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How Dangerous Is Oxybenzone?
BY Reef Repair | October 25, 2019

Just How Dangerous Is Oxybenzone To Humans?


Oxybenzone is a dangerous petro-chemical found in 70% of sunscreens, it enters your bloodstream after application causing severe health concerns in adults and children. It is extremely important to not expose infants, toddlers and unborn babies to Oxybenzone!

Oxybenzone is a petroleum-based chemical that is used in over 70% of sunscreens sold in the world today. It is used primarily to absorb UVB light from our sun, thereby preventing damage to your skin, but there’s a problem.

Turns out that Oxybenzone might not be “as safe” as the sunscreen mafia industry has been telling us.

In fact, Oxybenzone isn’t just exceptionally poisonous to coral reefs [2], it is almost indisputably dangerous to human beings, especially pregnant mothers, infants, neonates (newborn children under 4 weeks of age) and unborn babies (fetuses) [3].

Baby Safe All Natural Oxybenzone Free SPF 50 Sunscreen from Reef Repair 120ml
Baby Safe Oxybenzone Free SPF 50 Sunscreen from Reef Repair 120ml

So let’s delve into the problems with, and the dangers of Oxybenzone!

A Brief History Of Oxybenzone

Oxybenzone is a non-natural chemical first synthesized in 1906 from Benzene (petro-chemical). Benzene is found in crude oils and is a by-product of the oil-refining process [4].

It was first formulated into cosmetics and sunscreens in the 1950’s and was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) in the 1980’s for use in consumer cosmetics including sunscreen. In 2013 the use of Oxybenzone in cosmetics was capped at 6% by the USFDA due to growing safety concerns, it has remained at this level since then [5].

Reef Repair UV Spectrum Poster
Reef Repair UV Spectrum Poster

Oxybenzone absorbs potentially damaging UV light in the UVB (260–320 nm) spectrum, helping to prevent skin damage like sunburn and potentially helps prevent deeper UV penetration which can cause irreversible DNA damage and cancers.

It was hailed as a very important achievement in the preventative war on skin cancers and became widely distributed in sunscreen products. As stated earlier, you can find it in over 70% of sunscreens sold in the USA today [1].

Chemicals Can Be a Double Edged Sword

Every day we are faced with choices as to what to eat, what to put on our skin and what to buy. We generally assume that if the USFDA has approved it for use and manufacturers all use it, then it is safe for us to buy and consume. We rely on government bodies to protect us from potentially harmful chemicals that industries may want to use.

To illustrate the above, here is a video from the 1940s where school children are being sprayed with DDT (An extremely toxic pesticide) at a local swimming pool to illustrate how safe the chemical was “thought to be” for human beings.

DDT Spraying on childrenDDT Spraying on children

In 1972 DDT was banned due to severe and horrible effects on people and our environment. Especially pregnant mothers, newborns (birth defects) and in particular, girls, who when found to have been exposed to DDT before puberty were 5 times more likely to develop breast cancer [6].

DDT was hailed as a revolutionary way of preventing malaria and protecting crops. It turned out to be both extremely environmentally toxic and completely human toxic. DDT should never have been approved for use in the global agricultural industry.

Everyone in the world is pretty much in agreement that the use of DDT use was a huge mistake. Remember the above scenes as we delve into Oxybenzone use.

Short List Of Oxybenzone Dangers

Honestly, it is likely we do not fully understand all the dangers that Oxybenzone currently poses to human beings. We are certainly starting to understand how environmentally toxic it is to ocean ecosystems like Coral Reefs, but this article is about the dangers to us. Here is a shortlist of what Oxybenzone exposure is believed to cause.

Above is everything you, your children and potentially your unborn infant are gambling with receiving if you use products containing Oxybenzone. Once Oxybenzone enters your bloodstream after application [7], you are very likely risking severe and life long health implications.

Also, our bodies can not naturally dispose of Oxybenzone. In men, it bio-accumulates for-ever and women can only rid themselves of it by having a child. A significant portion of Oxybenzone passes from mother to baby during pregnancy [17].

Oxybenzone and Endocrine Disruption

The word endocrine refers to glands that secrete hormones or other products directly into the bloodstream. So we can rephrase that to say, Oxybenzone is thought to disrupt hormones and affect hormone production in humans, Oxybenzone is strongly considered to be an Endocrine Disruptor [9]. This is bad because we need our hormones to be in check and in balance. Diruption of hormones in children or infants as they develop is even worse.

Here is a brief list of issues that EDC disruption (hormone disruption) can cause or is currently linked to.

Obesity, diabetes, female reproduction issues, male reproduction issues, hormone-sensitive cancers in females, prostate cancer in males, thyroid abnormalities, and neurodevelopment and neuroendocrine systems being affected by being exposed to EDC’s Wikipedia

We can not say that Oxybenzone on its own causes these conditions. But, Oxybenzone is almost certainly an Endocrine Disruptor [9] and you can find out more alarming issues caused via this scientific study showing that Oxybenzone is responsible for Androngenic & Estrogenic hormone disruption.

Oxybenzone and Hirschsprung’s Disease

Another recent study has strongly cited Oxybenzone as the culprit behind the development of a potentially life-threatening illness called Hirschsprung’s Disease, which affects newborn children [3].

Hirschsprung’s Disease in short is:

… a condition that affects the large intestine (colon) and causes problems with passing stool. The condition is present at birth (congenital) as a result of missing nerve cells in the muscles of the baby’s colon… Children who have Hirschsprung’s disease are prone to a serious intestinal infection called enterocolitis. Enterocolitis can be life-threatening and requires immediate treatment.

Essentially it means your baby or child can’t poop (go number 2), this can even manifest in adults later in life. It obviously leads to other serious complications and we suggest you “Google it“, because it’s horrible, and we don’t want to dive into the particulars of Hirschsprung’s Disease in this article.

Suffice to say you do not want it, and you certainly do not want your children or newborn baby to have it!

Oxybenzone and Lower Testosterone Levels

We very much doubt that any man reading this is wondering how to significantly decrease his Testosterone levels. Though if you are and you do want to drastically lower your Testosterone, then maybe Oxybenzone based sunscreens are for you!

One human study coapplying 3 sunscreen active ingredients (oxybenzone, 4-MBC, and octinoxate) suggested a minor, intermittent, but statistically significant drop in testosterone levels in men during a one-week application period.

Essentially the most damning part of that study is that it took just one week of daily application to significantly lower testosterone levels in male subjects engaging in the experiment. If you are a guy reading this, have a think about how often you have applied chemical sunscreen in your life, or even just this month? Studies like this one are fairly clear that Oxybenzone is very good at lowering male testosterone levels [11].

Some of you may be thinking that this is the perfect way to cure toxic male masculinity, but human hormone disruption like this is no laughing matter. Lowered testosterone levels in men are strongly linked to erectile dysfunction, obesity, and depression, leading in many cases too far worse behavior than your typical testosterone-filled beach bums or gym junkies.

Testosterone is important for the healthy develop of boys into men
Testosterone is important for the healthy develop of boys into men

Men need testosterone to be happy and healthy [12], we certainly don’t want them chemically castrating themselves due to sunscreen use!

Oxybenzone and Cancer

Now for the big one, the word that scares pretty much every single human being on this planet, f’ing Cancer.

Photo Credit:

As a manufacturer in the sunscreen industry, we are trying to produce all-natural, human safe products, that help protect you and your loved ones from cancer. So we find it infuriating to read newly released information, that at present, is linking synthetic chemical sunscreen use (Oxybenzone based sunscreens) to increasing rates of skin cancer around the world.

To understand this phenomenon better you need to clearly understand how Oxybenzone and UV light from the sun interact. Hold on it’s going to get a bit sciency (sorry-not-sorry).

  • Oxybenzone / Octinoxate are chemical UV Filters which absorbs UV light (radiation), primarily in the UVB spectrum.
  • Zinc Oxide is a mineral UV Filter that reflects UV light (radiation), across both the UVA and UVB spectrum (broad spectrum).

To understand why UVA / UVB broad-spectrum protection is so important in sunscreen, we have created this useful infographic showing the significant dangers of each part of the UV spectrum.

UVB vs UVA the effects of too much sun exposure from normal UV radiation
UVB vs UVA the effects of too much sun exposure from normal UV radiation

Broad-spectrum UVA/UVB filters like Zinc Oxide can protect you from dangerous and potentially fatal cancers, whilst UVB only filters like Oxybenzone do not protect you anywhere near as well. In-essence, protecting oneself against UVA is better than protecting oneself against UVB, but essentially you want and need protection against both in a sunscreen!

Did You Know?

SPF Ratings only indicate skin protection levels against UVB radiation.

Yep, your SPF 100 sunscreen might be good at protecting you from sunburn but likely has little to no protection against UVA radiation (cancer). In fact, there is currently only one USFDA approved active ingredient for chemical sunscreens called Avobenzone, that has effective UVA protection properties. Avobenzone is chemically identical to Oxybenzone and is currently being linked to all the same human health issues we mentioned previously in this article, such as hormone disruption and of course coral reef destruction.

Reef Repair UV Ingredients Spectrum Poster
Reef Repair UV Ingredients Spectrum Poster

The real issue here though is that almost all users of sunscreens believe that higher SPF ratings mean more or better sun protection, right?

Wrong, higher SPF ratings do not mean better protection [18]. High SPF ratings lull people into a false sense of security, leading them into spending longer in the sun than they should. This leads to more DNA damage via excessive and unprotected UVA exposure, which inevitably leads to more skin cancer and Melanomas. Remember that you can’t see dangerous UVA damage until it’s too late.

This misleading approach to sun safety, by the sun cream industry, has led governments around the world to cap SPF ratings on all sunscreens to SPF 50 [18].

Simply put, skin cancer is on the rise globally because people are not as protected as they think when buying higher than SPF 50 rated sunscreens and sun care products!

Oxybenzone And The USFDA

Here is another great tidbit concerning Oxybenzone’s safety for humans. The USFDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has actually labelled chemicals like Oxybenzone and Octinoxate as “unsafe” [15]. The USFDA has not recommended removing sun care products containing Oxybenzone from circulation, because…

The benefits of using sunscreen, even those containing Oxybenzone and Octinoxate … currently outweigh the risks associated with not using them.

What that means in simple terms is: The USFDA was worried that if they recalled Oxybenzone and Octinoxate based sun care products, that skin cancer rates might go up, due primarily to a lack of sunscreen supply. Remember that over 70% of sunscreens sold in the USA contain Oxybenzone [1].

Essentially it’s a rock and a hard place for the USFDA. On one side of the fence, they have the science supporting just how dangerous oxybenzone is to human beings. On the other side, if they recall chemical sunscreen completely from public use, they potentially help expose people to something worse (e.g. DNA damage and cancers caused by unprotected sun exposure).

All sunburn is bad for you!
All sunburn is bad for you!

It’s a complicated issue. Yes, SPF ratings are bad at telling you if you are protected against DNA damage and cancers. Yes, Oxybenzone is likely dangerously toxic to you and your children. But, if you don’t use some/any/even chemical sunscreens, you might be exposing yourself to other problems.

So what the heck do we do? How do we as human beings protect ourselves fully from the dangers of Oxybenzone and at the same time protect ourselves from increased risks of skin cancer and DNA damage?

Use Zinc Oxide Based Sunscreens!

Thankfully the USFDA also noted that we have two “very safe” mineral active ingredients at our disposal, that are determined to be safe for human use. Those being Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide in their non-nano forms [16].

  • Type: Sunscreen
  • SPF: 50
  • Water Resistant: 80 Min
  • UVA:
  • UVA II:
  • UVB:
  • Reef Safe:
  • Moisturising:
  • Recyclable:
  • Baby Safe:
  • Kid Safe:
  • Non Oily:
  • Natural: 100%

Zinc Oxide for topical use is widespread, offers excellent UVA and UVB protection, is generally recognized as safe by governmental bodies and agencies that deal with ingredient safety, including the USFDA. Zinc Oxide also has less than 0.01% skin penetration in human volunteers, meaning it does not absorb into your cells or bloodstream and has no evidence of hormone disruption.

Plus, in its non-nano form, it has near-zero risk of inhalation [16], meaning no concerns from small particulates entering your lungs.

Titanium Dioxide Vs Zinc Oxide UV Protection Graph
Titanium Dioxide Vs Zinc Oxide UV Protection Graph

Lastly, you also now know that Zinc Oxide offers strong broad-spectrum protection and that Titanium Dioxide does not! There really is no reason left not to make the jump to Zinc Oxide based sunscreen.

Summing Up Oxybenzone Dangers

If we haven’t convinced you by now about the human dangers of Oxybenzone and other synthetic sunscreen chemicals, it’s unlikely we ever will. Though hopefully, you are now slightly more aware/wary of sunscreen labeling and active ingredients.

If you want to risk your health by using sunscreens containing Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, you can, there are no sunscreen police running around checking bottles of sunblock for Oxybenzone while you are at the beach.

Actually that is not entirely true. There are sunscreen police now operating in Florida, Belize, The Maldives, The Great Barrier Reef, Palau, The U.S Virgin Islands, Philippines, Indonesia and Hawaii, to protect their coral reefs from environmental destruction from dangerous chemicals like Oxybenzone.

Healthy Coral vs Bleached Coral. Effects Of Sun Cream With Oxybenzone
Healthy Coral vs Bleached Coral. Effects Of Sun Cream With Oxybenzone

Reef Repair strongly recommends that if you are a mom, a dad, a human being, or especially if pregnant, that you use only mineral-based sunscreen on your little ones. Your children shouldn’t have to be exposed to dangerous hormone-disrupting chemicals like it’s the 1940’s.

Please stay safe in the sun and thanks for taking the time to read this exhaustingly long article about the human dangers of Oxybenzone!

Reef Repair is an independant 100% natural sunscreen manufacturer. The opinions outlined in this article are those solely of

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