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Understanding Octinoxate in Sunscreen: Benefits, Risks, and Alternatives

Learn about Octinoxate, a common sunscreen ingredient, its benefits, potential risks, and eco-friendly alternatives. Discover why only 3% of sunscreens contain Octinoxate today out of the over 400 sunscreens we reviewed. Read more...
 

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Introduction


When it comes to sun protection, sunscreen is a key player in offering coverage, especially in times of excessive and prolonged sun exposure where shade and clothing are more challenging to use. One of the ingredients approved by the FDA for use in sunscreens is called Octinoxate, also known as Octyl Methoxycinnamate. We’ll explore what Octinoxate is, its benefits, potential risks, and why you might want to consider alternatives.




What is Octinoxate?


Octinoxate is a chemical compound used as an ingredient in sunscreens and other cosmetic products for its ability to absorb UV-B radiation. Remember, UVB is associated with sunburns and by protecting your skin you can spend more time outdoors before experiencing a sunburn.  By preventing a sunburn there is also a reduced risk of skin damage which has been linked to the development of particular types of skin cancer, namely basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Octinoxate as an ingredient may be found in various sunscreen formulations due to its effectiveness and ease of formulation in various products.


Benefits of Octinoxate


Each sunscreen filter offers a particular range of protection from various wavelengths of UV light. By including different ingredients and formulations, the goal is to gain protection from harmful UV rays while allowing us to enjoy outdoor activities.


Octinoxate offers:


  1. Effective UV-B Protection: Octinoxate is effective at absorbing UV-B rays, which are primarily responsible for sunburn and can contribute to particular types of skin cancer such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

  2. Ease of application: Since it mixes well with other ingredients, cosmetic formulations may find it easier to use.


Potential Risks of Octinoxate


  1. Health Concerns: Some studies have raised concerns about Octinoxate’s potential as an endocrine disruptor. It can be absorbed into the skin and there are concerns about its ability to affect various hormone levels with unknown potential health risks.

  2. Environmental Impact: Octinoxate has been found to potentially contribute to coral bleaching and risks to marine life. This concern has led to bans of use of this ingredient in certain regions, such as Hawaii and Key West, to protect coral reefs.


Current Usage of Octinoxate


According to date from our research team, in 2023 we found only 2.9% of sunscreens evaluated contained Octinoxate. This was based on reviewing over 400 commercially available sunscreen products. This low percentage appears to reflect a growing awareness of its potential risks and a shift towards more environmentally friendly alternatives.






Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Octinoxate


For those looking to avoid Octinoxate, there are several alternatives available:


  1. Mineral Sunscreens: Ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide broad-spectrum protection without the potential risks associated with chemical UV filters.

  2. Other Chemical Filters: Newer chemical filters such as Tinosorb S and M are considered safer for both humans and the environment, although not currently available in the United States.


 

While Octinoxate remains an FDA approved sunscreen ingredient and has effectiveness in absorbing UVB rays, its potential health and environmental impacts cannot be ignored as the market clearly indicates. By choosing sunscreens with safer alternatives, the goal it is to protect your skin and your health while not compromising the environment.  


 

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References


  1. Gulson, B. et al. (2020). Safety assessment of Octinoxate in cosmetics. Journal of Toxicology.

  2. Downs, C.A., Kramarsky-Winter, E. et al. (2016). Toxicopathological effects of the sunscreen UV filter, Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3). Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.

  3. Kim, S. et al. (2018). Comparative analysis of UV filters in sunscreens. Science of The Total Environment.

  4. EWG’s Skin Deep®. (2024). Octinoxate. Environmental Working Group.

  5. Wikipedia contributors. (2024). Octyl methoxycinnamate. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

 




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