Oxybenzone

Oxybenzone is found in most sunscreens due to its sun protection efficacy

What is Oxybenzone?

Oxybenzone, BP-3 or benzophenone-3 is a naturally occurring chemical that is found in various flowering plants. It is a pale yellow solid that is readily soluble in most organic solvents.

What is Oxybenzone used for?

Oxybenzone is widely used for its ability to block UV-rays, making it a common ingredient in the production of sunscreen, skincare, plastics, toys and furniture. 

As a sunscreen, it works by absorbing the UV radiation on the skin and converts this into heat which is then released from the skin. 

Oxybenzone Hazards

In recent years, greater attention has been brought around oxybenzone and its impact on the environment and on our health. Environmentally, oxybenzone has been linked to; coral bleaching and damage, as well as toxicity to aquatic life; although it should be noted that many dispute that oxybenzone is the cause.

Studies argue Oxybenzone is the main contributor to coral bleaching
Studies argue Oxybenzone is the main contributor to coral bleaching

In humans, studies claim to show that oxybenzone; increases the chances of developing cancer and disrupts hormones (affecting metabolism, growth and reproduction). This evidence is largely based on animal studies and its clinical relevance is disputed. 

What is known however, is oxybenzone can be hazardous when exposed via:

  • Skin
    • Inflammation and allergic reactions may occur
  • Eyes
    • Irritation may occur
  • Ingestion
    • Nausea and vomiting if significant amounts are ingested
  • Inhalation
    • Respiratory tract irritation may occur

Oxybenzone Safety

Oxybenzone is a common ingredient in most sunscreens and other personal care products, but in larger/non domestic doses, the toxicity and effects to humans can be quite significant.

If skin exposure occurs; remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories and cleanse the affected area with soap and water. Contaminated clothing must be washed prior to wearing again. Seek medical attention if irritation occurs.  

In the event of eye exposure, flush them with water immediately, ensuring you do not forget to wash under the eyelids. Contact a medical professional immediately if pain persists. Removing contact lenses should be undertaken by skilled personnel. 

If ingested, drink a glass of water immediately. First aid is generally not required but if in doubt, contact a Poisons Information Centre. 

If inhaled, remove the person from the area and monitor their condition. Administer oxygen if breathing is difficult and perform CPR if required/qualified. Seek medical attention without delay. 

Oxybenzone Safety Handling

Emergency eyewash fountains should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure to the chemical. 

Ensure there is adequate ventilation and install local exhaust ventilation if required. 

Wear proper PPE, such as safety glasses with side shields, a PVC apron and gloves.