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Toxic Chemical Glossary:
What is Oxybenzone: Chemical Free Living

What is oxybenzone?

Oxybenzone is a common ingredient found in 70% of all sunscreens and personal care products. It is an ultraviolet light absorber and filter [1][2][5]. This ingredient is also a penetration enhancer that helps other ingredients penetrate the skin more readily [4].

What products is oxybenzone in?

Oxybenzone is in hundreds of personal care products like facial moisturizers, lip balm, lipstick, anti-aging creams, hair conditioners, and fragrances, it is most commonly found in sunscreen [1][4]

How to tell if a product has oxybenzone

Look for the following synonyms on ingredient labels to alert you to the presence of oxybenzone:

(2-Hydroxy-4-methoxyphenyl)phenylmethanone; 2-Hydroxy-4-methoxybenzophenone; Benzophenone-3; Methanone, (2-hydroxy-4-methoxyphenyl)phenyl-; Oxybenzone; Benzophenone, 2-hydroxy-4-methoxy-, BP-3;  Phenyl- Methanone; (2-hydroxy -4-methoxyphenyl) phenylmethanone; 2-benzoyl-5-methoxyphenol; 2-hydroxy-4-methoxybenzophenone; 4-methoxy-2-hydroxybenzophenone; advastab 45; anuvex; b3 [4, 5, 6].

Risks associated with oxybenzone

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends that consumers avoid products that contain oxybenzone [1]. Oxybenzone has been linked with endocrine and hormone disruption as well as organ system toxicity and a variety of other health concerns. This ingredient is well-absorbed through the skin and has been cited by the CDC as a health concern [3][5]. Health issues related to exposure to oxybenzone include the following:

  • Photoallergic reactions[1][5]
  • Contact dermatitis [4]
  • Hormone disruption [1][2][5]
  • Cellular damage [4]
  • Low birth weight in baby girls whose mothers were exposed during pregnancy [4]

How to avoid oxybenzone

Avoid oxybenzone by reading ingredient labels. Be sure to avoid products that contain oxybenzone as well as oxybenzone synonyms (see above for a list of other oxybenzone ingredient names). Avoid sunburns by wearing protective clothing or using an umbrella [2]. Use mineral-based, toxic chemical free sunscreens whenever possible rather than chemical ones.  In personal care products, do your own research on a product’s ingredients by using a resource such as the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep product database.

References:

[1] EWG (2007-2016). The Trouble with Oxybenzone and Other Sunscreen Chemicals. Available online: http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/the-trouble-with-sunscreen-chemicals/ December 20, 2016.

[2] Healthy Child Healthy World (2016). Worst Scoring Sunscreens for Kids. http://www.healthychild.org/worst-scoring-sunscreens-for-kids/ December 20, 2016.

[3] Healthy Child Healthy World (2016). Practice Safer Sunscreening. Available online: http://www.healthychild.org/easy-steps/practice-safer-sunscreening/ December 20, 2016.

[4] EWG (2016). CDC: Americans Carry Body Burden of Toxic Sunscreen Chemical. Available online: http://www.ewg.org/news/testimony-official-correspondence/cdc-americans-carry-body-burden-toxic-sunscreen-chemical December 20, 2016.

[5] EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database (2007-2016). Oxybenzone. Available online: https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/704372/OXYBENZONE/ December 20, 2016.

[6] US Department of Health & Human Services Household Products Databases. Available online: https://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/brands?tbl=chem&id=198&query=oxybenzone++&searchas=TblChemicalsJanuary 23, 2107.

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