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Demystifying Ingredients: Benzophenone

So, one of my favorite things to do is to write about many of the seemingly "complicated" ingredients in skincare products and explain what they are and, more importantly, what they are doing in your products! So today we'll tackle benzophenone. It's quite a pretty cool looking structure huh?

Unfortunately, for our sakes, benzophenone is quite a tricky and complicated ingredient, well, even more so is the question of whether or not it should be used in skin products!

What is it used for?
Well, the very unique property of benzophenones is that they are, ahem, photosensitizers and act as UV blockers is a multitude of products. They are in everything from skincare products to plastics. In skincare products, they help prevent some of the ingredients from being degraded by UV light / sunlight. It basically helps to protect the product, it's smell, it's color, etc. This is also why they are in plastics, to prevent the sun from damaging and fading them!

Does it work?
Sure it does! It is definitely effective in blocking out UV rays. Again, this is why it's in sunblock. Benzophenone-3 is a common type that is found in sunblock products, and it is usually called oxybenzone. This will be an important tidbit in a second.

FDA cleared
These benzophenones have been cleared to be used in skincare products. They have "acceptable" safety levels according to the FDA as well as CIR, better known as the Cosmetic Ingredient Review. Trust me my friends, I will write a blog or two about the CIR as well in future posts! Basically the CIR is an "independent" organization that was set up by the Cosmetics/Fragrance industry and is also funded by them as well. Again, let's save that for another post :-)

Any Dangers?
Now we get to the point of this post! There really are no long term studies done on humans. In fact, there really aren't too many studies done dealing directly with humans and benzophenone use. But there have been studies that show a carcinogenic effect; namely that ingestion of benzophenone by rats is linked to renal adenomas, especially in male rats. BTW, an adenoma is not cancer, but can be a precursor to cancer. But get this, the only reason this research wasn't able to prove the cancerous end-effect was because the rats died too early to tell whether these adenomas would turn into cancer! Yikes.

Don't get freaked out Yet!
Now remember this, studies in rats can not be simply equated to effects on humans, we are just way too different. It's just a good point to start. And remember, these rats were fed the benzophenone, and in large amounts, more than we could ever absorb through using even large amounts of skincare products. So let's not get freaked out about this. All we know is that we need more research, and the conclusions of these studies, the researchers say the same thing "we need more investigations".

Let's Reiterate This Point:
Succinctly; we need more studies. Unfortunately for the vast majority of skincare ingredients and the ones I mention on here as well, there is simply a lack of research. There is especially a lack of good research!

Not Out of the Woods Yet:
There is one very important feature of Benzophenone-3 (again, known as oxybenzone in sunblock and some personal products) that I think we should all be very aware about. Benzophenone is SIGNIFICANTLY ABSORBED THROUGH THE SKIN AND INTO THE BODY AND MUCH MORE SO THAN OTHER COMPARABLE SUNBLOCK INGREDIENTS! Got that, out of all the sunblock ingredients, this oxybenzone/benzophenone-3 is absorbed through the skin to a much greater degree.

What does this mean?
Well, let's just say I don't like it when skin ingredients pretty much leak through the skin and get into my systemic circulation and travel, pretty much, through out my body. Remember, this applies to A LOT of skincare ingredients, so I'm not picking on benzophenone. But for me, I will maybe try and avoid sunblocks with this.

Remember, there is no way that I can say for sure "this is bad for you" but my main concern is that as my readers, I want to at least give you the knowledge of what these skincare products/ingredients are and what effects they may or may not have. I just want to help you make more informed (thus better) decisions for yourself, about skincare products and life in general. When you scrutinize a small field (such as skincare) you can apply the "workings" of it to other things in our lives as well.

I hope this blog post find that you are doing well! Thanks for reading my posts here and you have my gratitude and appreciation!


  1. thank you. your posts has been helpful to me.

  2. Do you have any recommendations on sunscreens to use that still protect your skin but don't have oxybenzone? What is more dangerous, this chemical or sun damage? Thank you for your help and your post.


  4. Thank you so much for all this great info. Quite helpful,

  5. You are awesome. Not easy or often to come by someone as straight up as I. Thanks again!


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