The sunscreens we wear to protect our skin at the beach may have damaging unintended consequences for coral reefs. In Hawaii, reef bleaching that some attribute to the UV-absorbing chemical oxybenzone has grown so severe that the state’s government recently debated legislative solutions, including banning the chemical and requiring sunscreens that contain it to include warning labels.
In the meantime, Kiki Pu Chung ’04 is offering Hawaiians and visitors to the islands a natural alternative.
Hawaii Medicinal, the company she co-founded with partner Timothy Clark, sells chemical-free, plant-based medicinal products that Chung makes by hand, including a reef-safe sunblock containing a native Hawaiian leaf, naupaka, that she forages for on the beaches of Oahu (it also contains mineral sun-blocking agents such as zinc).
The sunblock and other Hawaii Medicinal products, which also include skin serums, salves and CBD (hemp) oils, are packaged without plastics and sold at health-food stores and farmers’ markets around Hawaii as well as online and in select locations on the U.S. mainland. True to the company’s name, all ingredients are organic and sourced from Hawaii, with most grown or collected by Chung herself.
Chung, who moved to Hawaii shortly after graduating from Bucknell, says she became interested in herbal healing through a mentor in Hawaii and inherited the recipes used in many of her company’s products following the mentor’s death. Her study of cultural anthropology at Bucknell also piqued her interest in “the wisdom of older tribal cultures that are closer to the Earth,” she says.
“We need the Earth to be alive and vibrant for ourselves and future generations, and it’s important for us to do small things that we’re passionate about to help the world. This is our small thing.”