Potentially Dangerous Sunscreen: Oxybenzone

Potentially Dangerous Sunscreen: Oxybenzone

Most people these days know the importance of using sunscreen, the most significant benefit being avoiding the risk of skin cancer. The increase in sunscreen use led manufacturers to develop formulas that don't leave a white cast, unlike past versions.

Unfortunately, some of these products have potentially harmful effects on the skin. One of the most common types of such chemical sunscreens is oxybenzone.

What is oxybenzone?

Also called "benzophenone-3" or "BP-3", oxybenzone is an organic compound included in sunscreens because it absorbs UVB and UVA rays. Apart from regular lotion sunscreens, you'll also find this ingredient in makeup foundations with an SPF. It easily dissolves into creams and lotions; therefore, the product disappears on your face and protects you from the sun.

Other products that contain oxybenzone include lipstick, anti-aging creams, lip balms, fragrances, conditioners, and moisturizers. 

What are the concerns?

This ingredient poses three potential harmful effects:


A study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that most of the population in the U.S. experiences exposure to oxybenzone. Researchers analyzed urine samples from over 2,500 people and found BP-3 in over 96 percent of them. They concluded that exposure was prevalent in the general population between 2003 and 2004. Also, females were more likely to have concentrations above 95 % than males, due to differences in the use of personal care products.


Some lab studies show that after oxybenzone penetrates the skin, it increases the production of DNA-damaging free radicals when exposed to light. This evidence suggests it may have the potential to stimulate changes in the skin that could cause cancer. These are preliminary studies, and there's room for more research, but the results are worrying nonetheless.


Studies done on animals indicate that oxybenzone may interfere with the hormone system. It particularly weakens the functions of estrogen.


Should we be worried?

Sunscreen is an essential product to have for your skin's health. The concern now is which type to use. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel confirmed that oxybenzone was safe for use in cosmetic products, and the American Academy of Dermatology still recommends sunscreens with this ingredient. The Skin Care Foundation notes that research on oxybenzone is limited, so there's not enough evidence to classify it as dangerous.

Should we keep using this sunscreen until more studies prove its dangerous effects?

We don't recommend you going in that direction. There are various safer options available, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. What's more, you can find these ingredients in products that don't leave a white cast. 

Read the product labels carefully and avoid oxybenzone. For added protection, use umbrellas, wear hats, stay out of the sun during the hottest hours of the day, and reapply your sunscreen every few hours or after sweating.

With love,

​The Sole Toscana Beauty Team

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