Avoid sunscreens containing Oxybenzone


One of the key reasons I’m uncomfortable with using chemical sunscreens is because studies at all levels have proven that chemical sunscreens penetrate the skin, get into the bloodstream and are harmful to the body.  As a matter of fact, a widely-used sunscreen ingredient called Oxybenzone, also known as Benzophenone-3, has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage with a new study recently published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to back it up.

According to this analysis from Environmental Working Group (EWG), findings of the CDC study indicate that Oxybenzone reacts negatively with sun exposure and have negative impacts on our bodies such as: 

– triggering possible allergic reactions by sun exposure.
– forming free radical chemicals that may be linked to cell damage.
– disrupting the hormone system.
– absorbing through the skin in significant amounts.
– accumulating in the fatty tissues in the body for many days. 
– helping other chemicals penetrate the skin.

A companion study released a day earlier also revealed that mothers with high levels of Oxybenzone in their bodies were more likely to give birth to underweight baby girls.  And what’s also alarming is on top of the many sunscreen products in the market that contain this harmful ingredient, companies also use the toxic chemical in other personal care products, including lip balm, lipstick, moisturizers and fragrance for women.

I know many have criticized EWG as a scaremonger, but I’m in support of their stance especially since they’ve always back their analysis with studies as in this case.  Moreover, just think about the amount of sunscreen you have to slap on just to get adequate protection and think about how much toxins you’re subjecting yourselves to in the longer term if yours contain Oxybenzone.   

So gals, let’s do ourselves a favor.  Read the ingredient list of your sunscreens and for the matter, all your personal skincare products and look out for Oxybenzone to avoid.  Afterall, we do have plenty of safer choices. 

For a safe list of sunscreens, look up Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database.


  1. Eveline says:

    An alternative view: http://www.cosmeticscop.com/bulletin/103008-full.htm

    Eveline: Thanks for the link. I’ve read Paula’s views before but I don’t really agree on some of them though.

  2. David says:

    I agree with Paula Begoun, also I dont agree so much with avoiding avobenzone+physical filter. There inst enough independent proofs

    David: Well, I think it’s a personal choice. There are so many ingredients to protect ourselves against UV damage and I don’t see why I need to use something that has bad press. But to someone else with high threshold for risk, then they wouldn’t mind since like you said, it is not definitive.

  3. Kira says:

    I have just purchased a product containing oxybenzone to help with thread viens and un even skin. It is for you legs but I’ve have been putting it on my face? Is this wrong? Should I stop altogether?
    Not feeling too good now ?

  4. sesame says:

    It is not wrong; just that you want to be more aware of what is said about the ingredient. Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid everything so it also depends on your threshold. I suggest you go through some of the sources I’ve cited in my entry and if you don’t feel good, then just keep the product on your legs.

  5. Robin says:

    Just found your site while I was doing some research on the toxic chemicals in sunscreens. This blog is great! You have some really useful information. I personally do not use commercial sunscreens and have not used them for years. I use Badger natural sunscreen or UV Naturals (no chemicals!.)

  6. sesame says:

    I’ve tried Badger and am using UV Natural currently. Both are great but their texture is too much for my face so I use UV Natural for my body. Badger leaves a whitecast for me so am not using it.

  7. DLYNN says:

    Avon is using Oxybenzone in their Anew lipcolor line. I find it amusing — and alarming — that they are adding it to a lipstick promoted to reduce wrinkling and to create more youthful lips. This ingredient may block the sun’s rays, but what is the use when it allows free radicals to enter the body, which are largely to blame for signs of aging to begin with? Talk about irony…

  8. sue jones says:

    I have noticed that products containing oxybenzone have given me an allergic reaction. I also noted that it was made worse by sunlight.

  9. sesame says:

    Your skin might be sensitive. You might want to switch to mineral/physical sunscreen.

  10. Naz says:

    so what’s a good one that won’t break me the hell out. What’s the point of wearing anything at all if one gives you wrinkles or the other gives you zits?

  11. sesame says:

    It depends on your skin type. Check out my current post on some the best sunscreens rated by EWG. Maybe you’ll find something there for your skin type.

  12. Margaret (Nottingham UK) says:

    In December 2009 whilst on holiday in San Diego USA I had to visit the Hospital Emergency Unit due to a severe rash all over my arms chest & legs,it was so itchey I could have ripped my skin off & this was day 7 from the onset. Whilst on a cruise I visited the ship doctor and he said the top half looked like heat rash but my legs had different spots that looked like targets (purple & orange circle with red spot in the middle). I was in an awful state by the time I went to the hospital, the tops of my arms looked like a thousand mozzie bites and the heat from them …Phew !!! I had also started to get blisters too which really frightened me(It felt like my body was attacking the fatty area’s the most) And I didn’t know why !! but I was convinced it all started after my day trip out on the island of Hilo in Hawaii & I stood in the vapour from a volcano or was it from something I’d been eating. Anyway the doctor in the hospital was puzzeled too and put it down to allergic reaction & gave me a course of high dose steroid tablets.
    That was the 8th Dec 2009 I returned home on the 19th after our month away but the rash was better but not quite gone so went to my GP and she referred me to an allergy clinic and they said it sounded like Urticaria (which is stress related) so been taking Cetirizine since January 2010. But in March was on holiday again this time Portugal and the same rash flared up on my arms and chest again…..and now i know what caused it……PizBuin 1Day Long Lotion. I had completely forgot about using this because we alway use NIVIA and this 1day Long Lotion was purchased just before the USA holiday & been left in the suitcase for the next holiday so it just never entered my head ….and Guess what it contains…OXYBENZONE
    It goes without saying I now always check now for this dreaded ingredient.

  13. Andi says:

    When I was 13 I had chapped lips and used Blistex, but it didn’t get better. Went to the dr and he said to stop using it, I was allergic to it. Never really bothered to figure out just what I was allergic too, but then when I was 16, I flew to Florida for vacation with a friend and her family from VT. I slathered on the generatic CVS sunscreen and went sunbathing. Next I knew I was in the hospital getting a steriod shot and spent the rest of the vacation in long pants/shirts and meds. I had broken out so much I had hives and couldn’t stop scratching. The dr said I was allergic to Oxybenzone. That was in 1986. I’ve had a very hard time over the years finding sunscreen to use, so I would try to not be in the sun if I could avoid it. Hawaiian Tropics for a few years listed Oxybenzone Free, but then stopped making it. I now use Blue Lizard Sensitive, recommended from my dermatologist, but it is very hard to find in the stores. So now I am looking for other sources and your article is great. Thanks for the info.

  14. sesame says:

    That sounds really bad. So Blue Lizard Sensitive works for you now? I’ve been looking at that brand for awhile but we don’t have it here. Have to get it online if I really want it.

    I guess physical sunblock or mineral sunscreen containing zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide might suit you better.

  15. Tracy says:

    My kids are having reactions to sunblock…many varieties. I know that Arbonne works without rashes I am going to have to check out the many brands I have and see if that is in all of them. It’s alarming what I am learning!

  16. Sarah Smallwood says:

    I have been looking into why I have suddenly developed a mild case of perioral dermatitis and when looking into what causes it cosmetics and creams were cited as possible triggers. I had bought Benefits You Rebel tinted moisturiser a short while before the dermatitis developed and it had a warning on contains Oxybenzone. I have today decided to look up Oxybenzone and can honestly say I think it is the cause of my skin rash. That alone is enought for me to stop using the product. I have also long held the belief that sunscreens could be in part responsible for the increased incidence of Malignant Melanoma.

  17. Andi says:

    What about nanoparticles or nanomaterial that could be found in zinc oxide???

  18. Bel says:

    Hi Andi, just wondered why you think that zinc in particular might contain nanoparticles? Zinc oxide is an ingredient in a very well-known nappy rash cream (used on millions of babies for years & years!)

    It’s also an ingredient of the old-fashioned calamine lotion which was used on me as a child for sunburn. According to netdoctor.co.uk: “… the active ingredient zinc oxide, which has antiseptic properties”. They only advise avoiding use if allergic to this ingredient.

  19. Hyspin says:

    Nano particles are used to make the zinc oxide less pasty white. But unfortunately has been linked to have carcinogenic qualities to the skin. What the point of using a sunscreen that cause the one thing its supposed to help prevent (besides aging of course)

  20. H MacMurchy says:

    Any product containing Benzophenone or any derivitive can give you an allergic reaction. I was just diagnosed with this. What are we to use for a good sun-screen without these products or a good skin moisturizer?

  21. sesame says:

    Have you tried using something more natural and only containing zinc oxide or zinc oxide & titanium dioxide? They seem to work better for those with allergies to chemical sunscreen.

  22. Sandra says:

    Thanks for the useful info. I for one am not willing to risk using something that has ingredients with potentially dangerous effects.

  23. liz hawthorn says:

    Just found this website. Took me 15 years to discover that the rash which drove me into hysterical scratching every summer was caused by oxybenzone in my suntan cream. This began in 1969, long before suncreams showed their ingredients, 1983 when I found a cream that didn’t affect me and another two years of trying numerous creams before I found the culprit!

  24. sesame says:

    It can be quite difficult to pick out the culprit but I’m glad you did!

  25. Jyoti says:

    Hi there, I have the same allergy. Only mine is what is called a Balsam of Peru allergy (so any ingredients related to PABA,Oxy/Avo benzones,etc).In any case I have used Ombrelle by L’Oreal for many years safely until today. I bought one recently without checking if they changed their ingredients. To my horror they not only added one but to of my allergens without putting a warning in the labelling for change in product. Lets just say I am lucky to be alive. I have now come to realize that I always have to check n not count on a specific brand. N just so everyone knows Oxybenzone is in almost all MAC cosmetic products (another thing I found out the hard way), they only have a handful of products that don’t have it-be aware of cosmetics! I don’t understand why these companies need to use it in eyeshadows n blushes?! N U have to ask for their seperate ingredients list cause its not listed on their products, beware!!!

  26. David S says:

    The other disastrous chemical is its sodium benzoate. This has been disastrous for me as it has burned a fair proportion of my body. The reaction caused by Sorbolene is between the chemical sodium benzoate and Vitamin C. My skin was burned with well over 100 welts which turned into blisters which then became scabbed blisters which gradually over about ten days. BUT it has caused sever nerve damage which according to the medics is a long term recovery.
    On top of all of this the pain has been excruciating, and at times pure agony. The only softening I could find successful was a very large glass of whisky; no medication did anything. I am only three days out of the agony period probably because the drug Lyrica has kicked in. I am now in the 37 of this problem and am truly very very miserable to have been such a victim of a commonly used product.
    Any comments would be welcome.

    David S

  27. Libor says:

    I think that the nanoparticles these creams are titanium oxide, which should be completely harmless. Iam a big fan of nanotechnology and different nanomaterials (for example). On the other hand there should be some caution when dealing with these. Wonder what it can do to your body on a long time schedule.

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