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, 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 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… šŸ™„ ). 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.

Related: What’s The Difference Between UVA And UVB Rays?


How effective is your sunscreen? Download the Sunscreen Audit cheatsheet to find out if it’s up to the job:


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 sunscreen 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?

Critics say Avobenzone is 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 mean it’s dangeorus. In the case of Avobenzone (and many plants), there are too weak to do any harm.

Related: 7 Skincare Ingredients With An Undeserved Bad Reputation

Is Avobenzone Absorbed By Your 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. You just get rid of it when you pee. But it MAY be a problem for young children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

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.

Related: 3 Reasons Mineral Sunscreen Is Better For Sensitive Skin

What Are The Best Sunscreens With Avobenzone?

  • Clinique Sun Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen Body Cream ($23.00): available at Nordstrom and Sephora.
  • Paula’s Choice Extra Care Non-Greasy Sunscreen SPF 50 ($17.00): available at  Dermstore and Paula’s Choice.
  • Replenix Ultra Sheer Sunscreen SPF 50+ ($38.00): available at Dermstore

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.