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DrSugar: How Harmful Is Oxybenzone?

DrSugar is in the house and he's answering your health questions.

Dear DrSugar,
I recently read a post on FitSugar about the dangers of oxybenzone, a common ingredient in sunscreen and other cosmetics. I am wondering if my sunscreen containing this chemical is doing more harm than good? What do you think about oxybenzone, and should I be worried?
—Easily Burned

To see what DrSugar thinks about oxybenzone, just


Oxybenzone is a chemical in the family of benzophenones that is used in the vast majority of common sunscreens, as well as other skincare products, lip balm, etc. It is in the majority of sunscreens because of its ability to absorb and dissipate UV light, which causes sunburn and eventually skin cancers. Ideally, the chemical would simply sit on the skin and block sun rays until being washed off. Unfortunately, a study from the CDC suggests that the chemical is actually absorbed into our system, and can stay there for an unknown amount of time. The CDC randomly tested thousands of blood samples and found traces of benzophenones in 95 percent of the samples. It is certainly a scary thought that this chemical is being absorbed into our systems and causing unknown effects.

Currently, there are no studies showing a direct relationship between oxybenzone in sunscreen and negative health consequences. However, there is evidence that benzophenones can cause damage to cells and affect hormones in a lab setting. This means that if you expose animal cells to oxybenzone in a lab, you may see toxic effects. The caveat is that this does not always translate into cellular damage in the real world, usually because the concentration of the substance is much higher in lab studies. Many commonly used substances have been shown to cause cancer in rats, most famously the artificial sweetener aspartame. I think the most important thing is to wear some type of sun protection, oxybenzone-containing or not, because we know for a fact that sunburns and sun exposure leads to skin cancer. Playing it safe, however, is never a bad idea. Fit has some oxybenzone-free sunscreen ideas.

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DrSugar's posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

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