Oxybenzone, the dangerous petrochemical that is currently lurking in 70% of sunscreen

By Treven Pyles

Posted on December 29th, 2021

Because it can efficiently absorb ultraviolet radiation, oxybenzone, a dangerous petrochemical derived from benzene, is currently lurking in up to 70% of sunscreen products on the market. Not only is it a hazard to the oceans, but to our health and our children as well.

As a non-natural chemical that was first synthesized in 1906 from benzene, oxybenzone is a petrochemical that was eventually approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be one of the ingredients in sunscreen because it can absorb harmful ultraviolet radiation. More specifically, it can efficiently soak up UVB light. However, the reality is that oxybenzone is a dangerous chemical, as it is derived from benzene, which is a known carcinogen. Among the health problems caused by frequent exposure to it are a high cancer risk, endocrine disruption, and respiratory tract irritation.

Oxybenzone was initially formulated into cosmetics in the 1950s, and it was only in the 1980s that it was approved to be added to sunscreen too. Because studies found the petrochemical to effectively absorb potentially damaging UV light in the UVB spectrum, oxybenzone was praised for its ability to prevent skin damage such as sunburns and the damage caused by deeper ultraviolet radiation penetration that could lead to the development of skin cancer.

Soon after the FDA approved it, oxybenzone was praised as a great achievement in the prevention of skin cancer

Nevertheless, in 2013, the use of oxybenzone in cosmetic products was capped at 6% of the entire ingredient volume by the agency because of increasing safety concerns. The concentration of the petrochemical has remained the same ever since, but it is currently under review because it was found that the use of oxybenzone can lead to toxicity within coral reefs. In 2019, oxybenzone was among the list of active sunscreen ingredients the Food and Drug Administration stated that it needs additional information about, which suggests that the agency might have made a relatively impulsive decision when approving the petrochemical in personal care products in the 1980s.

The other potentially dangerous ingredients that the agency now evaluates in addition to oxybenzone include:

  • cinoxate
  • dioxybenzone
  • homosalate
  • meradimate
  • octinoxate
  • octocrylene
  • sulisobenzone
  • avobenzone

The horrific truth is that oxybenzone is harmful to coral reefs and adults, especially pregnant women, and to infants, neonates, and fetuses. It is essential to note that oxybenzone is present only in chemical sunscreen, as mineral sunscreen is free of this petrochemical, which deems it a very safe and healthy alternative to the previous. While people have the tendency to assume that everything that the Food and Drug Administration has approved is safe to use, the reality is sometimes different. Even specialized agencies lack certain key information concerning various ingredients, which prompts them to allow these substances in consumer products.

The health problems regular exposure to oxybenzone can result in

People who understand how important protecting their skin from the damaging ultraviolet radiation coming from the sun is use sunscreen all year round. Even during winter, when the ultraviolet radiation is less powerful, you should continue to wear sunscreen, as it can still take a toll on your skin. We know for a fact that oxybenzone is a hazard to coral reefs, but you may wonder what health issues it can cause to humans. The following are some of the conditions the frequent use of sunscreen with oxybenzone can lead to:

  • endocrine disruptions: the endocrine gland releases hormones and other products that go directly into our bloodstream, but oxybenzone disrupts the function of the endocrine gland, which can result in diabetes, obesity, female reproductive issues, prostate cancer, thyroid abnormalities, and male reproductive issues
  • Hirschsprung's disease: this condition usually occurs in children and affects the large intestine, medically known as the colon, which causes severe problems with passing stool, and children who struggle with Hirschsprung's disease are vulnerable to serious intestinal infections called enterocolitis
  • lower testosterone levels: unnervingly, it took a single week of daily application of sunscreen with oxybenzone to significantly lower testosterone levels in men partaking in a study, which speaks volumes about how dangerous the petrochemical is
  • higher cancer risk: UVA radiation is the most aggressive on the spectrum, as it can reach deep into our skin and cause malignant melanoma in the dermis, the uttermost layer of the skin, and oxybenzone absorbs this radiation, failing to protect against cancer, unlike sunscreen with zinc oxide, which is a mineral sunscreen
  • respiratory tract irritation: just a single exposure to oxybenzone can trigger respiratory tract irritation and if you notice a person who applied sunscreen containing oxybenzone exhibiting signs of respiratory insufficiency, seek medical attention immediately
  • skin irritation: studies found that chemical UV absorbers such as oxybenzone can induce negative reactions, including skin irritation, phototoxicity, and allergic contact dermatitis, that may or may not require exposure to light to develop
  • organ toxicity: the petrochemical can permeate across the skin and accumulate in the blood, the kidneys, and the liver and may be toxic to the cells of these organs
  • severe eye irritation: fortunately, oxybenzone sunscreen exposure will most likely not lead to permanent eye damage, but it might cause a chemical burn to the surface of the eye that can be painful for several days

Exposure to oxybenzone occurs every time you apply sunscreen that contains it, and the longer you use the harmful product, the more likely you are to develop a serious health issue. Shortly after skin application, the petrochemical enters the bloodstream, which facilitates its circulation to every tissue and organ in your body. It can wreak havoc on the region of your body it accumulates, so switching to a sunscreen that is oxybenzone-free is crucial for your wellbeing.

You should also be aware that oxybenzone cannot be eliminated naturally once inside our systems. This places newborns at risk of exposure to the petrochemical when they are breastfed by their mothers, as oxybenzone can be released through breast milk. Furthermore, if the mother has the petrochemical in her body while the fetus is developing, the chemical can easily reach the unborn child by passing through the placenta.

How to choose a safe, non-toxic sunscreen that is free of oxybenzone

Firstly, before shopping for sunscreen, we strongly advise you to do your research so as to know what ingredients are present in the product you intend to purchase. As you see, in addition to sunscreen being contaminated with benzene, there is also oxybenzone you have to worry about, so you should not rush this decision. A good choice is mineral sunscreens, as opposed to chemical sunscreens. This is because they have multiple benefits, such as the fact that, instead of absorbing ultraviolet radiation, they reflect it.

Moreover, most of these products do not contain benzene or oxybenzone. Two of the main active ingredients in mineral sunscreen, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are very effective in protecting your skin from the damage exposure to sunlight can cause and are also safe, according to medical studies. When it comes to what SPF to choose, this is up to you. However, if you buy a chemical sunscreen, you should choose a product with a lower SPF that you will apply more often, as chemical sunscreen with a high SPF is likely to contain significant benzene concentrations.

Lastly, to check the UVA ratings on your sunscreen, you will have to look at the PA rating, which tells you how low or high the protection against the most aggressive ultraviolet radiation is, as follows:

  • PA+- some UVA protection
  • PA++- moderate UVA protection
  • PA+++- high UVA protection
  • PA++++- extremely high UVA protection

Finally, a sliver of hope regarding the presence of oxybenzone in sunscreen is that, recently, the Food and Drug Administration has deemed the petrochemical unsafe and is currently reviewing it. Nevertheless, for the moment, the agency advises consumers to continue using sunscreen containing it, as "the benefits of using sunscreen, even those containing oxybenzone, currently outweigh the risks associated with not using them." The issue of oxybenzone is a complex one, as if the Food and Drug Administration were to recall the ingredient, sunscreen would no longer offer the skin protection they now provide, but if the agency continues to allow it in these products, the petrochemical is likely to cause health problems to consumers.

If you have trouble finding a good, safe product because you have been using benzene sunscreen until now, you are in luck. We have recently launched the Benzene Sunscreen Replacement Initiative, by virtue of which you can now request safe, effective, non-toxic sunscreen manufactured by ethical companies that test for benzene free of charge. It is important to note that we prioritize people who are struggling with acute myeloid leukemia. All you have to do is fill out the form at the bottom of the campaign page and we will shortly contact you to discuss the details.

Our resourceful attorneys will help you file a benzene sunscreen claim

For over two decades, our attorneys and legal team have been dedicating their endeavors to offering quality legal assistance to toxic exposure victims, from veterans and former industrial workers to their surviving family members. Our law firm now takes on benzene sunscreen claims, so if you came to struggle with acute myeloid leukemia as a consequence of using a toxic product, we encourage you to contact us. The legal process will be easy for you, as we know that cancer patients usually need a lot of time to focus on their health and treatment.

To file a benzene sunscreen claim, you have to give our legal team a call, describe your situation, answer our questions, and send us some basic documents, such as your medical records. After our lawyers review your case, you will know for sure whether you qualify for filing a claim with the responsible manufacturer. We will quickly begin preparing your claim for submission. In the end, you will benefit from the compensation you deserve from the culpable company.