Oxybenzone also known as Benzophenone-3 or BP3 is an organic compound that is actively used in formulation of sunscreens and some makeup foundations with an SPF. It works by absorbing the UV radiation, turn it into heat, and then released from the skin. However, this chemical filter is often associated as endocrine disruptor in human and as photosensitizer.
We all know that sunscreen is an essential, must-have despite any season. Be it summer or winter, or in our case tropical weather all year long, it is always recommended to use sunscreen to protect our skin.
Sunscreen not only protects us against harmful sun radiation, which can cause skin cancer, but it is also essential when it comes to preserving your youthful appearance. You may think, well, if it is not a sunny day, or if it is a gloomy day, there is no use for a sunscreen.
But this couldn’t be more wrong. UV rays are still present and your skin can still be exposed, especially if you are at outdoors. Yes, even during cloudy, rainy days.
Just check out the illustration below between using and not using a sunscreen. It does make a huge difference.
Photo Credit to colorescience.com
The major harm is the potential of not protecting our skin from harmful sunrays, a mentioned earlier, is the risk of getting skin cancer. Just to name a few types of skin cancer — Squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma. Studies have shown that using sun protection can reduce the incidence of squamous cell carcinoma by 40% for over 4 years. This shows how necessary it is to use sunscreen DAILY.
BP3 is a chemical sunscreen that provide a broad spectrum protection against UVA radiation which leads to premature skin damage and aging and UVB rays that cause sunburn. Unlike physical sunscreens, chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the UV radiation, converting it to heat, and releasing it from the skin. Most advices given would encourage consumers to go for a broad-spectrum sunscreens as it can better help in lowering the risk of getting skin cancer.
Yes, board-spectrum sunscreen is indeed better. With that being said, it is important to read the ingredients and know your ingredients. And here, we are highlighting the downside of using sunscreens that contains oxybenzone.
Oxybenzone is commonly used in board-spectrum sunscreen, which means it provides coverage against UVA and UVB. This chemical is used as an ultraviolet coverage, including UVB and short-wave UVA rays. However, it has been linked to causing skin allergies and worst still, it is a potential endocrine disruptor.
Oxybenzone is a UV absorber, in which it absorbs sunray into the second layer of the skin, thus letting some of the chemical to circulate freely throughout the dermis layer and to protect the skin against harmful rays. In spite that it protects your skin against harmful rays, this can contribute to other health issues in the future.
Photo Credit to colorescience.com
According to Environment Working Group (EWG), many sunscreen chemicals are absorbed into the body and can be measured in blood, breast milk, and urine sample. It has been reviewed that oxybenzone is one of the compounds that increased estrogenic effects on Michigan Cancer Foundation (MCF-7) human breast cancer cell lines. Furthermore, studies in animals and cells shows that Oxybenzone can affect reproduction and development system by altering reproductive and thyroid hormones.
Polyxeni Nicolopoilou-Stamati in Sun Lotion Chemicals as Endocrine Disruptors stated that in humans, a reduction of birth weight in girls and an increase in boys may also be associated with maternal exposure to oxybenzone which has also been detected in breast milk. This is due to the bio-accumulative properties of Oxybenzone.
On the contrary, Dr. Jennifer Lin, an assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School and co-director of the Melanoma Risk and Prevention Clinic at Brigham and Women’s Hospital stated that there is no conclusive evidence that mentions that this ingredient is harmful to human as EWG have cited studies done in rats that is directly fed with oxybenzone. Cosmetic Dermatology also agreed that oxybenzone absorbed in the skin is secreted in the urine in trace amount, which for individual over age of 2, these trace amount is considered safe.
To add on, the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP) of the European Commission concluded that oxybenzone in concentration of 1-6 percent (in which typical to sunscreen products) does not pose a significant risk to consumers as a endocrine disruptor. The potential harm that it may cause is contact allergenic potential.
We want to be transparent about the different studies made on whether Oxybenzone is harmful to humans, knowing that this has been an ongoing debate for many. Just by providing information as such, we want to empower consumers to know their ingredients before applying it on your skin.
For our own personal preference, we will always try to avoid using any potentially harmful chemicals that have bio-accumulative properties. This is because with it being bio-accumulative, it may stay in our body for God knows how long. Apart from it being bad to human health, the bio-accumulative properties of oxybenzone also poses as a threat to aquatic life.
To preserve the coral reef and aquatic life, Hawaii Governor David Ige has banned the usage of popular sunscreen containing oxybenzones and octinoxate. The US Virgin Island has also followed in Hawaii footsteps and further include octocrylene in the list as well.
Although the research on effect of oxybenzene on human needs to be further studied on but since early research has already brought on potential harm to the human body, all we can do is to choose using alternative sunscreen that provides the same or greater protection against sun ray. Titanium oxide and Zinc oxide may be a safer ingredient to be included in your personal sunscreen instead of Oxybenzone.
There are definitely alternatives in the market to choose from that is less harmful to the body and the environment. Make sure to check the ingredients and be an informed consumer!