Update About the Effects of the Sunscreen Ingredients Oxybenzone and Octinoxate on Humans and the Environment

Plast Surg Nurs. 2018 Oct/Dec;38(4):158-161. doi: 10.1097/PSN.0000000000000244.


As skin cancer prevalence continues to rise, the importance of sun protection, including sunscreen use, has become accepted in the public. Sunscreens are divided into two main categories based on the type of their active ingredient, organic and inorganic ultraviolet (UV) filters. It has been shown that inorganic filters are more effective at blocking forms of UV light, both UVA and UVB, as compared with organic filters because organic sunscreens absorb and convert radiation whereas inorganic sunscreens reflect radiation. The use of the two most common organic filters, oxybenzone and octinoxate, has recently been restricted in Hawaii due to their harmful effect on the coral reefs. Here, we discuss recent studies about these specific filters related to the adverse health risks they pose for humans and other organisms, as well as environmental repercussions.

MeSH terms

  • Benzophenones / adverse effects*
  • Benzophenones / therapeutic use
  • Cinnamates / adverse effects*
  • Cinnamates / therapeutic use
  • Environmental Pollution*
  • Humans
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Sunscreening Agents / adverse effects
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects


  • Benzophenones
  • Cinnamates
  • Sunscreening Agents
  • octylmethoxycinnamate
  • oxybenzone