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Benzophenone-3

icky
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

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Lip Protectant Stick Garnier Ombrelle Ultra Light Advanced Weightless Body Lotion Spf50+ Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face Superscreen Spf 50+ Neutrogena Moistureshine Lip Soother Lipgloss Spf20 Paula's Choice Extra Care Non-Greasy Sunscreen Spf 50 SunSense Daily Face Spf 50+ Banana Boat Sun Comfort Lotion Spf50 Bobbi Brown Bb Cream Broad Spectrum Spf 35 Bobbi Brown Extra Repair Moisturizing Balm SPF 25 Clarins Uv Plus Anti-Pollution Sunscreen Multi-Protection Broad Spectrum Spf 50 DRMTLGY Protect And Glow Spf45 Light Tint DRMTLGY Protect And Glow Spf45 Medium Tint Estee Lauder Daywear Anti-Oxidant Beauty Benefit BB SPF 35 Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Spf 30 Mario Badescu Aloe Moisturizer Spf 15 Mario Badescu Collagen Moisturizer Spf15 Mario Badescu Hyaluronic Moisturizer Spf15 Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Clear Face Sunscreen Lotion Spf 30 Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock Spf 50+ Perfect O cosmetics Whitening Uv Sunblock Purpose Dual Treatment Moisture Lotion With Spf 10 SeneGence Senederm® Senesun™ Spf 30 Sunscreen Shiseido Future Solution Lx Universal Defense Spf 50+ Sunscreen Trinny London BFF Skin Perfector SPF 30 Alpha Keri Shower & Bath Oil Alpha-H Protection Plus Daily Spf50+ Anthony Day Cream Spf 30 Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Lotion 50 Avon Protetor Solar Hidratante Banana Boat Dry Balance Lotion Spf50 Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer Broad Spectrum Spf50, Fragrance Free Coppertone Sport Continuous Sunscreen Spray Spf 50 Cosmedix Peptide-Rich Defense Moisturizer With Broad Spectrum Spf 50 Sunscreen Dermalogica Oil Clearing Matte Moisturizer Spf15 Dermalogica Oil Free Matte SPF30 JAN MARINI Antioxidant Daily Face Protectant Spf 33 Laura mercier Tinted Moisturizer Natural Skin Perfector Spf 30 Meaningful Beauty Skin Brightening Decollete And Neck Treatment Broad Spectrum Spf 15 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 Pixi Sun Serum Shiseido Benefiance Wrinkleresist24 Protective Hand Revitalizer Spf 10 Shiseido Future Solution LX Total Protective Cream Spf 20 Shiseido Future Solution Lx Total Protective Emulsion Spf 20 Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion Wetforce Spf 50 e.l.f. Beautifully Bare Natural Glow Lotion e.l.f. Illuminating Moisturizer elf Glow Radiant Moisturizer SPF 15 Annique 180 Moisture Balm