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Akima Kai, an underwater photographer living on Oahu’s North Shore, is always on the look-out for a good sunscreen in her line of work. Not only does it need to be able to withstand the harsh ocean elements for hours at a time, but the fact that it is reef safe is also essential. After trying a variety of products on the market, Akima was still unsatisfied and decided to create her own natural sunscreen that would be good for the skin and safe for our environment.


Akima’s all-natural SPF35+ sunscreen is hand made on the North Shore of Oahu and available at Waimea Blue Art Gallery as well as online:

The water-resistant, non-nano zinc formula is made with natural, organic ingredients that moisturize and rejuvenate the skin. This product is suitable for daily use on both face and body and is also totally plastic and cruelty-free!

If you would like to find out what makes this product so special and how your current sunscreen might be poisoning the ocean, keep reading!


In the last 30 years, a number of studies have taken a closer look at the ingredients of sunscreen and how they might be polluting our oceans. The studies conducted have shown that several chemicals found in sunscreen can accumulate and cause coral bleaching. Scientists have also observed these toxins in the tissue of other underwater plants and animals in both fresh and saltwater habitats that tend to attract a lot of tourists.


Coral, and the algae that lives inside of it, depend on one another for survival. When the environment is under stress, the algae will move on, leaving the coral bleached and prone to disease. Other factors such as an increase in water temperature, acidity or pollution can trigger coral bleaching but research shows that the thousands of tons of sunscreen that is absorbed by coral reefs each year is significant enough to make a difference.

Around a quarter of your sunscreen will wash off during a 20 minute swim and influxes of tourists and holiday-makers along coastal areas create hotspots of harmful chemicals that leach into the sea.


In 2021, Hawaii banned the use and sale of sunscreens containing the toxic chemicals: oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene and avobenzone. Hawaii is not alone: Palau, the US Virgin Islands and Bonaire have banned some of the chemicals on this list and many more must follow suit in order to restore balance and life to bleached coral reefs.

The ban of these chemical sunscreens has created a shift towards the use of mineral sunscreens but new studies show that, in some cases, they can be even worse. Only sunscreens with non-nano zinc oxide particles are considered acceptable to be washed into the ocean but unfortunately, the law has not caught up to the research.


Although many sunscreens are toxic and harmful to the environment, sun protection should remain a top priority! Sunscreen is the most important part of your daily skincare routine whether you’re at the beach or indoors on a rainy day. It is crucial in our line of defense against the harmful UVA and UVB rays that cause skin cancer and accelerate the rate of aging.

The best way to reduce sunscreen pollution in our oceans is to opt for one that is formulated with non-nano zinc and natural ingredients. If you would like to support local business in Hawaii, you can head over to the Waimea Blue Art Gallery on the North Shore of Oahu or visit their online store to pick up a pot of your sunscreen today!

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