Key West, Florida, Aruba, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have followed suit.
Unfortunately, the ingredient oxybenzone "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." The widely-used chemical is actually found in two-thirds of the products analyzed for The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 2019 sunscreen guide. Insane, right?
Proponents of these passed bills 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.
And if oxybenzone isn't great for the environment, you can bet it's not good for your body either. In 2008, the EWG asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate the safety of oxybenzone use in sunscreen due to growing evidence that it could potentially disrupt the human hormone system. Research found that 97 percent of Americans are contaminated with oxybenzone, which is proven to be linked to no only hormone disruption, but also allergies and cell damage. Yikes.
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.
Even if you're stuck staying close to home this summer, you might want to consider ditching bottles that feature oxybenzone regardless of whether your local beach allows sunscreen with the dangerous chemical or not—for your sake and the environment's. To make your search easier, though, we've rounded up several oxybenzone-free products that have received a 1 or 2 ranking, rated the lowest risk by the EWG. Shop the best reef-safe sunscreens below.