Benzophenone is a sweet-smelling organic compound that occurs naturally in grapes and other fruits. The compound is used in some personal care and consumer products and packaging as a UV filter.

Uses & Benefits

In skincare products like soap and lip balm, benzophenone helps prevent the other product ingredients from degrading under UV light – protecting the product’s color and scent. Oxybenzone, a derivative of benzophenone, is also an ingredient in many sunscreens due to its ability to absorb harmful UV rays.

Benzophenone is also widely used in a range of household products and consumer goods. In laundry and cleaning products, benzophenone is added to the product formulation as a perfume compound, and it also helps to protect the product against degradation that could be caused by UV rays and exposure to air.

In consumer products like sunglasses, shoes and sports equipment, benzophenone helps to protect against UV rays that could damage or deteriorate the product. In addition, as an ingredient in non-food plastic packaging, it helps to prevent sun damage and fading of the product inside the packaging.

Safety Information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved benzophenone-3 (BP3), also known as oxybenzone, as an active ingredient in sunscreen. In addition, a Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) expert scientific panel states that benzophenone and its derivatives (benzophenone-1, -3, -4, -5, -9 and -11) are safe as typically used in cosmetics and personal care products.

Answering Questions

Is benzophenone-3 in sunscreen?

The benzophenone derivative benzophenone-3 (BP3), also known as oxybenzone, is a common, FDA-approved active ingredient in many sunscreen products. Oxybenzone helps protect skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays by absorbing UV radiation and dissipating it as heat.

Is benzophenone-3 or oxybenzone in sunscreen bad for you?

Numerous scientific panels and regulatory bodies, including FDA and the CIR, have reviewed benzophenone-3 and oxybenzone and determined it is safe for individuals when used as a sunscreen ingredient. In addition, in the United States, FDA regulates sunscreens as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and subjects their active ingredients to rigorous scientific assessment, which includes a safety and efficacy review.

Why is the state of Hawaii considering a ban on oxybenzone in sunscreen?

Hawaii’s legislature recently acted on some research reports claiming that the sunscreen ingredient oxybenzone may have negative effects on coral reefs and other marine species under certain circumstances.

The potential ban is somewhat controversial, as many other scientific and medical experts claim the research is very limited as to the negative effects of these ingredients on coral reefs. Others claim that some of the research cited was inconclusive and based on a limited body of scientific evidence. Another recent report from the International Coral Reef Initiative concluded that further research is needed to better understand if sunscreen ingredients pose a realistic threat to marine ecosystems.

Mineral sunscreens, also called sun blocks that use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to physically block the sun’s rays, are not affected by current legislative action under discussion and will still be permitted for sale in Hawaii.

Is benzophenone used as a food additive?

In October 2018, FDA amended its food additive regulations to remove synthetically-derived benzophenone as an approved food flavoring substance. While FDA states that benzophenone does not pose a health risk to people when used as intended as a food additive, the Agency took action in response to findings that indicated that at much higher doses, benzophenone can cause cancer in animals.

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