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US Virgin Islands Sunscreen Laws To Protect Reefs In The Great Wide Travel Lifestyle Blog

Sunscreen Laws in the US Virgin Islands

A lot of people may not know about this, especially if you’re just visiting the US Virgin Islands on a cruise like we did, but it’s important for you to know. We’ll tell you what the laws are, why the laws exist, and which sunscreen you should use to make sure you’re following the rules.


Why are there Sunscreen Laws in the US Virgin Islands?

If you’re not already wearing sunscreen every day in the Caribbean, you’re making a terrible mistake! Since I live in Southern California, I’m used to wearing sunscreen every day, even if I’m just out running errands or sitting on my balcony, but I’m also used to hearing people groan when I ask them if they’re wearing sunscreen when we’re doing an outdoor activity. Most people just brush it off and say they won’t bother with it, but you need to! And you know I’m right!

The Caribbean is notoriously sunny year-round, so I feel like people are more open to wearing sunscreen there every day, but what happens to your sunscreen when you get in that gorgeous, clear water? Some of it washed off of you, no matter what you do. And what is sunscreen made of? Chemicals.

Some of the chemicals commonly used in sunscreen are harmful to marine life, including the animals and coral reefs, and can actually break down and kill the coral over time. With literally millions of tourists visiting the US Virgin Islands every year, think about a small amount of chemicals washing off each person, and think about how that would build up over the course of 10 years, or 20, or 100.

This is why several places have banned specific ingredients from the sunscreen you’re allowed to wear there, including the US Virgin Islands, Hawaii, Key West, Mexico, Aruba, Bonaire, and Palau. It’s to protect the reefs and keep the waters pristine!

Guide To Sunscreen Laws In The US Virgin Islands In The Great Wide Travel Lifestyle Blog

What are the Sunscreen Laws in the US Virgin Islands?

At this point, you’re probably saying, “Okay, so what are these chemicals that aren’t allowed to be in my sunscreen?” The answer is something referred to as the Toxic 3 O’s:

  1. Oxybenzone

  2. Octinoxate

  3. Octocrylene

Not all sunscreen laws have been created equally, as Hawaii has only banned oxybenzone and octinoxate, but the US Virgin Islands have banned all three. You’re likely to see some sunscreens labeled as “Reef Safe” or “Reef Friendly” but that does NOT mean they are USVI compliant. You’ll need to check the ingredients label to be 100% certain.

In addition, I also want to point out that we watched an attendant at Magens Bay Beach also tell a couple near us that they had to move away from the beach to use their spray-on sunscreen, like “into the parking lot” away. Although I can’t find any reference to spray-on sunscreens not being allowed in the USVI, I recommend going with a lotion option just in case.

What Sunscreen You Should Use in the US Virgin Islands

To avoid all of the Toxic 3 O’s, the best option is to search for a mineral sunscreen, but even some listed under that name on Amazon still contain 1 of the 3 banned ingredients. However, we found one from Aveeno that worked well for us on our first cruise:

Aveeno Mineral Sunscreen For The US Virgin Islands Laws In The Great Wide Travel Lifestyle Blog

This sunscreen from Aveeno doesn’t contain any of the Toxic 3 O’s, so it is safe to use in the US Virgin Islands, as well as the other places with sunscreen laws listed above. It’s also TSA compliant, so you can keep it in your carry-on bag if you want. Adam and I will likely be taking 2 bottles each for our next cruise in the Caribbean, which is taking us back to St. Thomas. At $12 for 3oz, it’s more expensive than the lotion sunscreen I use every day in Los Angeles, but it’s a small price to pay to keep the Caribbean water as beautiful as it is.

I realized early on in our first cruise that I had not packed enough of the Aveeno sunscreen for both myself and Adam, so we grabbed more sunscreen from a shop at the cruise port in St. Thomas. You can wait to buy your sunscreen there if you want because that will ensure that it’s USVI compliant, but you may end up spending more money that way.

Banana Boat Mineral Sunscreen For The US Virgin Islands Laws In The Great Wide Travel Lifestyle Blog

The sunscreen we ended up buying at the cruise port in St. Thomas was this Banana Boat mineral sunscreen for kids. For whatever reason, the kid sunscreen was less expensive than the regular ones, and we figured that if it’s good enough for a kid’s sensitive skin, it should be good enough for us, so that’s the one we went with.

I can’t find a listing that looks exactly like this bottle on Amazon, but I found this one on Amazon that looks like the same product with an updated label. We paid $15 for one 6oz bottle in St. Thomas, but you can get two 6oz bottles on Amazon for $18. The biggest problem with this one is that it will have to go in checked luggage if you’re flying, but it’s the best deal I’ve found by far.

Mineral sunscreen is a thick lotion, and the higher the SPF, the thicker it gets, so I definitely recommend putting it on in the morning when you get out of the shower before you get dressed instead of waiting until you get to the beach just so it has time to absorb into your skin. I then reapplied some to hot spots like my shoulders and chest once in the afternoon, and we both walked away from our cruise without any sunburns!

For the sake of making it easier on you , here are some more USVI compliant sunscreen options I’ve found but have NOT tried:

Again, we have NOT tried the above sunscreens and cannot speak to their effectiveness, but we like the one we bought from Aveeno for our last cruise and will continue to use it and/or the one from Banana Boat if we’re checking luggage.

I hope all of this information will save you time and headaches when you visit the US Virgin Islands! Happy travels, adventurers!

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Phoebe Meador Travel Writer For In The Great Wide Travel Lifestyle Blog


In The Great Wide Travel Lifestyle Blog Phoebe and Adam at the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh, Scotland

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This is our travel lifestyle blog where we not only share stories from our adventures while traveling the world, but also our thorough research of the places we visit & practical advice on how to save money so you can travel more too!

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