Before you pack for your next trip to Hawaii, be prepared to leave your favorite sunscreen at home. And don't worry, your skin won't fry.
Scientific research shows that oxybenzone – also known as BP-3, contained in many sunscreen lotions, cremes and sprays — is extremely harmful to the state's fragile coral reefs.
Aqua-Aston Hospitality, Hawaii's largest chain of hotels and resorts, has come up with a way to protect guests and protect the ocean coral.
Check-in desks and towel supply stations at the company's nearly 50 properties throughout the state will allow guests to swap their oxybenzone-containing sunscreen for a free bottle of Raw Elements, a reef-safe sunscreen.
Safe sunscreen dispensers also are provided to hotel guests for free.
The company's For Our Reef campaign began earlier this year, before an announcement July 20 that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would provide a $715,000 grant to Hawaii to help protect its fragile coral.
According to a news release from Sen. Mazie Hirono, (D-Hawaii), the money will be used to "fund activities critical to the effective management and protection of Hawaii's coral reefs."
South Kohala, on Hawaii Island, and West Maui are designated as top priorities.
In November 2015, the National Ocean Service, a federal agency, reported that a team of international scientists had found that oxybenzone "is highly toxic to juvenile corals and other marine life."
The report said swimmers wearing sunscreen are contributing to problems such as DNA damage and deformities in baby coral.
The report also found that the chemical is used in more than 3,500 skin care products sold worldwide.
If you don't bring any sunscreen, you can buy Raw Elements' all-natural Broad Spectrum SPF-30 but it's pricey. It costs $18.99 for a 3-ounce tube.
The reef-safe sunscreen also can be found in dispensers at Honolulu's Waikiki Aquarium, just steps from the world-famous beach and the ocean.