Percutaneous absorption of the sunscreen benzophenone-3 after repeated whole-body applications, with and without ultraviolet irradiation

Br J Dermatol. 2006 Feb;154(2):337-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2005.07007.x.


Background: Benzophenone-3 (BZ-3; 2-hydroxy-4-methoxybenzophenone, oxybenzone) is commonly used to absorb ultraviolet (UV) radiation. BZ-3 penetrates the skin and can be found in the urine. The amount varies between 0.4% and 2%. This seems to be the main metabolic pathway in rats.

Objectives: To investigate the total amount of BZ-3 excreted in the urine after repeated topical whole-body applications of a sunscreen and to see if UV radiation has any effect on the amount excreted.

Methods: Twenty-five volunteers applied a commercially available sunscreen containing 4% BZ-3 morning and night for 5 days. Their urine was measured during those 5 days and during a further 5 days after the last application. They were divided into groups A (unirradiated) and B. Group B received UV radiation according to skin type: UVA between 400 and 707 J cm(-2), and UVB between 0.46 and 2.0 J cm(-2). BZ-3 in urine was analysed with a high-performance liquid chromatography method.

Results: The volunteers excreted 1.2-8.7% (mean 3.7%) of the total amount of BZ-3 applied. There was no significant difference between the two groups (P < 0.99, t-test).

Conclusions: We show that a large amount of BZ-3 is absorbed. BZ-3 is accumulated in the body as the volunteers excreted BZ-3 5 days after the last application.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adult
  • Benzophenones / administration & dosage
  • Benzophenones / pharmacokinetics*
  • Benzophenones / urine
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Skin Absorption / radiation effects*
  • Sunscreening Agents / administration & dosage
  • Sunscreening Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Ultraviolet Rays*


  • Benzophenones
  • Sunscreening Agents
  • oxybenzone