Spotlight on Avobenzone

Did you know that Avobenzone is the most used sunscreen ingredient in the world? It has been around since 1871 and it is so widely used because of its ability to provide protection from the entire UVA range. It works by absorbing UVA rays and converting them into a less damaging form of heat, but lately it has been getting a lot of bad press. Critics say it should be avoided because of its instability and endocrine-disruption potential. But is all this true or is Avobenzone one of those ingredients that’s been unfairly maligned?

Is Avobenzone stable?

No, Avobenzone (also known as Parsol 1789 and butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane)  is not stable, which means that it breaks down very quickly when exposed to light. In fact, it is rendered almost completely ineffective within just one hour! Sounds pretty useless, doesn’t it? Well, it is on its own, but luckily Avobenzone is often used with photo-stabilising ingredients, such as Octocrylene, and technologies like Helioplex, SunSure and AvoTriplex, that help it last longer. However, photostabilizers can increase the risk of skin irritation. It is also important to remember that all chemical sunscreen ingredients degrade overtime which is why doctors recommend to reapply sunscreens every two hours or so.

Is Avobenzone an endocrine-disruptor?

But what really seems to concern consumers about Avobenzone is its endocrine-disruptor potential. Although this can seem quite scary, there really isn’t anything to worry about. That’s because its endocrine-disrupting abilities are “several orders of magnitude lower than that of the natural estrogens”. In fact, there are lots of plants extracts that have a higher potential to disrupt the endocrine system, but somehow they never seem to attract negative attention because we are lead to believe that if something is natural, then it can’t be dangerous. I don’t mean to say that all plants extracts are dangerous either because they’re not, only that the fact something has endocrine-disrupting abilities doesn’t automatically makes it dangeorus. In any case, those of Avobenzone are really negligible and nothing you should be worrying about.

Is Avobenzone absorbed by the body?

Although there is no research showing that Avobenzone is toxic or dangerous for human health, a study has found that this ingredient is absorbed by the body and secreted into urine. Because of it, it is recommended not to use Avonenzone on children and pregnant women. As a precautionary measure, it is best to use on them physical sunscreens, ie those with Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, which are gentler, less irritating and haven’t been shown to be secreted into urine.

The Bottom Line

Overall, Avobenzone is a great UVA filter when used in conjunction with ingredients that help stabilize it, which is usually the case. Its potential to disrupt the endocrine system is so minimal to be negligible. However, Avobenzone can be absorbed by the body and, while there is no proof that it is toxic, it should still be avoided by children and pregnant women as a precautionary measure.

Do you use products with Avobenzone or do you prefer to avoid this ingredient?

6 Comment

  1. 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. :]

    • 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!

      • Oh, okay. Thanks for the heads up! You see how you are totally amazing? :D 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?

        • 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/

          • 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.
            :]

            • 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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