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The Truth About Avobenzone: Benefits, Risks, and Best Practices

Avobenzone is one of the most commonly used ingredients in sunscreens today. Known for its ability to absorb the full spectrum of UVA rays, Avobenzone plays a crucial role in protecting our skin from the harmful effects of sun exposure. However, like any chemical compound, it comes with its own set of benefits and potential risks. In this post, we'll dive deep into everything you need to know about Avobenzone. Read more...



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What is Avobenzone? 

Avobenzone is a common ingredient used in sunscreen formulations to absorb UVA radiation. It's unique because it can absorb the full spectrum of UVA rays (320-400 nm), which are responsible for aging the skin and contributing to skin cancer, in particular Melanoma. Unlike other sunscreen agents that focus on blocking UVB rays, Avobenzone actually does not offer UVB protection. This means that it cannot prevent a sunburn or the risks associated with UVB exposure such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. This means that when it is found in a sunscreen, it does not offer a measurable SPF since SPF or sun protection factor is only related to UVB blockage of a product.

Avobenzone is also known by names such as butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane (BM-DBM) and commercial names such as Parsol® 1789, Eusolex® 9020, and Neo Heliopan® 357.

Benefits of Avobenzone

There are benefits of including avobenzone in a sunscreen formulation for the UVA protection it offers.

  1. Unique Sun Protection: Avobenzone absorbs UVA rays, providing sun protection in a spectrum that most sunscreens do not.

  2. Skin Compatibility: Generally well-tolerated by most skin types, including sensitive skin but does pose some unique challenges compared to other ingredients to be discussed shortly.

  3. Combination with Other Ingredients: Avobenzone will almost always be used with other sunscreen ingredients given that it is unstable in light and loses its effectiveness within in hour of sun exposure. It will also require other ingredients to offer a measurable SPF for UVB protection.

Potential Risks and Considerations with Avobenzone

In spite of the clear popularity of including avobenzone in sunscreen formuations given that our research team found it in 68% of over 400 sunscreens reviewed in 2023, there are significant factors to take into consideration.

  1. Photostability Issues: Avobenzone can degrade when exposed to sunlight - even within one hour of exposure, reducing its effectiveness. It's often stabilized with other ingredients like Octocrylene. In fact, almost every single sunscreen formulation we reviewed in 2023 had Avobenzone combined with Octocrylene.

  2. Skin Penetration: Studies have shown that Avobenzone can penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream, with unclear health risks for which the FDA has requested further information.

  3. Skin Reactions: Avobenzone carries a risk of allergic contact dermatitis as well as photoallergic contact dermatitis. This means that there are cases of skin reactions in response to use of this ingredient AND reports of allergic reactions with use of this product once exposed to the sun. The irony is that this product is meant to be used in sunlight which may actually trigger an allergic reaction. Also bear in mind that because Avobenzone will more often than not contain other sunscreen ingredients, the risk of reactions to the additional ingredients may not be avoidable.

  4. Environmental Impact: Like many chemical sunscreens, Avobenzone has been shown to potentially impact marine life, and may contribute to coral bleaching and water pollution.

Best Practices for Using Avobenzone

With Avobenzone's profile, it is important to remember that choosing formulations with effective UVB blockage is essential to gain adequate protection from a sunburn.

  1. Choose Stabilized Formulations: Look for sunscreens that combine Avobenzone with stabilizers like Octocrylene to ensure lasting protection.

  2. Reapply Regularly: To maintain protection, reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially after swimming or sweating.

  3. Check for Sensitivities: If you have sensitive skin, test the sunscreen on a small area before full application.

Popular Products Containing Avobenzone

  1. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen: Known for its lightweight feel and broad-spectrum protection.

  2. Banana Boat Ultra Sport Sunscreen: Offers strong protection for active individuals.

  3. Coppertone Pure & Simple Sunscreen: Designed for sensitive skin with broad-spectrum coverage.


Avobenzone is an effective UVA filter that, when used correctly and in combination with UVB filters, can provide excellent sun protection. However, it's essential to be aware of its potential risks and choose products wisely. Always opt for stabilized formulations and reapply as needed to keep your skin safe from harmful UV rays.


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  1. Nash, J. F., Tanner, P. R., Mathews, K. P., & Shaath, N. A. (2010). Absorption and excretion of a sunscreen chemical, avobenzone, following whole-body topical application in humans. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 62(1), 43-49.

  1. Downs, C. A., Kramarsky-Winter, E., Segal, R., Fauth, J. E., Knutson, S., Bronstein, O., Ciner, F. R., Jeger, R., Lichtenfeld, Y., Woodley, C. M., Pennington, P., Cadenas, K., Kushmaro, A., & Loya, Y. (2016). Toxicopathological effects of the sunscreen UV filter, oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), on coral planulae and cultured primary cells and its environmental contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 70(2), 265-288.

  1. European Commission. (2022). Opinion on Avobenzone. Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS).

  1. Shaath, N. A. (2005). The chemistry of sunscreens. Cosmetic Science and Technology, 4, 237-268.

  1. Gonzalez, H., Farbrot, A., Larko, O., & Wennberg, A. M. (2006). Percutaneous absorption of the sunscreen benzophenone-3 after repeated whole-body applications, with and without ultraviolet irradiation. British Journal of Dermatology, 154(2), 337-340.

  1. Foti, C., Bonamonte, D., Mascolo, G., De Marco, A., & Angelini, G. (2014). Allergic contact dermatitis due to dibenzoylmethane derivatives in sunscreens: Two clinical cases. Contact Dermatitis, 71(3), 182-184.

  1. Hojerová, J., Medovcíková, A., & Miklová, R. (2011). Photostability and stability of avobenzone in solvents of different polarity. Photochemistry and Photobiology, 87(5), 1052-1058.

  1. Schlumpf, M., Cotton, B., Conscience, M., Haller, V., Steinmann, B., & Lichtensteiger, W. (2001). In vitro and in vivo estrogenicity of UV screens. Environmental Health Perspectives, 109(3), 239-244.

  1. Tsui, M. M. P., Lam, J. C. W., Ng, T. Y., Ang, P. O., Murphy, M. B., & Lam, P. K. S. (2017). Occurrence, distribution, and fate of organic UV filters in coral communities. Environmental Science & Technology, 51(8), 4182-4190.

  • Link to study

  1. Draelos, Z. D. (2010). Modern sunscreen ingredients: A clinical update. Cutis, 86(4), 208-212.

  1. Sarveiya, V., Risk, S., Benson, H. A. E. (2004). Liquid chromatographic assay for common sunscreen agents: application to in vivo assessment of skin penetration and systemic absorption in human volunteers. Journal of Chromatography B Analytical Technologies in the Biomedical and Life Sciences, 803(2), 225-231.



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