Chemical UV filters

Oxybenzone

Oxybenzone is one of the most dangerous chemical sun filters. Oxybenzone is a derivative of benzophenone, a highly toxic and hazardous substance. Oxybenzone is relatively easy to obtain and cheap, so it is one of the most commonly used chemical UV filters in conventional cosmetics.

Due to its harmfulness, in the EU cosmetic products containing more than 0.5% oxybenzone must be labelled with an appropriate warning. Despite its hazards to human health, oxybenzone is still commonly used in many cosmetics, especially sunscreens, day face creams, anti-wrinkle creams, protective lipsticks, hair care and styling products, as well as deodorants 1.

Oxybenzone causes a number of harmful side effects in the human body, and in higher concentrations may even lead to poisoning. It accumulates in the skin 2, and causes a strong photochemical reaction 3, which can cause eczema, and also increases the number of free radicals 4, which can damage the genetic structure of cells 5 6. OOxybenzone may also damage the skin’s natural protective barrier thus facilitating the penetration of harmful substances 7.

Oxybenzone is also a hormone disruptor which means it can change the functioning of the hormonal system in the human body. Contact with oxybenzone when pregnant often leads to underdevelopment of the foetus 8. It is also associated with decreased fertility in men 9 10 and higher incidence of testicular cancer.


  • 1 Rebecca Sutton, CDC: Americans Carry Body Burden of Toxic Sunscreen Chemical, March 2008, Environmental Working Group’s Science Analysis, http://www.ewg.org/analysis/toxicsunscreen as at 15.03.2010
  • 2 John Tibbets, Shining a Light on BP-3 Sun Exposure Snscreen Chemical Measured in U.S. Population, Environmental Health Perspectives 116 (7), July 2008, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2453187/?tool=pmcentrez as at 15.03.2010
  • 3 Karin U Schallreuter, John M Wood, Dennis W Farwell, Jeremy Moore and Howell G M Edward, Oxybenzone Oxidation Following Solar Irradiation of Skin: Photoprotection versus Antioxidant Inactivation, Journal of Investigative Dermatology (1996) 106, http://www.nature.com/jid/journal/v106/n3/abs/5610617a.html as at 15.03.2010
  • 4 Kerry M. Hanson, Enrico Gratton, Christopher J. Bardeen, Sunscreen enhancement of UV-induced reactive oxygen species in the skin, Free Radical Biology and Medicine, Volume 41, Issue 8, 15 October 2006, http://tinyurl.com/39s7kyu
  • 5 Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database, http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ingredient.php?ingred06=704372 as at 15.03.2010
  • 6 Simon Pitman, EWG campaign highlights study on sunscreen ingredient, 25 March 2008, http://www.cosmeticsdesign-europe.com/Formulation-Science/EWG-campaign-highlights-study-on-sunscreen-ingredient as at 15.03.2010
  • 7 Adam R. Pont, Anna R. Charron, Rhonda M. Brand, Active ingredients in sunscreens act as topical penetration enhancers for the herbicide 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology Volume 195, Issue 3, 15 March 2004
  • 8 Rebecca Sutton, CDC: Americans Carry Body Burden of Toxic Sunscreen Chemical, March 2008, Environmental Working Group’s Science Analysis, http://www.ewg.org/analysis/toxicsunscreen as at 15.03.2010
  • 9 Risheng Ma, Bea Cotton, Walter Lichtensteiger, Margret Schlumpf, UV Filters with Antagonistic Action at Androgen Receptors in the MDA-kb2 Cell Transcriptional-Activation Assay, Toxicological Sciences 74, 43-50 (2003), http://toxsci.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/74/1/43 as at 15.03.2010
  • 10 Janjua NR, Mogensen B, Andersson AM, Petersen JH, Henriksen M, Skakkebaek NE, et al., Systemic absorption of the sunscreens benzophenone-3, octyl-methoxycinnamate, and 3-(4-methyl-benzylidene) camphor after whole-body topical application and reproductive hormone levels in humans, 2004.Journal of Investigative Dermatology 123(1): 57-61.
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