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Simply Sustainable: Oxybenzone and Benzophenone

The first ingredient of the toxic twenty list that we are going to highlight is Oxybenzone/Benzophenone 

Benzophenone and Oxybenzone are similar chemicals commonly found in sunscreens; they both have several health and environmental risks.

Benzophenone is a compound that occurs naturally in some citrus fruits. It is a common ingredient that is used for UV protection in household and personal care products. It has the ability to absorb UV radiation and release it as heat. Benzophenone has several derivatives like Benzophenone-3 (Oxybenzone) and Benzophenone-4) which are also common ingredients. Oxybenzone acts the same and is used as extra protection against UV rays.

Types of products that include Benzophenone and Oxybenzone: You will find benzophenone and oxybenzone in most SPF products. Mainly sunscreens, lip products, and foundations and makeup products.

EWG Rating: 6-8


Back in February the FDA released a proposal claiming they will be more heavily regulating the safety and effectiveness of sunscreens. They also stated that mineral-based sunscreens are a safe option. Benzophenone and its derivatives are approved for restricted use by the FDA but not completely banned. The derivative Oxybenzone can be used in concentrations no higher then 10% in the European Union. The state of Hawaii has actually banned the sale of sunscreens containing Oxybenzone, making them one of the first states to take legislative action to protect a marine ecosystem through a product ban.

Health Risks:

Oxybenzone and related chemicals are potential photoallergens, meaning when exposed to sunlight the chemical reaction that happens could be irritating or harmful. Clinical studies have shown that oxybenzone has very high absorption rates in humans but scientific data proving its toxicity and health risks is still lacking

Environmental Risks:

Benzophenone and Oxybenzone found in sunscreens are damaging coral reefs and various marine life. The chemicals are stripping corals of their essential micro-algae (zooxanthellae) and causing them to bleach and eventually die. Without the presence of their zooxanthellae, corals lose their source of food which results in the bleached or white look.We need to keep our oceans healthy if we want to continue living as we do now. Sustainability revolves around leaving our environment healthy for the next generation and it is our job to be stewards of our planet!

Watch your labels: Look for things like oxybenzone, benzophenone, sulisobenzone, and bensophenone-2 on your labels. 

Tip: use sunscreens that are mineral-based and use active ingredients like zinc! 

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