Avobenzone: What Do You Need To Know
Misinformation about sunscreen is common. Don't let myths deter you from using them to protect your skin.
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 your skin, leave a white cast 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. Like most sunscreens, avobenzone works by absorbing the UV rays and converting them to an energy that is less damaging to the skin, heat.
Avobenzone and similar ingredients are often called chemical sunscreens, they can also be called organic sunscreens. Avobenzone is highly effective at protecting the skin against UVA rays; however, it does break down when it is exposed to the sun. This breakdown is minimized by the addition of stabilizers such as octocrylene. Most chemical sunscreen formulations will include more than one sunscreen ingredient. This is due to both improving the spectrum of the sunscreen and helping to stabilize its effectiveness.
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 work by absorbing the UV rays from the sun and transferring it into heat.
Physical sunscreens are often described as working by reflecting the UV rays from the skin. This isn’t technically true; while physical sunscreens do reflect UV rays, they only reflect about 10% of the rays. The rest of the UV rays are absorbed and converted into heat, precisely like chemical sunscreens. The heat produced from this action is negligible and doesn’t damage the skin.
These types of formulations rely on 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, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays. As physical sunscreens are designed to sit on top of the skin, they will often leave a white cast on the skin when used correctly.
Chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin and absorb the sun’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 UVB blocking ingredients as it works best in preventing damage from UVA rays.
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.
Exposure of skin to the UVA portion of sun's ultraviolet spectrum (320–400 nm) is strongly linked with immunesuppression and premature skin aging. Short UVA wavelengths also contribute significantly to sunburn risk.
Although many of the available ingredients filter UVB rays effectively, fewer cover the UVA spectrum.
Avobenzone provides superior protection through a large portion of the UVA spectrum, including the majority of the UVA-1 spectrum.
Avobenzone is the most effective UVA sunscreen active used today in sunscreen products with broad-spectrum protection. It is the only globally available chemical sunscreen agent that provides proper UVA protection. Avobenzone displays a peak of absorption around 360 nm but absorbs broadly across the entire UVA spectrum. However, if not properly formulated, avobenzone can undergo chemical degradation during exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR). Today, many special photostabilizing ingredients plus formulation techniques are available to ensure that avobenzone remains photostable even during prolonged UVR exposures.
Is Avobenzone safe?
Yes, the FDA has found avobenzone to be safe in sunscreen formulations.
At Dermal Health Science, we follow a strictly restricted ingredient list that goes beyond industry standards.
Why is Avobenzone Controversial?
The recent concerns have been around whether or not Avebenzone will absorb into the bloodstream and disrupt hormones in our body. Sunscreens containing avobenzone have been cleared by the FDA as safe to use for sun protection, and dermatologists still recommend SPF products containing the ingredient. Still, in 2019 the FDA revealed that "a growing body of data has suggested that the transdermal absorption of some sunscreen active ingredients is greater than previously thought." This meant ingredients oxybenzone and avobenzone were being studied further to investigate whether this could have long-term effects on the endocrine system, including hormonal and reproductive disruption.
We know, that sounds scary, but it's impoprtant to put all the data and findings in context to prevent "fear - mongering". First of all, the FDA’s review of sunscreens is a good thing! It means that the FDA is taking steps to ensure the continued safety and efficacy of sunscreen and working to clear up confusion around sunscreen labels. While the FDA is asking for more data, it does not say that the ingredients are unsafe. It does not ask the public to stop using sunscreens that contain any of these ingredients. In fact, the study authors and the FDA concluded that people should continue to use sunscreen to protect themselves from the sun.
Let's look at the presented evidence thus far:
The majority of studies suggest the absorption of the ingredient into the bloodstream is not significant enough to cause any harm at the concentrations approved by the FDA. Researchers have pointed out in more recent studies that "just because an ingredient is absorbed into the bloodstream does not mean that it is harmful or unsafe."
Of all the ingredients the FDA is investigating, oxybenzone has received the worst press because of concerns that it may act as what is known as a hormone disrupter. A hormone disruptor is a chemical that has the ability to cross cell membranes and may interfere with your body's natural hormone production. However, there has been no conclusive evidence that oxybenzone is harmful to humans. Organizations that have raised concerns about oxybenzone typically cite studies done in rats, where the rats were actually fed oxybenzone. It would take an individual 277 years of sunscreen use to achieve the equivalent systemic dose that produced effects in these rat studies, according to a 2017 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Bottom line - Should you wear Sunscreens with Avobenzone?
The current research indicates that Avobenzone does not cause any hormone problem unless you are actively eating it or injecting it into your bloodstream. Since no independent, peer-reviewed, published clinical trial data exist to indicate that avobenzone is harmful, and no data has been substantiated by the FDA, the choice to wear sunscreens containing the ingredient comes down to a personal preference.
Sunscreens with avobenzone help prevent sun damage and therefore help protect you from sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer. Chemical sunscreens also tend to be more cosmetically elegant without a white cast or residue, and since the best SPF is the one you wear daily, it's valid reasoning for choosing a chemical formula. Still, if you're concerned about potential endocrine disruption or want an option that is more environmentally friendly, go for a physical or mineral sunscreen.