What Do You Need To Know About Avobenzone Before You Use It? - The Dermatology Review

What Do You Need To Know About Avobenzone Before You Use It?



What is Avobenzone?

One of the more effective ways to take care of your skin’s health and maintain a youthful appearance is to protect it from the sun. Sunscreens are the most effective way to do this. There are two types of sunscreen, chemical and physical. Physical sunscreens such as zinc oxide often congest skin and reduce the lasting power of make-up. This is where chemical sunscreens have become useful. One of these chemical sunscreens is avobenzone. 

Avobenzone works by absorbing UV rays protecting the skin from severe sunburns and melanoma and helps to shield the skin from damage to healthy skin cells and collagen. Most sunscreens work by blocking UV rays and free radicals, but avobenzone works by absorbing the rays and converting them to an energy that is less damaging to the skin. Because of the way it works, it’s called a chemical sunscreen and protects the skin from a wide range of harmful UV rays. 

Avobenzone is highly effective at protecting the skin against UVA rays; however, is does breakdown rapidly when it is exposed to the sun, usually 50-90% in an hour of UV exposure. This breakdown is minimized by the addition of stabilizers such as octocrylene. This is why many chemical sunscreen formulations have multiple chemical sunscreen ingredients. 


the good:Protects the skin from UV rays and damage to healthy skin cells and collagen.  

the not so good:Is often formulated with other chemical sunscreens that have been linked with coral reef bleaching. However, there are formulations that are reef-friendly that contain avobenzone. 

Who is it for? All skin types except those that have an identified allergy to it. 

Synergetic ingredients:Works well with most ingredients 

Keep an eye on: More research on the environmental impact of avobenzone. 

How to Use Avobenzone

When applying a sunscreen that contains avobenzone, be sure to read all instructions and warnings. While this product is generally safe to use on many areas of the body, you should be cautious and avoid getting the lotion into your eyes or mouth.

Since avobenzone isn’t waterproof, you should reapply the sunscreen if you sweat heavily or go swimming. If you plan on staying in the sun for a long time, you should also reapply after two to three hours.  Do not apply creams with avobenzone to broken or irritated skin, as the ingredient can exacerbate the irritation.

SPF ratings on sunscreen aren’t meant to tell you the effectiveness of the cream – SPF 50 is not necessarily better than SPF 30. Instead, it tells you how much the lotion can boost your skin’s ability to fight UV radiation, and therefore, how long you can be in the sun. So, if you have fair, sensitive skin, you will get sunburned more quickly than someone with an olive complexion, even if you wear the same avobenzone sunscreen, with the same SPF rating.

Chemical Sunscreen vs. Physical Sunscreen

There are two categories of sunscreens on the market, one is physical, and one is chemical. Avobenzone falls into the chemical-based sunscreen category. However, it is essential to understand the difference when determining which product is for you. 

Physical sunscreens
Physical sunscreens work by reflecting the UV rays from the sun, protecting the skin from the harmful rays. These formulations rely on the use of ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to provide this protection. Physical sunscreens create a barrier between the skin and the sun and aren’t absorbed into the skin. They are generally broad-spectrum, meaning that they protect against both UVA and UVB rays. 

Chemical sunscreens
Chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin and absorb the skin’s harmful rays before they can penetrate deep enough to cause damage to the skin. Often chemical sunscreens are used in combination with another chemical sunscreen to provide broad-spectrum protection. In the case of avobenzone, it is commonly used in conjunction with octocrylene. Also, both types of sunscreens, physical and chemical, will often include ingredients such as vitamin C or E to protect against damage from free radicals. Free radicals damage is more likely to occur with chemical sunscreens than with physical sunscreens, so these ingredients are important to look for in your sunscreen product. 

Does Avobenzone Protect Against UVA and UVB?

Avobenzone is not a highly effective sunscreen agent when used alone. As with most chemical sunscreens, avobenzone needs another chemical sunscreen to help increase its protective abilities. It does, however, protect against UVA rays. 

Is Avobezone Safe?

Given the controversy around chemical sunscreens, the FDA has invested resources into determining the safety of chemical sunscreen formulations. The FDA has found avobenzone to be safe in sunscreen formulations. 

The regulation of avobenzone is important as chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin. The majority of studies suggest the absorption of the ingredient into the bloodstream is not significant to cause any harm at the concentrations approved by the FDA. However, a study published by Frontiers in Medicine, noted that there had been some research suggesting that chemical sunscreens may be absorbed into the bloodstream at a higher rate than previous studies have indicated. It is important to note that this is not yet the scientific consensus, and the relevant regulatory bodies will review new information as it becomes available. 

The potential issue with avobenzone and other chemical sunscreens being absorbed into the bloodstream is that it may disrupt hormones in the body. There is no current evidence to suggest this occurs with avobenzone. Some studies have indicated this effect in other chemical sunscreens. While this may seem scary, it is unlikely that the amount of sunscreen used over a lifetime would add up to a significant enough dose to disrupt hormones. An article by Harvard Health estimates that it would take 277 years of sunscreen use to create a substantial disruption.  If you are concerned about the potential effects of avobenzone, speak with your dermatologist and your physician, especially if you are pregnant. 

Is Avobenzone Reef Friendly?

Avobenzone is often formulated in reef-friendly formulations. There is mixed information about whether avobenzone contributes to the coral bleaching that has been associated with chemical sunscreens. Ost studies suggest it isn’t responsible by itself, but avobenzone has to be formulated with other chemical sunscreens, some of which have been linked to coral bleaching. 

Harvard Women’s Health Watch, 2018. `The Science of Sunscreen’, Harvard Health Publishing.
Paul, S, 2019. ‘Ensuring the Safety of Sunscreens, and Their Efficacy in Preventing Skin Cancers: Challenges and Controversies for Clinicians, Formulators, and Regulators’. Frontiers in Medicine: Dermatology.
PubChem, ‘Avobenzone’, National Library of Medicine.
Ruszkiewicz, J, Pinkas, A, Ferrer, B, Peres, T, Tsatsakis, A, & Aschner, M, 2017. ‘Neurotoxic effect of active ingredients in sunscreen products, a contemporary review’, Toxicology Reports, vol. 4, pp. 245-259.
Rai, R, Shanmuga, S, & Srinivas, C, 2012. ‘Update on photoprotection’, Indian Journal of Dermatology, vol. 57, is. 5, pp. 335-342.


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