Many ingredients are long time standards of sunscreen formulations until one day an undesirable side effect emerges, an ethical concern arises or a more natural alternative is found. Whatever the reason, many companies will take heed and move away from it immediately, while others will remain stuck in their ways. And yet other companies may have the fore thought to not include the ingredient if more desirable options are available from the outset.
Oxybenzone is one such long standing ingredient that has come under some concern in recent years. Oxybenzone is a penetration enhancer and ultra violet light absorber1 that is linked to eczema-like allergic reactions and other more worrisome side effects.
In some studies, oxybenzone has been linked to the disruption of hormones, which can throw off your endocrine system, which is particularly worrisome because it can accumulate in our bodies more quickly than we can rid ourselves of it.
According to a 2008 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, oxybenzone can be found in the bodies of 97% of Americans. And according to the Environmental Working Group “Prolonged exposure has been shown to produce excessive reactive oxygen species that can interfere with cellular signaling, cause mutations, lead to cell death and may be implicated in cardiovascular disease.”2
With all that said oxybenzone hasn’t been conclusively linked to the more serious health concerns in the studies mentioned. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also noted that the effects from low environmental doses are, at this time, unknown.
Further research and study may yield other concerns or alleviate concerns. Only time can tell.
But as an article in Science-Based Medicine states “the myriad of alternatives available”3 allow the concerned consumer to avoid oxybenzone while still “finding products that provide good UV protection”4.
For these reasons and more, oxybenzone has been less and less used by those in the sunscreen world. References listed below are filled with more info on this particular ingredient as well as other ingredients you may be curious about.
1 Pub Chem: Open Chemistry Database, pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
2 Environmental Working Group: EWG’s Skin Deep ewg.org*
*Hanson KM, Gratton E, Bardeen CJ 2006. Sunscreen enhancement of UV-induced reactive oxygen species in the skin. Free Radic Biol Med 41(8):1205-1212
3,4 Science-Based Medicine, The Great Sunscreen Cover-up, Scott Gavura June 10, 2010 sciencebasedmedicine.org