Is Octocrylene Safe?

No, not really. I wouldn't put it on my skin.

Octocrylene is readily absorbed by skin and accumulate within the body. It absorbs UVB (top-surface) and some short UVA (deep-skin) rays and produces free radicals that damage cells and cause DNA mutations.

It is an ingredient used in mostly sunscreens because it is also used as a preservative and does offer some skin moisturizing properties as well as an emulsifier in sunscreen lotion.

Octocrylene is often combined with avobenzone, because it acts as a stabilizer and it enables sunscreen products to be water resistant.

Currently (November 2020), the FDA and EU Cosmetic Regulation considers octocrylene safe up to 10% concentration as an active ingredient in chemical sunscreens. However it has been linked to allergenic reactions for people with sensitive skin and I wouldn't put it on my children's skin.

In order to cover the whole UV spectrum, octocrylene needs to partnered with another chemical ingredients. It is often combined with avobenzone because avobenzone does a good job of covering the rest of the UVA part of the spectrum.


EWG Rating: 2-3 (1 best, 10 worst)


Is Octocrylene Safe for Humans?

It has been demonstrated that octocrylene passes through the skin in human experiments, enters the blood stream, is metabolized and eventually excreted in urine in form of its metabolites.

"Octocrylene naturally degrades into the chemical, benzophenone, in over a dozen popular products. Both octocrylene and benzophenone are readily absorbed into the skin." (source)

We know octocrylene accumulates within the body. The chemical absorbs UVB and some UVA rays and produces free radicals that damage cells and cause DNA mutations.

There is evidence that octocrylene is responsible for reproductive toxicity, although the trials used doses higher than would be used in cosmetics. We recommend pregnant mothers avoid this chemical in sunscreens and any skincare.


All Waxhead sunscreens and skincare products are octocrylene-free.


Is Octocrylene Safe for Reefs?

Quick to biodegrade and then bioaccumulate, octocrylene has also been found in fish. In coral, octocrylene has been shown to accumulate in the form of fatty acid conjugates and trigger mitochondrial dysfunction (source). Further studies are pending on the full environmental effects to marine life.

Oceanographers have found petrochemicals are damaging marine and reef environments because they increase the rate of coral bleaching. The country of Palau banned the sale and use of three UV filters including octocrylene in 2018. And in 2019, the U.S. Virgin Island also banned the sale and use of oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene.

Various other 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 are harmful. And not just to marine life but humans.




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.

2. Buy safe sunscreen — Waxhead is dedicated to using only the healthiest, safest, most effective ingredients in our sunscreens. Shop Safe Sunscreen here.

3. Teach a friend — If you know someone who might still be buying sunscreen with questionable ingredients, please share this post with him/her.