Oxybenzone is one of the most commonly-used sunscreen chemicals. This ingredient, sometimes called benzophenone-3, is not to be confused with benzophenone, another sunscreen ingredient.
Oxybenzone is also sometimes found in perfumes – not to protect the wearer from the sun, but to protect the fragrance formulation itself while it sits on the store shelf or your bathroom vanity.
The Health Concern
Oxybenzone is linked to endocrine disruption, which is chemical interference with normal hormone function. It is linked to organ system toxicity, contact allergies, and photoallergies (meaning exposure to light is required to generate an allergic response).
Oxybenzone is harmful to aquatic life, especially coral reefs. The chemical is so harmful that in 2018, Hawaii banned it to protect coral reefs, which are important for the immense biodiversity they support, as well as for the livelihoods of fishermen and economies dependent on tourism. Coral reefs also protect coastlines from storms and erosion, and they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
How to Avoid It
- Read labels and avoid oxybenzone and benzophenone-3 on sunscreen and personal care labels.
- Choose sunscreens that use non-nanomaterial titanium dioxide or non-nanomaterial zinc oxide as the active ingredients. These mineral UV filters are the two safest sunscreen active ingredients for people and the planet.
- Avoid perfumes and products with undisclosed fragrance ingredients. You can spot this when a product label simply lists “fragrance” or “eau de toilette.” Without disclosure, it’s impossible to know if the fragrance contains oxybenzone.
- Shop for MADE SAFE certified sunscreen and personal care products, which do not allow the use of oxybenzone, as well as numerous other substances known or suspected to be harmful to people or the environment.
- For more information on shopping for sunscreen, check out our fact sheet: Safe Sun: Tips for Choosing a Safer Sunscreen.