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Oxybenzone as a Toxin in Sunscreen- Part One in our Five Part Series

In Part One of our Series, we examine Oxybenzone- what it is and why it’s dangerous to your Fertility.

We use sunscreens to protect our skin from the dangerous rays of the sun. Did you know, however, that chemical sunscreens can be detrimental to your fertility? Read our 5 part Series to find out more.

When I started researching all of the dangerous toxins out there, one that concerned me greatly was sunscreen.  How can something that every dermatologist touts as necessary, be so bad for you?  Well, I learned that not all sunscreens are created equally and that some are definitely more harmful than others.  (For more information, read our comparison article between chemical and physical sunscreens).  Here we break down one such harmful toxin used in many chemical sunscreens on the market today.

Oxybenzone- one of the first ingredients named on popular sunscreens.  Its function is to work primarily as a photostabilizer in sunscreen.  Among the vast selection of sunscreen active ingredients, Oxybenzone is classified as a “chemical” sunscreen agent. Inadequate when used alone, Oxybenzone absorbs UVB and short UVA rays but is a relatively weak chemical UV absorber.  It also helps preserve the integrity of other cosmetic ingredients, preventing their deterioration under the sun.  For this reason, Oxybenzone is most often used in conjunction with other sunscreen agents.  Besides sunscreen though, it can be found in a variety of personal care products such as nail polish, lotions, and lipstick.  So beware when buying these other types of products.

What are its Safety Measures/Side Effects:

According to the Environmental Working Group, there are several suspected dangers associated with Oxybenzone.  Despite its sun protective abilities, it has been shown to penetrate the skin and cause photo-sensitivity.  As a photocarcinogen, it has demonstrated an increase in the production of harmful free radicals and an ability to attack DNA cells; for this reason, it is believed to be a contributing factor in the recent rise of Melanoma cases with sunscreen users.  How ironic, huh? We apply these sunscreens in order to prevent cancer not knowing that we are unknowingly causing cancer instead!  Some studies have also shown it to behave similarly to the hormone estrogen, suggesting that it may cause breast cancer and complete hormone disruption thereby causing infertility issues.   This article published by the popular website- WebMd covers how Oxybenzone has been linked to causing Endometriosis.

In addition, there exist many concerns regarding the human body’s percutaneous absorption of Oxybenzone.  In one study, individuals applied a sunscreen with 4% Oxybenzone and submitted urine samples 5 days after topical application.  All the subjects’ urine secretions were found to contain Oxybenzone, suggesting the body’s ability to store the substance.  In 2008, the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention conducted a similar experiment on a national scale, and found the chemical compound to be present in 96.8% of the human urine samples surveyed.  As a result, it is recommended that parents keep their small children from using products containing the ingredient.  This is based on the assertion that children under the age of 2 have not fully developed the enzymes that are required to break down derivatives of Oxybenzone.  However, do you really want to be “carrying” this toxin around your body hoping that the necessary enzymes are working to eliminate it?  I certainly don’t and neither should you!

To be fair however, even though a fair amount of scientific evidence points to the adverse effects of Oxybenzone, additional tests are required before making any definite conclusions.  It must be noted that this ingredient still possesses less severe risks than those associated with PABA.  Furthermore, many dermatologists insist that, because dermal absorption of Oxybenzone appears to be low and still exists as one of the few substances to effectively protect against UV rays, this ingredient should not be ruled out entirely.

The FDA has approved the use of Oxybenzone as a safe and effective OTC sunscreen ingredient, but only in concentrations up to 6%.  The EU Cosmetics Directive has also assessed the sunscreen ingredient as safe at up to concentrations of 10%, and requires products that contain more than .5% of the ingredient to be labeled “contains Oxybenzone.”   However, the ever-vigilant country of Sweden has banned the use of this ingredient entirely.  Maybe we all should follow suit.

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