Sunscreen Safety: Is Avobenzone Safe in Sunscreen?

If you’re anything like me, you’d agree that sunscreen is as essential as your morning coffee. We all know it protects our skin, but ever wondered how exactly it does the trick? Time to dig a little deeper!

The Importance of Sunscreen

We’ve all heard it a thousand times – sunscreen is non-negotiable. It protects our skin from the damaging effects of the sun’s UV rays. But here’s a question that left me pondering: is all sunscreen created equal? We’ll explore this riddle later in the article.

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How Sunscreen Works: UVA and UVB Rays

In a nutshell, sunscreens work like a shield. They contain ingredients that absorb, reflect or scatter the sun’s rays. Now, UV rays are sneaky little devils. There are two types to be aware of: UVA and UVB. UVA rays can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkling and age spots. UVB rays can burn your skin. Too much exposure to either can cause skin cancer. The right sunscreen protects from both.

Understanding Sunscreen Ingredients

This is where things get a tad more complex, but bear with me. It’s all in the ingredients!

What is Avobenzone in Sunscreen?

Avobenzone, a chemical sunscreen ingredient, is a champ at absorbing UVA rays. You’ll often see it buddying up with other ingredients to protect against UVB rays too.

What is Homosalate in Sunscreen?

Homosalate is another common ingredient. It’s a UVB absorber, helping protect your skin from those pesky rays that can cause sunburn.

What is Helioplex in Sunscreen?

Helioplex is a formulation used in sunscreens that combines avobenzone with other sunscreen agents to make a broad-spectrum product. This means it provides solid protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

What is PABA in Sunscreen?

PABA, short for para-aminobenzoic acid, is a chemical that absorbs UVB radiation and is sometimes used in sunscreens. However, due to allergic reactions in some people, it’s less common now.

What is Anthelios in Sunscreen?

Anthelios is not an ingredient, but a brand of sunscreen. Known for its patented ingredient, Mexoryl SX, it offers broad-spectrum protection. Worth a shot!

What is Octinoxate in Sunscreen?

Octinoxate is one of the most common ingredients in sunscreens. It’s a UVB absorber, but there’s a bit of a kerfuffle about its safety. We’ll delve into that soon.

What is Octocrylene in Sunscreen?

Octocrylene absorbs UVB and some UVA rays. It also helps make sunscreens water-resistant, so it’s a common sight in ‘sport’ formulations.

What is IR in Sunscreen?

IR stands for infrared radiation. Some sunscreens offer IR protection in addition to UV, though the need for IR protection is still being researched.

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The Controversies and Safety Concerns Surrounding Sunscreen Ingredients

Alright, we’ve come to the meaty part. There’s a lot of chatter about the safety of these ingredients. Let’s debunk some myths!

Is Avobenzone Safe in Sunscreen?

There’s no definitive answer, but most experts say yes. Avobenzone has been approved by the FDA and is considered safe in concentrations up to 3%. That said, it can break down in the sun, reducing its effectiveness, and it’s also been found to be a weak hormone disruptor. So the jury’s still out.

The Problems with Avobenzone

Despite being a potent UVA protector, avobenzone isn’t perfect. It’s not very stable and can degrade in the sun, leading to a shorter effective period. Many sunscreens use stabilizing ingredients to help, but it’s still a weak point.

Is Octinoxate a Chemical Sunscreen?

Yes, it is. Octinoxate is a chemical filter that absorbs UVB rays.

Is Octinoxate Safe in Sunscreen?

This is a hot topic. Octinoxate is approved by the FDA, but there are concerns. Some research suggests it might be an endocrine disruptor, meaning it could interfere with your hormones. So, if you’re worried, there are alternatives available. Read more about Octinoxate and Oxybenzone-Free Sunscreens here.

Is Octocrylene Safe in Sunscreen?

Like avobenzone and octinoxate, octocrylene is FDA-approved. It’s considered safe, but there have been some reports of skin allergies. As with all things, what works for one might not work for another. Read more about Octinoxate and Oxybenzone-Free Sunscreens here.

Decoding Sunscreen Labels: Understanding Your Sunscreen

The Role of SPF

Sun Protection Factor, better known as SPF, is an essential part of any sunscreen. It quantifies how effectively a sunscreen can protect your skin from harmful UVB rays. These rays are primarily responsible for sunburn and contribute to skin cancer.

An SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically allows you to be in the sun 15 times longer before you burn compared to when you are not wearing any sunscreen. Higher SPF values, like SPF 50, offer stronger protection but the increase in protection is not proportional. For example, SPF 30 blocks about 97% of UVB rays, while SPF 50 blocks around 98%.

Remember, no sunscreen can block 100% of UV rays. It’s also vital to reapply sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating, regardless of its SPF.

Physical vs. Chemical Sunscreens

Physical sunscreens, also known as mineral sunscreens, utilize active mineral ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They work by sitting on top of the skin and deflecting harmful UV rays. Physical sunscreens are often preferred by individuals with sensitive skin as they are less likely to cause skin irritation.

On the other hand, chemical sunscreens penetrate the skin slightly and absorb UV rays before they can damage your skin. Ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, and octinoxate are commonly found in chemical sunscreens. While they offer robust and broad-spectrum protection, some people may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions.

Exploring Alternative Sunscreen Options

What is Non-Nano Sunscreen?

Non-nano sunscreens are a subset of physical sunscreens. They use larger particles of the active ingredients (non-nano) that are less likely to penetrate the skin barrier. The term “non-nano” refers to particle size. In a non-nano sunscreen, the particles of its active ingredients are larger than 100 nanometers.

Obagi Sun Shield Matte Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen, 3 oz Pack of 1 Obagi Sun Shield Matte Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen, 3 oz Pack of 1 @ Amazon Amazon Prime

Obagi Sunscreen Sun Shield Matte Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen: This sunscreen gives a matte finish, suitable for oily or combination skin types. Obagi is known for its high-quality skincare products and this broad spectrum sunscreen is no exception.

Non-nano sunscreens are gaining popularity due to concerns that smaller (nano) particles could enter the bloodstream and cause health issues, although current scientific evidence is inconclusive. Additionally, non-nano sunscreens are often considered more reef-friendly as they pose less risk to marine life compared to sunscreens with nano-sized particles.

Replenix Hydrating Antioxidant Tinted Mineral Sunscreen with Medical-Grade Zinc, Dermatologist-Developed Oil-Free SPF 50+ for Face & Body (4 fl. oz.) Replenix Hydrating Antioxidant Tinted Mineral Sunscreen with Medical-Grade Zinc,... @ Amazon Amazon Prime

Replenix Antioxidant Hydrating Sunscreen SPF 50+: Not only does this sunscreen offer protection from the sun, but it also hydrates the skin and contains antioxidants that can help fight against environmental damage.

How Much Titanium Dioxide Should Be in Sunscreen?

Titanium dioxide is a physical sunscreen ingredient that offers UVB and partial UVA protection. The concentration of titanium dioxide in sunscreen varies depending on the product, but generally, it ranges from 2-15%.

Bondi Sands Fragrance Free Daily Sunscreen Face Lotion SPF 50 | Hydrating UVA + UVB Protection, Non-Greasy, Gentle, Water Resistant | 2.53 Oz/75 mL Bondi Sands Fragrance Free Daily Sunscreen Face Lotion SPF 50 | Hydrating UVA +... @ Amazon Amazon Prime

Bondi Sands Fragrance Free Daily Sunscreen Face Lotion SPF 50: This sunscreen is perfect for those with skin sensitivities because it’s fragrance-free. It’s a high-SPF option that will protect your skin from harmful UVA/UVB rays.

High concentrations can leave a white cast on the skin, which is why some formulas opt for a lower concentration combined with other sunscreen ingredients for broad-spectrum coverage. It’s vital to ensure your sunscreen provides broad-spectrum protection, which means it protects against both UVA (ageing) and UVB (burning) rays.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Ultra-Light Face Sunscreen SPF 50, Zinc Oxide Sunscreen for Face, 100% Mineral Sunblock, Oil Free Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin, Daily Sun Protection La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Ultra-Light Face Sunscreen SPF 50, Zinc Oxide... @ Amazon Amazon Prime

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Ultra-Light Face Sunscreen SPF 50 is a high-protection, broad-spectrum sunscreen designed to shield skin from both UVA and UVB rays. As the name suggests, it has a light texture that absorbs quickly, making it ideal for everyday use, even under makeup.

Avobenzone-free Sunscreens: What’s the Alternative?

Avobenzone is a chemical sunscreen ingredient that provides UVA protection. While effective, it can cause skin irritation for some people, and there are concerns about its stability in sunlight.

DERMALOGY by NEOGENLAB UVA/UVB SPF50 Day-Light Protection Airy Sunscreen - Essence-type Moisturizing Weightless Sunscreen with No White Cast - 1.69 oz / 50 ml DERMALOGY by NEOGENLAB UVA/UVB SPF50 Day-Light Protection Airy Sunscreen -... @ Amazon Amazon Prime

DERMALOGY by NEOGENLAB Day-Light Protection Airy Sunscreen SPF 50 is a lightweight, moisturizing sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. It is known for its easy application and comfortable wear, making it suitable for daily use.

For those looking for avobenzone-free sunscreens, you can turn to physical sunscreens that use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These ingredients protect against both UVA and UVB rays. There are also new-generation chemical filters like Tinosorb and Mexoryl, which provide broad-spectrum protection and are often well-tolerated.

Sale Ombrelle Complete Sensitive Advanced 60 SPF 200 mL Ombrelle Complete Sensitive Advanced 60 SPF 200 mL @ Amazon Amazon Prime

Ombrelle Complete Sensitive Advanced SPF 60 is a high-protection sunscreen designed to provide broad-spectrum coverage against both UVA and UVB rays. It’s especially formulated for sensitive skin, ensuring it can offer strong sun protection without causing irritation.

It’s important to note that everyone’s skin is different. What works best for one person may not work for another. Always consider your skin type and any known sensitivities when choosing a sunscreen. If in doubt, consult a dermatologist or skincare professional to help you make an informed choice.

Remember, using sunscreen is just one part of a comprehensive approach to sun protection. Other measures, like seeking shade during peak UV times, wearing sun-protective clothing, and wearing sunglasses, are also essential for protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.


What is avobenzone and how does it work in sunscreen?

Avobenzone is a chemical ingredient used in sunscreens. It absorbs harmful UVA rays, preventing them from penetrating the skin and causing cell damage.

Is avobenzone safe for use in sunscreens?

As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, the FDA considers avobenzone safe for use in sunscreens. However, like any ingredient, it may cause allergic reactions in some individuals.

Can avobenzone harm coral reefs?

Some research suggests that avobenzone may contribute to coral bleaching, but the overall environmental impact is still being studied.

Are there any side effects to using sunscreens containing avobenzone?

While generally safe for most people, avobenzone can cause skin irritation or allergies in some individuals.

What are some alternatives to avobenzone in sunscreens?

Alternatives to avobenzone include physical sunblocks like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, as well as other chemical filters such as octinoxate and octocrylene.

Jen Roberts Glowing Gorgeous

Jen Roberts

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About our Chief Editor

Jen Roberts, is a passionate beauty specialist and blogger with a deep love for skincare and wellness. More about me here.


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