- Competitively priced
- Controversial synthetics
- Poor overall ethical rating
Founded in 1969, Hawaiian Tropic remains one of the oldest and arguably one of the most internationally recognizable of sun care brands. Known for their indulgent fragrance that awakens the senses, Hawaiian Tropic offers a range of protective Sun Lotions, Tanning and Protective Oils, After Suns and even also Lip Care products.
As a popular choice among consumers, Hawaiian Tropic products offer both UVA & UVB protection, the former promoted as protection against ageing, the latter against burning.
Sunscreens may contain one or more of a number of different active compounds to block out the sun’s rays, such as OMC (octyl methoxycinnamate), benzophenone, benzophenone 3 (oxybenzone), titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and talc, all of which should be listed on the packaging. Some chemicals commonly used in sunscreens have been flagged as potential risks (studies carried out on mice have raised concerns about the safety of OMC, for example). But two points should also be noted:
1) it isn’t possible to find a sunscreen with a high SPF that doesn’t use at least one of the chemicals above.
2) While new research is being published all the time, currently the science is unclear about definite hazards or risks.
Oxybenzone is a good example as it has been a particular focus of scientists in recent years, as has Retinal palmitate. Of the two, Oxybenzone seems to have received the most attention as panic stirred about its possible detrimental effects. Concerns include how it possibly interacts with the hormones of the body in sufficiently high doses, as suggested in a 2001 study on rats. But in 2011 further research concluded that one would need to apply excess amounts of oxybenzone constantly for 36 years for there to be the same level of risk found in the rats. Though there are still question marks, such as in the findings of a 2004 study that suggested traces of oxybenzone may be found in urine the day after application, the implication of what this means and the need for further research remains open.
The lesson, in any case, is that it is always best to research and review the body of scientific evidence before reacting to claims about chemicals and their potential effects.
When it comes to Hawaiian Tropic, the brand isn’t the most transparent with regards to the open publication of their ingredient list. They seem to most limit their marketing of ingredients to superficial or simplistic claims about “careful selection” and a dozen or so fruits. So one mostly has to rely on what it says on the bottle.
With that noted, over at The Good Guide we see a very poor overall product rating score 1.7 based on the study of 44 Hawaiian Tropic products. Potential ingredient hazards – or at least controversial synthetics – include Oxybenzone, Phenoxyethanol, Propylene Glycol, Triethanolamine, among others. In addition to this, fragrance ingredients known to be the cause of irritation are included in various formulas.
As noted over at Beautypedia:
Those with sensitive skin take note: Hawaiian Tropic products are extensively fragranced—every sunscreen, body oil, and lip balm we tested contained a potent array of perfumes (including papaya extract, which can be problematic for those with latex allergies). Also worth mentioning is that there are no mineral sunscreen options available from Hawaiian Tropic, so those who are sensitive to synthetic sunscreen actives are out of luck shopping this line.
SPF rating and other practical concerns
Of the sun protection and tanning products reviewed, all had SPF ratings of 15 or higher. However, Hawaiian Tropic also offers a range of products lower than SPF 15. It is quite unanimous that medical boards recommend 15 SPF or more. Problematically, it seems that some of their products lower than SPF 15 still make claims to broad-spectrum sun protection which, as far as we know, is against FDA regulations.
The several Hawaiian Tropic products we surveyed were met with positive reviews by majority of consumers. It is clear that fragrance and consistency are reoccurring themes.
Hawaiian Tropic’s Dark Tanning Oil, for example, has been met with a 4.5/5 (87 reviews) over at MakeupAlley. Likewise, the brand’s SPF30 Silk Hydration Lotion and Silk Hydration After Sun application have 4.5/5 ratings at Amazon. However, two other products reviews – Protective Continuous Spray Oil SPF 30 and the SPF15 Protective Dry Spray Oil – drop half a rating point to 4/5.
Overall, as one of the more popular and market leading brands, the products reviewed seem to be generally highly regarded by consumers. Product quality, fragrance, price, and effectiveness are all notable.
Hawaiian Tropic faced criticism in 2015 after a consumer watchdog found that its Silk Hydration Lotion SPF30 (180ml) offered only around two-thirds of the claimed SPF. Their Satin Protection Sun Lotion SPF30 (200ml) also failed the tests.
It appears that the majority of sun lotions by Hawaiian Tropic reviewed by The Good Shopping Guide come in plastic bottles (usually polyethylene, PE, or high-density polyethylene, HDPE). These can only be recycled where such facilities exist.
In terms of overall company ethics, Hawaiian Tropic does not fare very well for such a popular global brand. Our latest independent and comprehensive research report revealed several areas of concern.
With a mediocre environmental report, Hawaiian Tropic is given bottom marks for animal welfare. It also scores in the red for organic, while concerns have been noted with regards to the company’s public record criticisms.
Overall, Hawaiian Tropic was given a score of 54 on the ethical index, ranking far below other internationally recognized sun care brands.
For more information, see our latest ethical comparison rankings for Sun Protection brands.
* To obtain a census view of and average product score for a number of Hawaiian Tropic products surveyed in this article, we assessed a spread of several popular and authoritative productive reviews published in MakeupAlley and Amazon.