Oxybenzone, or benzonephenone-3, is one of the most common chemical filters found in commercial chemical sunscreens. It forms colorless crystals that are readily soluble, and provides UV coverage. While the primary function of oxybenzone is to absorb UV light, research has shown that it is also absorbed by the skin and stays in our bodies for an unknown amount of time. Oxybenzone is also used in nail polish, fragrances, hair spray, and cosmetics as a photostabilizer.
According to the EWG, oxybenzone is found in 80 percent of chemical sunscreens. The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has detected oxybenzone in more than 96 percent of the U.S. population, with higher concentrations found during the summer months.
Why should we be concerned?
Oxybenzone is clearly a prolific ingredient, and it is worthwhile to look into the potential dangers of something that finds its way in to the majority of people’s bodies. The EWG has rated oxybenzone an 8 on their toxicity rating scale, meaning it is one of the most toxic ingredients found in cosmetic products. The EWG and other toxicology experts are concerned about the compound because it has been linked to hormone disruption and has the potential to damage cells that may lead to skin cancer.
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as oxybenzone may mimic hormones, cause endometriosis and can pose a risk to reproductive systems. Oxybenzone has been increasingly linked to early puberty in girls, low sperm count and male infertility, and an increase in hormone-related cancers in men and women. Most shocking, it has been stated that oxybenzone is even more strongly estrogenic than BPA according to says researcher Kurunthachalam Kannan, PhD, a professor of public health and environmental health sciences with the New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center in Albany (WebMD). Oxybenzone is also one of the biggest offenders of allergic skin reactions, and was named “Allergen of the Year” by the American Contact Dermatitis Society in 2014.
What can we do?
Despite studies and concern among the EWG and other experts, oxybenzone remains FDA approved and is still widely used in chemical sunscreens and other cosmetics. But there is some good news. CVS, one of the nation’s largest drugstore chains, announced in 2019, it would be phasing out two common sunscreen ingredients, oxybenzone and octinoxate, from many of its store-brand sun-protection products. CVS cited the changing needs of its customers, concern for marine ecosystems and the desire to stay ahead of state-level chemical bans. Additionally, Hawaii became the first state in the nation to ban the sale of over-the-counter sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate (our Founder, Nova Covington and Goddess Garden had a part in getting this legislation passed in Hawaii), with other states looking to potentially follow in their footsteps. The law went into effect on January 1, 2021, with the goal of preserving Hawaii’s marine ecosystems.
While the jury is still out on how drastic the effect of oxybenzone can have on your body, for those who want to remain on the safe side, rest easy knowing that there are healthy and effective sunscreen options out there. When making your sunscreen decision, choose mineral sunscreen which contain sunscreen agents that sit on top of your skin rather than soaking into your body. Goddess Garden contains gentle ingredients that won’t disturb even the most sensitive skin.
Oxybenzone is listed as the active ingredient on the labels of chemical sunscreens that contain it, so it’s easy to know if it is in your sunscreen.