Dermatological and environmental toxicological impact of the sunscreen ingredient oxybenzone/benzophenone-3

J Cosmet Dermatol. 2018 Feb;17(1):15-19. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12449. Epub 2017 Oct 31.


Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3) is an emerging human and environmental contaminant used in sunscreens and personal care products to help minimize the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation. The Center for Disease Control fourth national report on human exposure to environmental chemicals demonstrated that approximately 97% of the people tested have oxybenzone present in their urine, and independent scientists have reported various concentrations in waterways and fish worldwide. Oxybenzone can also react with chlorine, producing hazardous by-products that can concentrate in swimming pools and wastewater treatment plants. Moreover, adverse reactions could very well be increased by the closed loop of ingesting fish contaminated with oxybenzone and/or washing the ingredient off our bodies and having it return in drinking water as treatment plants do not effectively remove the chemical as part of their processing protocols. In humans, oxybenzone has been reported to produce contact and photocontact allergy reactions, implemented as a possible endocrine disruptor and has been linked to Hirschsprung's disease. Environmentally, oxybenzone has been shown to produce a variety of toxic reactions in coral and fish ranging from reef bleaching to mortality. Lastly, with the rise in skin cancer rates and the availability of more effective sunscreen actives such as micronized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, serious doubts about the relative prevention benefit of personal care products containing oxybenzone must be raised and compared with the potential negative health and environmental effects caused by the accumulation of this and other chemicals in the ecosystem.

Keywords: contact dermatitis; environmental contaminant; toxicity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzophenones / adverse effects
  • Benzophenones / chemistry*
  • Dermatitis, Irritant / etiology*
  • Dermatitis, Irritant / physiopathology
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Patch Tests
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Skin Irritancy Tests
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Sunburn / prevention & control*
  • Sunscreening Agents / adverse effects
  • Sunscreening Agents / chemistry*
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*


  • Benzophenones
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Sunscreening Agents
  • oxybenzone