What is Oxybenzone?

What is Oxybenzone?

This is part of our ongoing series helping consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry, and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths, and give you an honest assessment, so you can make informed choices for your family!


Oxybenzone (aka benzophenone-3, BP-3, and 2-hydroxy-4-methoxybenzophenone)

What is Oxybenzone?

Oxybenzone is a chemical naturally found in some flowering plants, but it’s commercially produced from benzoyl chloride with 3-hydroxyanisole (1,2).

What it does:

Oxybenzone is a UVB and short-wave UVA filter that has been used in consumer products for over 40 years (3). It’s most commonly used in sunscreens and other personal care products, but it’s also used as a UV absorber and stabilizer in some plastics (2,4).

Why we’re featuring it today:

In explaining why we have chosen to use mineral vs. chemical sunscreens, it’s important to note the differences between the two. Studies suggest that many chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin, and thus make their way into the bloodstream (while mineral sunscreens like non-nano zinc oxide are not). Why is this important? Despite Oxybenzone’s widespread use, we have concerns about its safety. For this reason, we’ve included it in our Honestly Free Guarantee (the list of ingredients our products are made without). Some of our reasons for concern:

  • Oxybenzone is the most common allergen found in sunscreens (5-7).
  • In in vitro, fish, and mammal studies, oxybenzone has been shown to have weak hormone disruption capabilities, as well as having potential reproductive impacts (8-12).
  • Oxybenzone is often metabolized into stronger bioactive chemicals (13,14).
  • Oxybenzone bioaccumulates – meaning it builds up in living tissues and can increase in concentration over time (14).
  • It’s been detected in urine, blood, and breast milk samples worldwide, in addition to the urine from premature infants (14,15).
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found oxybenzone in the urine of nearly all of the people tested (ages 6 and up) in their latest biomonitoring studies (12).
  • The Swedish Research Council has determined that sunscreens with oxybenzone are unsuitable for use on children under age two because they haven’t fully developed the enzymes scientists believe break it down (2).
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states, “human health effects from benzophenone-3 at low environmental doses or at biomonitored levels from low environmental exposures are unknown (1).”

While more research is needed to assess the potential impacts of this chemical absorber, we believe it’s better to be safe than sorry – especially when there’s a known, safe alternative for sunscreen.


  1. (2013, December 04). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/Benzophenone-3_BiomonitoringSummary.html
  2. Oxybenzone. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/oxybenzone
  3. US Food and Drug Administration. (1993). Sunscreen Drug Products for Over-the-Counter Human Use. Tentative Final Monograph 58. Fed Reg,28194, 28302.
  4. Household Products Database - Health and Safety Information on Household Products. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from https://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/brands?tbl=chem&id=198&query=oxybenzone&searchas=TblChemicals
  5. Wolverton, S. E. (2012). Comprehensive dermatologic drug therapy. Elsevier Health Sciences. P.616
  6. Rietschel, R. L., Fowler, J. F., & Fisher, A. A. (2008). Fisher's contact dermatitis. PMPH-USA.
  7. Scheuer, E., & Warshaw, E. (2006). Sunscreen allergy: a review of epidemiology, clinical characteristics, and responsible allergens. Dermatitis,17(1), 3-11.
  8. Coronado, M., De Haro, H., Deng, X., Rempel, M. A., Lavado, R., & Schlenk, D. (2008). Estrogenic activity and reproductive effects of the UV-filter oxybenzone (2-hydroxy-4-methoxyphenyl-methanone) in fish. Aquatic Toxicology, 90(3), 182-187.
  9. Blüthgen, N., Zucchi, S., & Fent, K. (2012). Effects of the UV filter benzophenone-3 (oxybenzone) at low concentrations in zebrafish (Danio rerio). Toxicology and applied pharmacology, 263(2), 184-194.
  10. Schlenk, D., Sapozhnikova, Y., Irwin, M. A., Xie, L., Hwang, W., Reddy, S., ... & Kolodziej, E. P. (2005). In vivo bioassay‐guided fractionation of marine sediment extracts from the Southern California Bight, USA, for estrogenic activity. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 24(11), 2820-2826.
  11. Nakamura, N., Inselman, A., White, G., Chang, C. W., & Hansen, D. (2012). Effect of Maternal and Lactational Exposure to Oxybenzone on Testes Development in Male Rats. Biology of Reproduction, 87(Suppl 1), 259-259.
  12. (2013, July 23). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/Benzophenone-3_FactSheet.html
  13. Nakagawa, Y., & Suzuki, T. (2002). Metabolism of 2-hydroxy-4-methoxybenzophenone in isolated rat hepatocytes and xenoestrogenic effects of its metabolites on MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. Chemico-biological interactions, 139(2), 115-128.
  14. Kim, S., & Choi, K. (2014). Occurrences, toxicities, and ecological risks of benzophenone-3, a common component of organic sunscreen products: a mini-review. Environment international, 70, 143-157.
  15. Nakamura, N., Inselman, A., White, G., Chang, C. W., & Hansen, D. (2012). Effect of Maternal and Lactational Exposure to Oxybenzone on Testes Development in Male Rats. Biology of Reproduction, 87(Suppl 1), 259-259.


We aim to provide you with the most honest and credible information possible. This article was reviewed for accuracy by The Honest Team and was written based on trusted sources that are linked at the bottom of the article.