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INCI of cosmetics, you know what you are applying on skin Part 18, Oxybenzone in creams and sunscreens

INCI of cosmetics, you know what you are applying on skin Part 18, Oxybenzone in creams and sunscreens

April 17, 2019
Oxybenzone is a substance widely used in cosmetics in sunscreen creams due to its ability to minimize the damages of UV rays, however it is a substance, if possible, that should be avoided as it is harmful to the health of humans and Planet
  1. Oxybenzone

Do you know what you put on your face and body? Since understanding the terms that are listed in the INCI, the label that by law must report all the ingredients used in a cosmetic product, is really difficult for those who are not experts, here we have created this section. The aim is to try to learn which substances are behind long and, sometimes, really incomprehensible names, to understand their real effects, if we are dealing with a beneficial, neutral or harmful substance, thus allowing a more conscious choice of the products that come in contact with our skin. Today we speak about a substance, oxybenzone, widely used in face creams and sunscreens.


Benzophenone-3, which appears with the name Oxybenzone in INCI, is a substance used in cosmetics, from sunscreens to hair sprays, lip sticks and lotions, to minimize UV damages. However, it is not a harmless substance, indeed, it is considered to be harmful to humans. In fact, in scientific researches (DiNardo et al, J Cosmet Dermatol, Feb 2018) contact allergic reactions are reported due to applications of creams containing oxybenzone. Moreover, oxybenzone is considered an endocrine disruptor, able to interfere with hormones, especially estrogens and androgens, and even to modify, during pregnancy and lactation, the morphology of the mammary gland (LaPlante et al, J Endocr Soc, Aug 2018). This substance is absorbed by the skin, it is in fact able to overcome the skin barrier, and enters the blood. It will be then metabolized and expelled through the urine even months after the contact with the ozybenzone, which therefore tends to accumulate in the body. Oxybenzone is also a pollutant of rivers and seas since it is poured into them when, for example, we wash face and body. Oxybenzone is considered a cause of damages to the marine ecosystem, such as coral bleaching and fish death (Schneider et al, J Am Acad Dermatol, Jan 2019). Given the negative effects, the experts are questioning the real utility of a substance such as oxybenzone, which, nowadays, is allowed in cosmetic products at a maximum concentration of 10% in Europe and 6% in the USA. If the concentration of this substance exceeds 0.5% it must be specifically indicated on the label by law.

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