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Benzophenone-3

Also-called-like-this: Oxybenzone
What-it-does: sunscreen
Irritancy: 0
Comedogenicity: 0

Details

A chemical sunscreen agent that absorbs UVB and short UVA rays (280-350nm) with its peak protection at 288 nm. Unlike many other chemical sunscreens, it is highly stable but its UV absorbing abilities are weak so it always has to be combined with other sunscreen agents for proper protection. More often than not, it's used as a photostabilizer rather than a proper sunscreen agent as it can protect formulas nicely from UV damage.

Regarding safety, BP-3 is somewhat controversial. First, its molecules are small (228 Da) and very lipophilic (oil loving) and these properties result in very good absorption. The problem is that you want sunscreens on the top of your skin and not in your bloodstream, so for BP-3 this is a problem. In fact, it absorbs so well that 4 hours after application of a sunscreen product with BP-3, it can be detected in urine

Another concern of BP-3 is that it shows some estrogenic activity, though it's probably not relevant when applied topically to the skin. Estrogenic activity was confirmed only in-vitro (in test tubes) and when taken orally by lab animals, and not when used topically as you would normally. In fact, a 2004 follow-up study to examine the estrogenic effect of sunscreens when used topically on the whole body found that "the endogenous levels of reproductive hormones were unaffected" (even though BP-3 could be detected both in plasma and urine, so its absorption is no doubt too good).

If that was not enough, Wikipedia claims that BP-3 is nowadays the most common allergen found in sunscreens, and the always-trustworthy smartskincare writes that "[benzophenones] have been shown in some studies to promote the generation of potentially harmful free radicals".

On the up side, sunscreens are pretty well regulated in several parts of the world, and BP-3 is considered "safe as used" and is an allowed sunscreen agent everywhere. It can be used in concentrations of up to 10% in the EU and up to 6% in the US.

Overall, BP-3 is probably our least favorite sunscreen agent and we prefer sunscreens without it. However, if you find a formula that you love and contains BP-3, we do not think that you should throw it away. A sunscreen with BP-3 is definitely better than no sunscreen. 

Show me some proof

  • Janjua, Nadeem Rezaq, et al. "Systemic absorption of the sunscreens benzophenone-3, octyl-methoxycinnamate, and 3-(4-methyl-benzylidene) camphor after whole-body topical application and reproductive hormone levels in humans." Journal of Investigative Dermatology 123.1 (2004): 57-61.
  • Schlumpf, Margret, et al. "In vitro and in vivo estrogenicity of UV screens." Environmental health perspectives 109.3 (2001): 239.

Products with Benzophenone-3

Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face Superscreen Spf 50+ Paula's Choice Extra Care Non-Greasy Sunscreen Spf 50 SunSense Daily Face Spf 50+ Banana Boat Sun Comfort Lotion Spf50 Estee Lauder Daywear Anti-Oxidant Beauty Benefit BB SPF 35 Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Spf 30 Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Clear Face Sunscreen Lotion Spf 30 Purpose Dual Treatment Moisture Lotion With Spf 10 Alpha-H Protection Plus Daily Spf50+ Anthony Day Cream Spf 30 Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Lotion 50 Banana Boat Dry Balance Lotion Spf50 Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer Broad Spectrum Spf50, Fragrance Free Dermalogica Oil Clearing Matte Moisturizer Spf15 JAN MARINI Antioxidant Daily Face Protectant Spf 33 Neutrogena Healthy Skin Face Lotion With Sunscreen Broad Spectrum Spf 15 Paula's Choice Pc4Men Daytime Protect Paula's Choice Skin Balancing Ultra-Sheer Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Spf 30 e.l.f. Beautifully Bare Natural Glow Lotion e.l.f. Illuminating Moisturizer elf Glow Radiant Moisturizer SPF 15 Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Facial Moisturizer With Broad Spectrum Spf 30 DCL Essential Skin Protection Spf 30 Garnier Moisture Bomb The Antioxidant Super Moisturizer Spf 30 Kiehl’s Super Fluid Uv Defense Spf 50+ La Roche-Posay Anthelios Aox Daily Antioxidant Serum Broad Spectrum Spf 50 Neutrogena Clear Face Break-Out Free Liquid Lotion Sunscreen Broad Spectrum Spf 55 Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion Spf 50 Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum Spf 30 Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum Spf 55 Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Face & Body Dry Touch Sunscreen Lotion Spf 50 Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Face & Body Stick Sunscreen Spf 70 Nip+Fab Post Glycolic Fix Moisturiser Obagi Professional-C Suncare Broad Spectrum Spf 30 Olay Luminous Brightening & Protecting Lotion With Sunscreen Broad Spectrum Spf 30 Paula's Choice Resist Skin Restoring Moisturizer With Spf 50 Alpha-H Daily Essential Moisturiser Spf 50 Anne Semonin Brightening Cream Spf15 Aquaphor Lip Protectant + Sunscreen Bio essence Bio-Water Sunscreen Spf 50+ Pa++ (Hydrating) Lanolips Lip Ointment Spf30 - Rose Lanolips Tinted Balm Spf 30 Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face Spf 30+ Neutrogena Moisture Spf15 Hema Hello Mirror Guess My Age Facial Oil NYX Born To Glow Liquid Illuminator Kiehl’s Facial Fuel Energizing Face Wash Kiehl’s Creme De Corps Dr. Brandt Time Arrest Laser Tight BIOSILK Silk Therapy Conditioner