In recent years, we have come to understand the importance of sunscreen. When in the 90s, sunbathing was in, these days, people opt for a fake tan over sun exposure. At best, sun exposure can cause premature aging, skin dryness, and sunburn. However, at worst, extreme sun exposure can lead to skin diseases and cancer. This is why sunscreens are now taken very seriously.
One of the most common ingredients in commercial sunscreens is oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is quite a controversial ingredient because many people claim that it’s dangerous. On the other hand, it’s FDA-approved, so what’s the harm? Below we discuss these two sides along with a few alternatives to sunscreens with oxybenzone.
What Is Oxybenzone?
Oxybenzone is a chemical that looks like colorless crystals when viewed under a microscope. These highly soluble crystals absorb UV light and prevent it from reaching the skin. It’s a popular ingredient in sunscreens because of its high Sun Protection Factor. It was once touted as one of the best sunscreen ingredients because of how well it blocks out UV light. However, recent studies have shown less favorable results.
Why You Should Be Wary of Sunscreens with Oxybenzone
According to a journal article from The Lancet, oxybenzone has a low acute toxicity effect in animal studies. As mentioned earlier, oxybenzone is incredibly soluble. It’s so soluble that it’s easily absorbed into the human body. In the same study however, it’s noted that as easily as oxybenzone may be absorbed into the body, it’s also easily excreted through urine.
Aside from potential dangers to the human body, oxybenzone is also said to have environmental effects according to this review in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. The review states that oxybenzone can contribute to bleaching the coral reefs. This is said to happen when people who use sunscreens with oxybenzone go into the water and the substance makes its way to the coral reefs.
On the other hand, in this critical review of oxybenzone, the researchers cite a study where female rats were given extreme doses of the substance. The oxybenzone affected the rats’ hormones in such a way that the rats’ uterine weight increased. However, to replicate the same effect on humans, a person would need to apply 2 mg/cm2 to their entire body every day for 35 years. They also found that applying sunscreens with 10% oxybenzone had no effect on human hormone levels.
While we still need further research on oxybenzone, you need to ask if the pros outweigh the cons. Sun exposure can cause numerous harmful effects on the skin, and using sunscreens with oxybenzone is one of the most effective ways to reduce the damage. However, considering the possible effects of this substance, it may be best to opt for alternative forms of sunscreen.
5 Alternatives to Sunscreen with Oxybenzone
While all the popular sunscreen brands have oxybenzone, there are several alternatives that are just as effective. Mineral sunscreen works as well as oxybenzone when it comes to protecting the skin. However, it has none of the potential harmful effects. Unlike chemical sunscreens like oxybenzone, mineral sunscreens use ingredients that the skin doesn’t absorb. Instead, it sits on top of the skin to deflect the sun’s rays. Examples of mineral sunscreens are zinc oxide and titanium oxide, which the following products contain:
Garnier Ambre Solaire Sensitive Advanced SPF 50+
Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50
SkinCeuticals Protect Mineral Radiance UV Defence SPF 50
Clinique Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Fluid for Face
EltaMD Pure Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 47
If you’re concerned about the effect of oxybenzone, you may want to use these alternatives.