Strengths: Almost all of the sunscreens provide broad-spectrum protection; inexpensive; above-average self-tanner and lip balm with sunscreen.
Weaknesses: Many products have SPF ratings of 15 or less, which medical boards around the world have demonstrated is a problem for the skin; products that encourage tanning, which research has shown causes premature aging and, potentially, cancer; every formula we tested contains multiple fragrance ingredients known to be irritating.
Founded in 1969, Hawaiian Tropic remains one of the oldest brands in the sun-care aisle at the drugstore, and it seems they’re short on innovation. Overwhelmingly, this tropical-themed brand lacks the advancements in sunscreen formulas that other drugstore options (including product lines like Neutrogena and Coppertone) have long ago adopted.
Even more mind numbing is the number of sunscreens Hawaiian Tropic sells with an SPF 15 or less. At the time of this review, some of their SPF 14 (and even lower-rated) sunscreens still claim to provide broad-spectrum sun protection. This is a significant step outside of regulations, as the FDA no longer allows sunscreen products to be marketed as broad-spectrum sunscreens if they have an SPF rating of less than 15; some countries have even higher mandatory SPF rating regulations.
In the United States, when a brand chooses to sell a sunscreen with an SPF rating of less than 15, they are required to display the following warning as part of their Drug Fact Labeling:
Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. This product has been shown only to prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.
At the time of this review, none of the Hawaiian Tropic sunscreens we tested (with ratings of less than SPF 15) bore this required label. As disappointing as it is for us to see such products still on the market, they are relatively easy to avoid by sticking to those we recommend in the Best Sunscreens (including Kids) section of Beautypedia.
Adding to the pain in our brain about this line, Hawaiian Tropic is one of the few brands that still sells tanning oils and creams; in other words, they’re selling products that actually encourage unprotected sun exposure to get a deeper tan. You might as well hand someone a cigarette at the same time—it is that bad for your skin (and your health) to tan.
They even sell "after-sun" products, which might confuse consumers if they believe any of these after-sun options can reverse or counter the sun damage. Obviously, Hawaiian Tropic knows the sun is damaging; otherwise, why would they sell products to counter the damage? In truth, the research is clear: If the skin is tan after exposure to the sun, there is harm to skin cells (and your DNA), and it’s immediate. Such damage can be partially repaired, but only to a certain extent, and only over time—and your skin has a long memory (in terms of damage) from each time it was exposed to damaging UV light, whether the sun was shining or not.
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.
Ultimately, the Hawaiian Tropic brand is no vacation for your skin. They offer some reliable, affordable options, but sun-care products from neighboring brands on the drugstore shelves are more desirable—in more ways than one!
For more information about Hawaiian Tropic, visit www.hawaiiantropic.com .