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.
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.
Is Octocrylene Safe for Children?
The safety of octocrylene for children is a topic of concern. Children's skin is more sensitive and thinner than adults, making it more susceptible to the absorption of chemicals. As mentioned earlier, octocrylene is known to cause allergenic reactions, especially in people with sensitive skin. This can lead to skin irritations, rashes, and other adverse reactions in children.
Moreover, the accumulation of octocrylene in the body over time could potentially lead to more serious health issues in the future. Therefore, it is advisable to use octocrylene-free sunscreens for children to avoid any potential risks.
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.
Alternatives to Octocrylene
Given the potential risks associated with octocrylene, it's worth considering alternatives. Mineral sunscreens, for example, use physical blockers like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These ingredients sit on the skin's surface and reflect UV rays rather than absorbing them. They are generally considered safer for both humans and the environment.
Other alternatives include sun-protective clothing and seeking shade during peak sun hours. Remember, it's always important to protect your skin from the sun, but it's equally important to do so in a safe and healthy way.
All Waxhead sunscreens and skincare products are octocrylene-free.
The Future of Octocrylene
As more research is conducted on the safety of octocrylene, regulations may change. Already, we are seeing some countries and states taking action to ban certain chemicals found in sunscreens due to their potential harm to marine life.
As consumers become more aware of the potential risks associated with chemical sunscreens, the demand for safer alternatives is likely to increase. In the meantime, it's important to stay informed and make choices that are best for your health and the health of our planet.
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.
Sport Sunscreen Tins
Our travel-friendly, pocket size field tins contain the thickest, toughest, healthiest, octocrylene-free sunscreen you'll find.
Stays on face to defend and nourish skin through through saltwater, pool water and sweat.
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