Oxybenzone and Sunscreens: A Critical Review of the Evidence and a Plan for Discussion with Patients

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Rachel S Mirsky
Giselle Prado
Ryan M Svoboda
Darrell S Rigel


oxybenzone, sunscreen, photoprotection


There has been recent extensive controversy concerning potential environmental and health hazards of oxybenzone (also known as benzophenone-3 and Eusolex 4360). Although there has been widespread related media attention, there is little definitive scientific research supporting the associated concerns. Given these controversies, it is critical that dermatologists have a clear understanding of the underlying issues related to oxybenzone in order to effectively counsel their patients. The purpose of this article is to provide dermatologists with a framework for presenting this issue to patients. Within, we address questions such as: 1) Is oxybenzone the reason for coral bleaching? 2) Is there data to suggest that oxybenzone is harmful to humans? 3) Why is oxybenzone used in the majority of US sunscreens? and 4) Are there other potential problems with oxybenzone restrictions that could lead to more skin cancer in the future? After a careful review of the evidence, we conclude that, in our opinion, there is little definitive scientific research supporting the associated concerns and that before this evidence exists, given the benefits of oxybenzone-containing sunscreens in skin cancer prevention, this ban is premature.  Banning an ingredient commonly used in most sunscreens may lead to confusion among consumers and have the untoward outcome of less sunscreen being used overall.


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