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What is Oxybenzone?

Oxybenzone is the current bad guy in recent sunscreen news articles, daytime TV, and research studies and you may be asking, “But what is Oxybenzone?” 

Most common sunscreens are full of chemicals, which are not healthy for our skin, our bodies or the environment. Oxybenzone is a widely used ingredient in American chemical-based sunscreens and can be found in 65% of chemical sunscreens and has been determined to be the most toxic ingredient commonly found in sunscreens.

Oxybenzone is known to interfere with cellular signaling, which can cause cell mutations and cell death

Lab testing has shown that this chemical penetrates the skin and is known to act as an estrogen in the body, and it is linked to abnormal sperm function. It acts as a skin allergen in a significant number of people; and oxybenzone is being banned as an ingredient in sunscreen in Hawaii and several other communities.


All Waxhead sunscreens and skincare products are oxybenzone-free.


Oxybenzone in the News

Oxybenzone has been in the news lately because of two big new stories:


1. Sunscreen Bans

Roughly 14,000 – 16,000 tons of sunscreen wash into the oceans each year, and research shows oxybenzone damages coral. As ocean temperatures rise, the algae that feed coral and lend it its vivid colors leave, causing the coral to bleach and eventually die. Oxybenzone in sunscreen can cause bleaching to occur at lower temperatures.

Key West, Florida, and Hawaii have already started to ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate (another questionable chemical that has been found to contribute to the bleaching of coral reefs) beginning in 2021. Other Caribbean and Pacific islands are following suit, and it’s likely other waterfront locations will also consider the ban soon.


2. FDA Study

In addition to damaging to coral reefs and sea life, oxybenzone is harmful to our bodies. The Food and Drug Administration released a May 2019 study saying chemicals commonly found in chemical sunscreens can enter into your bloodstream and stay there for up to 7 days. This study examined oxybenzone, avobenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule — and proved these chemicals do enter your skin and your veins.

Most sunscreens on the shelf oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octocrylene to block UV rays. These organic chemicals absorb UV radiation and convert it into a small amount of heat. However, animal studies have raised concerns that oxybenzone disrupts normal hormone patterns in people.

But this recent FDA study shouldn’t be breaking news. Evidence that sunscreen may be systemically absorbed was indicated by studies in humans as early as 1997. And in 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrated the presence of oxybenzone in 97% of Americans.


The Chemistry of Oxybenzone

Oxybenzone is a benzophenone derivative commonly used throughout the world to make sun-products with especially high sun protection factors (SPF). It belongs to a small group of UVA blocking agents that include methyl anthranilate and butylmethoxydibenzoyl-methane, which is the UVA sunscreen of choice in Europe.

Within seconds of application, oxybenzone penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream. As a photocarcinogen that can attack DNA and increase the production of free radicals, it promotes the formation of cancerous cells. It’s considered a contributing factor in the recent increase of melanoma cases among chemical sunscreen users.

Research studies link higher concentrations of oxybenzone to various serious disorders, including endometriosis in older women, and lower birth weights in newborns. Some studies show it behaves similarly to the hormone estrogen, suggesting a link to breast cancer. It’s also been linked to eczema, and it can trigger allergic skin reactions and hormone disruptions. Needless to say, small children should avoid using sunscreen containing oxybenzone, but really, any human should avoid it.


Chemical Formula



EWG Rating 8

Surprising Facts about Oxybenzone

1. Oxybenzone is inside 97% of Americans — it’s been found in breast milk, urine, and bloodstreams.

2. Oxybenzone Breaks Down Into More Toxic Byproducts in Public Pools — it’s not just the ocean we should be concerned about. Oxybenzone is a problem in public pools. When swimming pools are analyzed for chemicals, oxybenzone is consistently found. Oxybenzone, when mixed with the chemicals used to treat pools like chlorine, breaks down into byproducts that can be more problematic to health than oxybenzone by itself. These new chemicals are directly absorbed into the skin of adults and children.

3. Oxybenzone penetrates the skin, gets into the bloodstream, and acts like estrogen in the body.

4. Oxybenzone has been linked to endometriosis in older women and lower birth weights in newborn girls.

5. Adolescent boys with high oxybenzone levels have lower total testosterone levels.

6. Oxybenzone may contribute to specifically lower sperm levels in grown men.

7. Oxybenzone can trigger itchy, eczema-like allergic skin reactions.


Safe Sunscreen Options

“People who are concerned about the safety of chemical sunscreens can opt to use mineral sunscreens. These we know are safe. This is something that is evidence-based.” says Dr. Kanade Shinkai, a dermatologist with the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.

Mineral or physical sunscreens rely on zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to reflect and absorb sunlight from the skin, rather than strictly absorbing it like chemical sunscreens.

All Waxhead Sunscreens use only non-nano Zinc Oxide as an active ingredient. Use our sunscreen and you never have to ask What is Oxybenzone?



By using a single 1 oz dose of petrochemical sunscreen, a person delivers directly to their bloodstream (where it isn’t even filtered by the liver) a number of toxins they AVOID by eating organic foods for an ENTIRE YEAR. This is because of the relative exposure levels of food-borne toxins (which in NON-organic foods, is in parts per MILLION) vs petro toxins, which make up about 25-40% of petrochemical sunscreens. We’re talking a 0.0001% concentration vs 25-40%.

Informed consumers spend billions a year on organic foods, and yet they don’t realize what’s coming in right under the radar within their skincare products.




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.




What is Oxybenzone?

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