Review of environmental effects of oxybenzone and other sunscreen active ingredients

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019 Jan;80(1):266-271. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2018.06.033. Epub 2018 Nov 14.


With increasing awareness regarding the risks of sunburn, photoaging, and skin cancer, the use of sunscreens has increased. Organic and inorganic filters are used in sunscreen products worldwide. Concerns have been raised regarding the environmental effects of commonly used organic ultraviolet (UV) filters, including oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, octocrylene, and octinoxate (ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate). Studies have identified UV filters such as oxybenzone, octocrylene, octinoxate, and ethylhexyl salicylate in almost all water sources around the world and have commented that these filters are not easily removed by common wastewater treatment plant techniques. Additionally, in laboratory settings, oxybenzone has been implicated specifically as a possible contributor to coral reef bleaching. Furthermore, UV filters such as 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and octinoxate have been identified in various species of fish worldwide, which has possible consequences for the food chain. As dermatologists, it is important for us to continue to emphasize the public health impact of excessive sun exposure and advise our patients about proper photoprotection practice, which consists of seeking shade, wearing photoprotective clothing (including hats and sunglasses), and applying appropriate sunscreens.

Keywords: 3,4-methylbenzylidenecamphor; benzophenone; butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane; ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate; ethylhexyl salicylate; nonmelanoma skin cancer; octocrylene; octyl methoxycinnamate; oxybenzone; sunscreen; ultraviolet radiation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Benzophenones* / adverse effects
  • Environment
  • Environmental Pollution*
  • Sunscreening Agents* / adverse effects


  • Benzophenones
  • Sunscreening Agents
  • oxybenzone