USA – Tracking the sunscreen crackdown

Regulations based on the environmental impact of certain sunscreen chemicals are starting to emerge in beach hot spots. But what is the issue with these materials and which markets might be next to legislate? Ask Barbara Barkhausen, Gemma Handy, Sarah Gibbons and Michael Kosmides

Concerns about the environmental and health damage caused by sunscreen chemicals has started to translate into regulatory action around the world, with the US state of Hawaii being the most high-profile reformer. Hawaii has imposed a state-wide ban on the sale and distribution within Hawaii of products containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are widely regarded as having a harmful impact on coral. The ban will come into force on 1 January 2021. However, it will cover Hawaii-based stores only. Tourists bringing locally unlawful sunscreens in their luggage to Hawaii will not face arrest at the airport, nor will their products be confiscated – but they will be subjected to a lot of educational material around vacation spots advising them to use reef-safe products.

Senator Mike Gabbard, who introduced the original bill proposing the ban, tells Cosmetics Business it applies to sales and not use: “It doesn’t restrict tourists from bringing in their own sunscreen products for personal use,” he says. “There won’t be ‘beach police’ writing tickets; the onus is not on the tourist or citizen, but on the retailers/shopkeepers. There are currently no penalties attached to this law.”

Environmental campaigners have called for more tourist hotspots to follow suit and further research to be undertaken to identify more suitable environmentally-friendly ingredients for use in sunscreens.

There does seem to be a response. The city of Key West in Florida has banned the sale of sunscreens on this tourist island that use oxybenzone and octinoxate from 1 January 2021. Also, some resort areas in Mexico ban their local sale, such as Cozumel National Park (a protected marine zone), or major coastal tourist parks, such as Chankanaab, Xcaret, Xel Ha and Garrafon. Visiting tourists to these Mexican holiday spots are offered biodegradable alternative sunscreen sachets on arrival…