The Toxic Dangers of Oxybenzone in Sunscreens

Posted by admin | Natural Sunscreen | Monday 20 September 2010 7:33 pm
There has been many articles written in this blog regarding the concerns of chemical UV absorbers used in sunscreen. But with summer approaching, I’ve recently been getting a constant stream of questions regarding a particular UV absorber ingredient used and concerns regarding the dangers it poses to one’s health.

The toxic ingredient in question is ‘oxybenzone‘. Oxybenzone’s function works as a UV absorber, ‘filtering’ ultra violet light on the surface of the skin by converting it from light to heat. The problem with this ingredient is the harmful free radical it produces during the (UV absorption) process. If light is converted to heat in the basal layers of the skin, damage to growing cells is very likely.

the toxic dangers of oxybenzone in sunscreens The Toxic Dangers of Oxybenzone in Sunscreens

organic skin care products The Toxic Dangers of Oxybenzone in Sunscreens

Oxybenzone is a chemical used in many sun products with high Sun Protection Factors (SPF). Another common chemical to also stay away from is benzophenone. Heavily used chemical sunscreens containing these two ingredients may actually increase cancers by virtue of their free radical generating properties. An other side effect that some people (especially kids) experience when using a UV absorber sunscreen is an uncontrollable rash. Oxybenzone is a photoallergen. This means that when this ingredient becomes an allergen when exposed to sunlight. STOP USE IMMEDIATELY IF A RASH DEVELOPS AFTER APPLICATION.

In a laboratory experiment with oxybenzone and benzophenone this is what happens (this may shock some readers)

Oxybenzone and benzophenone are sometimes used to start free radical reactions during chemical synthesis. These chemicals are the dangerous types that one carefully keeps away from the skin while working in a laboratory. To use them, you mix them into a combination of other chemicals, then flash the mixture with an ultraviolet light. The ultraviolet absorbing chemicals then generate copious amounts of free radicals that initiated the desired chemical reactions.

One of the safest tried and tested methods is to use zinc oxide as a ‘reflecting’ coating to the skin. Zinc oxide is a UV blocker which reflects the sun’s harmful UV rays. In the long run turn out to be much safer than “absorbing” lotions containing PABA and/or oxybenzone or benzophenone. Sunscreens containing Zinc oxide includes the award winning Soleo Organics Sunscreen and John Masters Organic Sunscreen.

Here are some disturbing reports with oxybenzone and benzophenone exposure.
1) It inactivates important antioxidant systems in the skin (J Invest Dermatol 1996 Mar 106(3):583-6
2) It can be measured in urine after topical application in sunscreen (The Lancet, Volume 350, Number 9081, 20 Sep 1997)
3) 76 – 80mg per hour absorbed of the chemical through skin surface. (Pharmaceutical Research, Vol. 12, No 9, 1995)
4) Found 96.8% of people is contaminated with this chemical (US Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
5) Recovered in urine as unchanged oxybenzone and metabloites after topical application of commercially available SPF 15+ sunscreen to nine human volunteers. (The Lancet, Volume 350, Numebr 9081, 20 Sep 1997)

Scientific studies with regards to the effects of long term use of chemical UV absorbing sunscreen is still inconclusive. I cannot tell you to stop using it if it is working for you. But common sense tells us that if you get an allergic reaction to any substance/ingredient, you stop the product straight away.

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