Skincare Glossary: Oxybenzone

Oxybenzone is also known by trade names Milestab 9, Eusolex 4360, Escalol 567, and Kahscreen BZ-3. Oxybenzone is a benzophenone which means that is can be used to help to block UV rays from damaging photos and protect them from losing ink clarity. Benzophenones are also used in plastics to help with the same purpose. Being an organic compound and a solid that is white in color Oxybenzone is soluble in organic solutions.

Oxybenzone is most known for its use in sunscreen. It is able to absorb both short-wave UVA and UVB rays as an active ingredient in sunscreen. It is also used in hairspray, cosmetics and plastics for its ability to absorb ultraviolet light. Oxybenzone is also used as a photo stabilizer in nail polish. Oxybenzone is used as a photo-initiator and a photo-stabilizer. Synthetic resins require the use of oxybenzone as a photo-stabilizer. It protects color in photos over a wide span peaking at 350 nm. These resins can be used in plastics and create a long lasting color product.

Most oxybenzone is used by applying it topically to the skin. The skin then absorbs the lotion or solution. Once the skin has absorbed oxybenzone it is important to know that scientists have discovered that of the known UV filters oxybenzone is the least lipophilic. This means that it does not dissolve well once it is in the human body. Urine tests reveal that oxybenzone stays in the human system much longer than other substances. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention claim that around 97% of all Americans have some in there system because it takes so long to get rid of.

It is also known to contribute to coral bleaching and die off at the reefs. It is believed that 4,000 to 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen rinses off of beach goers every year. Oxybenzone is one of the four compounds that are blamed for the coral bleaching. Oxybenzone has a negative effect on zooxanthellae which is the component in algae that makes for its vibrant coloring. When coral is bleached it is no longer living.

A quarter of the people exposed to oxybenzone with photoallergic reactions had a negative reaction to the use of oxybenzone. The allergic reaction mimics eczema and lasts longer than your time in the sun. Treatments are avoidance and topical corticosteroids.

The Environmental Working Group has rated oxybenzone as an 8 on their 1 to 10 hazard scale. They list all of the products that contain oxybenzone and assign those products a safety rating.

Due to these findings, the use of oxybenzone is controversial and many think that it should be removed from the products that we use. The FDA approves the use of oxybenzone as long as it does not exceed 6% of the product and any product that has over 0.5% must have a label that states “contains Oxybenzone” in the European Union. Sweeden has banned the use of oxybenzone completely. Don’t mark oxybenzone as a do not use substance just yet. It is also one of the only agent known to work as effectively as it does against UV rays which are a cause for skin cancer. It was rumored as a hormone disruptor but the scientific proof does not substantiate this claim.

Popular products that contain oxybenzone are lipstick, moisturisers, lotions, hairspray, foundation, lip balm, and sunscreen. Popular brands that contain oxybenzone are L’Oreal Paris, Sally Hansen, Physicians Formula, Alba, All Terrain, Rituals, SolBar AVO, Panama Jack, and generic brands. It is important to check the labels of any products that you may be using to see if they contain oxybenzone. Carefully review the ingredients and know the side effects and allergies prior to using a product on yourself or a family member.

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