Spotlight on Avobenzone

by Gio
is avobenzone dangerous in sunscreen

Can you guess what’s the most used UV filter in the whole world?

*drumroll*

Avobenzone!

The reason is simple: it’s the only UVA filter available all over the world that doesn’t turn your face into a white, greasy mess (Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide can do that – but I still think they offer better and gentler protection)

But it seems like the tide is turning. Avobenzone is getting a bad rep lately and a lot of people want nothing to do with it.

Why is this happening? Here’s what the deal with abovenzone is:

What The Heck Is Avobenzone?

You won’t find avobenzone on the ingredient label. Instead, it hides under the name butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane (cos that’s easier to decipher… 🙄 ). In case it’s not confusing enough, avobenzone has another name: Parsol 1789.

Avobenzone is the grandpa of UV filters. It’s been around since 1871! It’s one of the very few UV filters that protect from the entire UVA range (my guess is that if more UV filters did this, avobenzone would be enjoying its retirement by now).

Avobenzone works like all other synthetic UV filters: it absorbs UVA rays and converts them into a less damaging form of heat.

Is Avobenzone stable?

Wanna know why it’s time to retire avobenzone? This UV filter isn’t dangerous or anything like that. It’s just not very stable.

This means it breaks down very quickly when exposed to light. If not used together with friends who can stabilise it, it becomes completely useless within one hour! But even its friends can’t make it survive that much longer.

In case you’re wondering, UV filters and technologies that can stabilise avobenzone include Octocrylene, Helioplex, SunSure and AvoTriplex. But, as I’ve mentioned, they don’t make it last forever. Besides, some of them (yes, Octocrylene, I’m looking at you) can be irritating, especially if you have sensitive skin.

By the way, ALL UV filters break down when exposed to sunlight. That’s why you’re told to reapply your sunscreens every few hours. Avobenzone (when used alone) just happens to break down a lot faster than other UV filters.

Related: What UV Filters Can Cause Irritations And Allergies?

Is Avobenzone an endocrine-disruptor?

Lately, avobenzone has been accused of being an endocrine-disruptor. If this were true, avobenzone could cause birth defects, developmental disorders and even cancers.

Here’s the truth: avobenzone has shown endocrine-disrupting abilities.

BUT (and this is a big but)

Its endocrine-disrupting abilities are “several orders of magnitude lower than that of the natural estrogens”

Yes, you’ve read that right “NATURAL” estrogen. A lot of plants have endocrine-disrupting abilities too but no one makes a fuss about them because they’re natural. How silly is that?!

By the way, I’m not saying that plants will kill you. What I’m saying is that just because something has endocrine-disrupting abilities, it doesn’t automatically makes it dangeorus. In the case of Avobenzone (and many plants), there are too weak to do any harm.

Is Avobenzone absorbed by the body?

I said before and I’ll say it again: there’s NO research showing that Avobenzone is toxic or dangerous for human health.

But, a study found that Avobenzone IS aborbed by the body. For most of us, this is NOT a problem. We just get rid of it when we pee. But it MAY (may NOT is) a problem for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and young children.

The reasoning here is that foetuses, babies and young children aren’t fully developed yet, so avobenzone may be more problematic for them to get rid of. We don’t know for sure because, for obvious reasons, it is illegal to carry out this type of studies.

I don’t think this is a big deal because avobenzone has been around for so long already and it doesn’t seem to have done much harm. But, just to stay on the safe side, use mineral sunscreen (i.e. those with titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide) if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and on children. Just in case.

What Are The Best Sunscreens With Avobenzone?

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The Bottom Line

Avobenzone is an effective UVA filter when used together with friends who can make it more stable. Just stay away from it if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and don’t put it on kids. But for most adults, it’s totally safe.

What are your thoughts on avobenzone? Share them in the comments below.

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6 comments

Janessa June 13, 2012 - 9:32 pm

I do have some products with avobenzone in it and I do use them but I’m not repurchasing them afterwards because I much prefer to mix some sunblock with moisturizer instead. I found out a cool trick today. I had a cup of green tea and I came up with this idea. I took a cotton ball and poured some of the tea onto it and used it as a toner. It just took off my powder blush and sunblock (most of it at least) and then I applied a moisturizer with spf. So instead of a full-on face cleanse, I rid the dirt off my face and now it feels so refreshed. :]

Reply
beautifulwithbrains June 14, 2012 - 9:01 pm

Janessa, it’s not really a good idea to mix sunblock with moisturizer because you may be diluting the sunblock that way and greatly reduce the level of protection it provides. But I love the green tea trick, how cool!

Reply
Janessa June 15, 2012 - 6:26 am

Oh, okay. Thanks for the heads up! You see how you are totally amazing? 😀 What about moisturizers with SPF? Are they even good enough and do I have to apply a lot more than 1/4tsp for proper protection?

Reply
beautifulwithbrains June 15, 2012 - 10:11 pm

Aww, you’re making me blush again. The problem with moisturizers with SPF is that you have to apply A LOT of product, which is impossible to do, to get the level of sun protection stated on the packaging. I use them alone only on very gloomy winter days when I know I’ll staY mostly indoors and away from windows, otherwise I apply a sunscreen first. You can find more information in this post:

http://beautifulwithbrains.com/2010/03/09/do-cosmetics-with-spf-offer-enough-sun-protection/

Reply
Janessa June 15, 2012 - 11:52 pm

I see! I have been using a moisturizer with SPF after my serums/toner before I apply actual sunblock. So I treated the moisturizer with SPF as just a plain moisturizer. :] I read the post and thanks so much. You literally have saved my life ever since I found your blog! You are so kind, helpful, and answer all my questions and more.
:]

beautifulwithbrains June 16, 2012 - 1:44 pm

Janessa, no harm done then.

And aww, it’s my pleasure hun. I’m always glad to help whenever I can. 🙂

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