Currently one of the most popular active ingredients used in sunscreens, avobenzone was developed in 1973 and approved by the FDA in 1988 for its ability to absorb UVA rays.
Since another UVA screener, oxybenzone, recently gained so much negative press, the big sunscreen industry has pivoted to avobenzone in an attempt to avoid the growing scrutiny of oxybenzone, which is more well known as causing problems for both human and marine biosystems.
Unfortunately, avobenzone has almost the same molecular structure and will ultimately be shown to have similar drawbacks. It’s just less well studied, and is so far getting a see-no-evil pass by regulators.
Not all sunscreen ingredients are created equal, and avobenzone is simply one of several petrochemicals that can be produced cheaply for use in common sunscreens. At best, any petrochemical is bad for long term health and trades UV damage for chemical damage.
One issue with avobenzone is it only offers about 30 minutes of sun protection because it chemically breaks down in sunshine. But it is one of the few chemical active ingredients that cover the UVA spectrum (the rays that affect deeper skin tissues), so shortsighted sunscreen companies need to add more chemicals (like octocrylene, homosalate, or octisalate) to help extend avobenzone’s limited effectiveness.
As stated earlier, avobenzone is the common sunscreen industry's replacement for oxybenzone (another UVA absorber), which has become an industry bad guy and given up as the sacrificial lamb to regulators and the public, to try to maintain an aura of safety within the common, petrochemical market. Such common sunscreen manufacturers have now switched to the “less infamous" avobenzone.
But like all other petrochemicals, avobenzone is clearly mismatched to human biochemistries, and although sellers of avobenzone products tend to claim it is safe for humans and reefs, the molecular structures of oxyBENZONE and avoBENZONE are extremely similar, and both do bad things to users and waterways, especially over the long term.
Is Avobenzone Safe for Children?
When it comes to choosing sunscreen for children, concerns about safety become even more paramount. Avobenzone, a commonly used ingredient in sunscreens, raises questions about its suitability for young ones. Limited research on avobenzone's effects on children makes it difficult to draw definitive conclusions. However, some studies suggest that children may be more vulnerable to the potential risks associated with avobenzone, such as skin allergies or hormonal disruption.
Parents and caregivers should explore alternative sunscreens specifically formulated for children, preferably those containing non-nano zinc oxide. These alternatives provide physical sun protection, reducing the potential exposure to chemical ingredients. Prioritizing the safety and well-being of children is crucial, and opting for safer alternatives to avobenzone can offer peace of mind while enjoying outdoor activities.
Is Avobenzone Safe for Reefs?
Oceanographers have found petrochemicals are damaging marine and reef environments because they increase the rate of coral bleaching.
Various coastal areas around the world (Hawaii is the first US jurisdiction to do so) have begun to ban two chemicals found in common sunscreens (oxybenzone and octinoxate), but it’s important to remember ALL petrochemicals, including avobenzone, are harmful. And not just to marine life but humans.
Roughly 15,000 tons of sunscreen petrochemicals wash into the oceans each year (that’s the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez oil spill every 3 years or less), and research shows many of these damage coral and marine life.
Avobenzone Hasn’t Been Well Studied
Avobenzone’s health effects haven't been studied nearly as much as for oxybenzone, and it's little surprise that what we know so far isn't good.
Just like oxybenzone, avobenzone degrades in the sun, lowering its ability to screen UVA rays, releases free radicals that increase cancer risk, accelerates skin aging and contributes to development of a myriad of allergies.
Recent studies also show avobenzone can become toxic to our liver and kidneys when it comes into contact with chlorine, a common ingredient in swimming pool and tap water.
Avobenzone Will Be Exposed, Eventually
Once avobenzone is more fully studied, we may know it’s as bad or worse than other petrochemicals or that it’s relatively less dangerous. But even at this early stage, it’s clear avobenzone presents significant health risks, just like its petrochemical cousins.
Alternatives to Avobenzone
For those concerned about the potential risks associated with avobenzone and other petrochemical sunscreens, exploring alternative options is essential. Non-nano zinc oxide sunscreens offer a promising alternative that provides effective sun protection without the use of potentially harmful chemicals. Non-nano zinc oxide acts as a physical barrier, reflecting and scattering both UVA and UVB rays. Unlike avobenzone, non-nano zinc oxide does not break down in sunlight and offers broad-spectrum protection.
Additionally, non-nano zinc oxide sunscreens are considered safer for the environment as they do not pose the same risks to marine life and coral reefs. By opting for non-nano zinc oxide sunscreens, individuals can make a conscious choice to prioritize both their own well-being and the health of our planet.
All Petrochemical Sunscreens are Unsafe
Big skincare lobbyists prefer to argue such petrochemicals ARE safe and that they make sunscreens more affordable to a mass market, but they also tend to ignore the hidden long-term costs, not only to the environment, but to their customers, as over the last 45 years (since avobenzone was first approved), skin cancer rates have grown an average of 4% per year, more or less the same rate as inflation-adjusted, per capita spending on sunscreens.
And though in that same time, Americans 65 and older have increased by 1.5% per year, this leaves a significant amount of skin cancer growth that is reasonably accounted for by the proliferation of petrochemical sunscreens that do a decent job at the skin's surface, but that mask deeper damage that shows up in the dermatologist office years later.
The Future of Avobenzone
A Call for Further Research and Regulation
As avobenzone gains prominence as a replacement for oxybenzone, it is imperative we look toward the future with a critical lens. The current limited studies and potential risks associated with avobenzone highlight the need for comprehensive research and regulation. It is essential to conduct further investigations to better understand its long-term effects on human health and the environment.
Stricter regulations and transparency from sunscreen manufacturers are necessary to ensure the safety of consumers and the preservation of our ecosystems. The future of avobenzone lies in comprehensive scientific scrutiny and responsible decision-making, aiming to provide reliable and safe sun protection options for all.
Embracing Non-Nano Zinc Oxide Sunscreens
As concerns about the safety of avobenzone continue to grow, it becomes crucial to consider alternative sunscreens that prioritize both efficacy and safety. Non-nano zinc oxide sunscreens emerge as a promising solution for the future. With their ability to provide broad-spectrum protection and their stable composition that does not degrade in sunlight, non-nano zinc oxide sunscreens offer a reliable and safer option.
Moreover, these sunscreens are environmentally friendly, posing no threat to marine life or coral reefs. By embracing non-nano zinc oxide sunscreens, we can pave the way for a future where sun protection goes hand in hand with health-conscious choices and sustainable practices. Let us embrace this shift towards safer alternatives and ensure a brighter and healthier tomorrow for ourselves and the planet.
The lack of comprehensive studies on avobenzone raises concerns about its long-term effects on human health. While its molecular structure is similar to oxybenzone, the limited research conducted so far indicates that avobenzone poses significant risks. Similar to oxybenzone, avobenzone breaks down when exposed to sunlight, reducing its ability to protect against UVA rays. This chemical degradation releases free radicals, which not only increase the risk of cancer but also accelerate skin aging and contribute to the development of allergies. Additionally, recent studies have shown that avobenzone can become toxic to the liver and kidneys when it comes into contact with chlorine, a common ingredient in swimming pool and tap water.
The widespread use of petrochemical sunscreens, including avobenzone-based products, has raised concerns about their impact on the environment. Petrochemicals from sunscreens are estimated to wash into the oceans at a staggering rate of 15,000 tons per year. This pollution, equivalent to the magnitude of an Exxon Valdez oil spill every few years, has been shown to damage coral reefs and marine life. While some regions have implemented bans on certain chemicals found in sunscreens, it is crucial to recognize that all petrochemicals, including avobenzone, contribute to the harmful effects on marine ecosystems. Furthermore, these petrochemicals pose a threat not only to marine life but also to human health.
The pervasive use of avobenzone in sunscreens highlights the need for further research and scrutiny. Currently, avobenzone has not undergone extensive testing similar to that of oxybenzone, which is cause for concern. The available evidence already points to avobenzone's potential health risks, including its ability to release free radicals and its potential toxicity to organs when exposed to chlorine. As more studies are conducted, it is likely that avobenzone's true dangers will come to light. Whether avobenzone proves to be as harmful as other petrochemicals or even more hazardous, it is evident that it poses significant health risks. Therefore, caution should be exercised when using sunscreens containing avobenzone or any other petrochemicals.
In conclusion, the popularization of avobenzone in sunscreens as a replacement for oxybenzone does not necessarily guarantee safety. Avobenzone shares similarities in structure and potential drawbacks with oxybenzone, and its long-term effects on human health remain insufficiently studied. Moreover, the use of petrochemical sunscreens, including avobenzone-based products, poses risks to both marine life and human health. As awareness grows about the environmental impact and potential health hazards of petrochemical sunscreens, it becomes crucial to explore safer alternatives and prioritize the well-being of both our bodies and the planet.
Choose Zinc Oxide Sunscreen
1. Know your ingredients — Flip over your sunscreen and read the ingredients. We want everyone to know what good ingredients are, regardless of whether they use our products or not. Your health is worth it.
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