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


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

Urban Skin Rx Complexion Protection Moisturizer Spf30 Apex Sunblock-Oc 45 Oil Control Matte Gel Beach Hut Face Ultra-Sensitive Hypoallergenic Sunscreen Spf65 Carmex Classic Lip Balm Original Stick Carmex Fresh Cherry SPF 15 Clinique Spf 50 Sunscreen Face Cream Dermaquest Solar Moisturizer Spf 30 Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Plump Perfect Lift And Firm Eye Cream Spf15 Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Lip Protectant Stick Face Reality Daily Spf30 Lotion Garnier Ombrelle Kids Sunscreen Lotion Wet N' Protect Garnier Ombrelle Ultra Light Advanced Weightless Body Lotion Spf50+ La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Fluid Lotion Spf 50 For Body Marcelle Flawless Air Serum Foundation Spf 15 Marcelle Sheer Tint Moisturizer Spf 30 Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face Superscreen Spf 50+ Neutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer Spf 45 Neutrogena Moistureshine Lip Soother Lipgloss Spf20 Neutrogena Revitalizing Lip Balm SPF 20 Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Lip Moisturizer With Sunscreen Spf 15 PLUM Grape Seed & Sea Buckthorn Light Stay Day Cream Spf 30 Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Ultra Moisturizing Lip Balm With Spf 15 Paula's Choice Extra Care Non-Greasy Sunscreen Spf 50 SunSense Anti-Ageing Face SunSense Daily Face Spf 50+ reversa Anti-Wrinkle Cream Spf 30 Alve pharmaceuticals Sunprotek Gel Spf 50 Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Sunscreen For Face & Body Spf 60 Avon Anew Reversalist Complete Renewal Broad Spectrum Spf 25 Day Cream Avon Multivitamin Kids' Sun Cream Spf50 Avon Protetor Solar Care Sun+ Controle De Brilho Fps 50 Banana Boat Sun Comfort Lotion Spf50 Banana Boat Ultra Protect Faces Spf 50 Pa++++ Banana Boat Ultra Protect Spf 80 Banana Boat Unscreen Lip Balm Spf 45, Aloe Vera & Vitamin E Bobbi Brown Bb Cream Broad Spectrum Spf 35 Bobbi Brown Extra Repair Moisturizing Balm SPF 25 Bobbi Brown Primer Plus Radiance SPF 35 Brinton Duox Sunscreen Lotion With Spf 30 In Oil Free Formula 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 Derma Essentia Sunscreen Spf 50 Gel Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Lift And Firm Day Cream Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30 Episoft Ac Moisturiser With Spf 30 Estée Lauder Daywear Anti-Oxidant Beauty Benefit BB SPF 35 Eucerin Q10 Anti-wrinkle Face Lotion SPF 15, For Sensitive Skin Garnier Ombrelle Sport Endurance Sun Protection Lotion - Spf 50 HAMPTON SUN Spf 15 Gel Harmony Castle Protective Soothing Cream