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What’s wrong with avobenzone sunscreens?

With a rising global temperature and increased awareness of the risks associated with sun exposure, the use of sunscreens has never been more critical. However, not all sunscreens are created equal. Many popular products on the market contain avobenzone, a controversial ingredient that has come under scrutiny for potential health and environmental risks. This blog post aims to elucidate why we should be cautious with avobenzone sunscreens


A Brief History of Avobenzone Sunscreens

Avobenzone sunscreens first appeared in the 1970s, quickly gaining popularity due to their effectiveness in absorbing harmful UVA rays. While this seems like a beneficial feature, numerous studies over time have raised concerns over potential health and environmental consequences, prompting the need to reconsider our sunscreen choices.


The Dark Side of Avobenzone

Avobenzone is effective against UVA rays, but this doesn't mean it's harmless. Studies have shown that it can degrade in sunlight, leading to a loss in its UV-protective capacity. This degradation also results in the formation of harmful byproducts that can be detrimental to skin health, causing issues like skin irritation and allergies.

There is an additional cause for concern: endocrine disruption. Some studies suggest avobenzone, like many other chemical sunscreens, may act as an endocrine disruptor. This means it can interfere with your body's hormonal system, potentially leading to various health problems ranging from reproductive issues to metabolic disorders and even certain types of cancers.

The issue of systemic absorption further compounds these health concerns. When applied to the skin, avobenzone doesn't just stay on the surface. Research indicates it penetrates the skin and enter the bloodstream. This raises questions about the long-term effects of exposure, especially given the widespread and frequent use of avobenzone sunscreens.

In essence, while avobenzone sunscreens may protect you from the sun, they also introduce potential risks that need to be seriously considered. It's essential to weigh the benefits against these risks when choosing a sunscreen, considering both immediate sun protection and long-term health implications.


Environmental Impact of Avobenzone

Avobenzone sunscreens don't just pose potential risks to human health, but also significantly impact our environment. When we swim or shower, these sunscreens wash off and end up in our oceans. Here, they've been found to harm marine life, particularly coral reefs.

Coral reefs, often referred to as the "rainforests of the sea," provide a vital ecosystem for a multitude of marine species. Avobenzone, however, can bleach and damage these delicate ecosystems, leading to decreased coral growth and increased mortality rates. The continuous exposure to avobenzone and other chemical sunscreens contributes to the ongoing global coral reef crisis, affecting biodiversity, fisheries, and coastal protection.

But the effects of avobenzone aren't limited to coral reefs. Emerging research suggests that other marine organisms, such as fish and phytoplankton, may also be adversely affected by these chemicals. Phytoplankton, the base of marine food chains and an essential player in carbon sequestration, can be negatively impacted, which may contribute to climate change.

Worryingly, even wastewater treatment plants cannot effectively remove avobenzone, resulting in these harmful substances entering our rivers and seas. This persistent environmental presence, combined with the potential for bioaccumulation in marine organisms, underscores the pressing need to reassess the environmental footprint of avobenzone sunscreens.


An Ounce of Prevention: Reading Ingredients

Avobenzone is not the only culprit. Other common chemical sunscreen ingredients such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene also come with a slew of health and environmental concerns. They've been associated with hormonal disruption, skin allergies, and have been found in human breast milk, urine, and blood samples, indicative of systemic absorption. Additionally, these chemicals, like avobenzone, are damaging to coral reefs.


The Alternative: Non-Nano Zinc Oxide Sunscreens

While the outlook may seem grim, don't ditch sun protection altogether. The solution lies in choosing safer, more sustainable options like non-nano zinc oxide sunscreens. Unlike chemical sunscreens, they form a physical barrier on your skin, reflecting and scattering harmful UV rays rather than absorbing them.

Non-nano zinc oxide sunscreens don't penetrate the skin layers, reducing the risk of systemic absorption. They're ideal for sensitive skin and are reef-safe, making them an environmentally conscious choice for the health-conscience outdoor enthusiast. Always check the labels of your skincare products, especially those used on children, to ensure you're making the safest, healthiest choice.


Frequently Asked Questions About Avobenzone Sunscreens

As we conclude this deep dive into the world of avobenzone sunscreens, let's address some common questions:

Can avobenzone cause cancer?
While there is no direct evidence linking avobenzone to cancer, some studies suggest potential endocrine-disrupting effects, which may indirectly contribute to cancer risk.

Can I still use my avobenzone sunscreen?
It's not advisable. Instead, opt for sunscreens with safer active ingredients like non-nano zinc oxide.

Are avobenzone sunscreens bad for all marine life?
While the research primarily focuses on coral reefs, it's reasonable to assume other marine life is also negatively affected.

Does the amount of avobenzone in sunscreen matter?
In theory, lower concentrations of avobenzone would have less impact. However, it's still important to note that even in small amounts, it can accumulate in your body and the environment over time.

What about avobenzone in other cosmetics like moisturizers and makeup?
Avobenzone is indeed used in a variety of cosmetic products. It's best to read labels carefully and opt for avobenzone-free products whenever possible.

Is avobenzone in all sunscreens?
Not all sunscreens contain avobenzone. Many brands offer mineral-based sunscreens that use ingredients like non-nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide instead of chemical filters.

Are there any regulations about using avobenzone in sunscreens?
Different countries have varied regulations. For instance, the EU allows avobenzone in sunscreens up to a concentration of 5%. In contrast, countries like the US don't limit its concentration but require products to undergo certain tests before hitting the market.

In the pursuit of protection from harmful UV rays, don't compromise your health or the health of our planet. Read labels, ask questions, and choose sunscreens that are safe, effective, and friendly to both you and the environment.



Avobenzone sunscreens, while initially celebrated for their ability to absorb harmful UVA rays, are now under increasing scrutiny due to their potential health and environmental implications. From skin irritation and allergies to concerns about endocrine disruption and systemic absorption, avobenzone sunscreens present potential risks to our health. Environmental effects are equally troubling, with studies revealing their damaging impact on coral reefs and other marine life.

Other chemical sunscreen ingredients, such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene, are also associated with similar adverse effects. It underscores the importance of carefully reading and understanding the ingredient lists on our skincare products.

Fortunately, there are safer alternatives available. Non-nano zinc oxide sunscreens offer effective UV protection without the concerning side effects associated with their chemical counterparts. They provide a physical barrier on the skin, mitigating risks of systemic absorption, and are considered safe for both humans and marine life.

In conclusion, as health-conscious outdoor enthusiasts, it's our responsibility to make informed decisions that prioritize both our health and the health of our planet. Choosing safer, environmentally friendly sunscreen options like non-nano zinc oxide is a simple yet significant step towards this goal. Remember, protection from the sun doesn't have to come at the cost of our well-being or the environment.




What’s wrong with avobenzone sunscreens?

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