Octinoxate – How Secure is This Sunscreen Ingredient?

Octinoxate is used in sunscreen formulations as a chemical UV absorber. Octinoxate is valued primarily for its ability absorb UV rayswho produce free radicals, damage healthy skin cells and accelerate aging. By now you probably know the benefits of sunscreen every day; Octinoxate is a common ingredient in many sunscreen formulations.

Octinoxate or octyl methoxycinnamate is a clear, water-insoluble liquid. It is often used in combination with other chemical sunscreens to improve its protection against the sun’s harmful rays.

There is much controversy over the safety of this ingredient with regular use and its effects on the environment special reefs. Although octinoxate is approved and considered safe for its stated uses in topical sunscreens, rumors still circulate about the safety of this ingredient. We’ll address the security concerns below.

the breakdown


the good: Protects the skin from damage caused by UV rays, prevents the visible signs of aging and limits the production of free radicals.

not that good: Potentially harmful to reef health and can have effects on human health with long-term use.

For whom is that? All skin types except those who have an identified allergy.

Synergetic ingredients: Works well with most ingredients.

Keep an eye on: The concentration of octinoxate in the product. Most countries regulate the concentration of octinoxate in the formulation.

How does octinoxate work?

Octinoxate is made by combining sulfuric acid with methanol. It’s a chemical sunscreen that filters out the sun’s UVB rays. There are two types of UV rays, UVA and UVB. Various chemical sunscreens protect your skin from any of these types of UV rays. For this reason, octinoxate is often combined with other sunscreen ingredients such as avobenzone. Avobenzone protects your skin from UVA rays.

Sunscreens protect your skin from damage caused by UV rays. These include burning sensation, premature aging, and free radical damage. As such, octinoxate protects the skin from free radical production.

Free radicals are created by a process called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress creates an imbalance in free radicals in the body, which leads to damage to the tissues and cells of the body. Free radicals, also called reactive oxygen species or ROS, are a natural by-product of the body’s chemical processes. Think of them as waste from your body.

Free radicals can accumulate and create an imbalance. This imbalance has been studied for its association with many diseases and its role in the aging process, such as: B. the appearance of deep wrinkles, pigmentation and loss of elasticity. Antioxidants such as Vitamin E. or C. are used in conjunction with chemical sunscreens to improve their ability to protect the skin from free radical damage. Be sure to look for a sunscreen formulation containing either vitamin E or C. Chemical sunscreens, like those that have octinoxate in their formulation, help protect the skin from sunburn, aging, and skin cancer.

Chemical sun protection vs. physical sun protection

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

Physical sunscreens

Physical sunscreens work by absorbing the sun’s UV rays and converting them into heat. Physical sunscreens are often described as reflecting the skin’s UV rays. This is technically not true, while physical sunscreens reflect UV rays, they only roughly reflect 10% of the rays. The rest of the UV rays are absorbed and converted into heat, just like chemical sunscreens. The resulting heat is negligible and does not damage the skin.

These types of formulations rely on the use of ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to provide this protection. Physical sunscreens form a barrier between the skin and the sun and are not absorbed by the skin. They are generally broad in spectrum, which means that they protect against both UVA and UVB rays.

Because physical sunscreens are designed to sit on the skin, when used correctly they often leave a whiteness on the skin.

Chemical sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin and absorb the sun’s harmful rays before they can penetrate deep enough to damage the skin. Often, chemical sunscreens are used in combination with other chemical sunscreens to provide broad protection.

In the case of octinoxate, it is often used in conjunction with UVA blocking ingredients as octinoxate works best in preventing UVB. Although octinoxate protects against UVA, it does not protect as well as UVB, so it is used in combination with another chemical sunscreen.

Also, both types of sunscreens, physical and chemical, often contain ingredients like vitamin C or E to protect against free radical damage. Free radical damage is more likely to occur with chemical sunscreens than physical sunscreens, so it’s important to look out for these ingredients in your sunscreen product.

Is Octinoxate Really Safe?

In general, octinoxate is considered safe for its indicated use in sunscreens. There are a multitude of studies to suggest the ingredient is safe and decades of use suggesting that it is not harmful to the body. The main studies cited for safety are studies that use high concentrations of the ingredients, concentrations that are outside the scope of the topical sunscreens.

These studies are done to determine safety but test extreme conditions and high concentrations. There is little evidence that harm will be caused when used at the concentrations used in sunscreen formulations. In the US, under the FDA Octinoxate concentrations are limited to 7.5% and in the EU below the CosIng it is limited to 10%.

Much research has been done on this ingredient, especially as the controversy surrounding its use has increased in recent years. However, Health line argues that there are few long-term human studies. Most human studies have only recorded problems with irritation and allergies.


One topic that has been explored is the impact on the environment. In 2018, Hawaii passed a sunscreen banning bill that banned octinoxate because of the bleaching effects it could have on coral reefs. According to some studies, some chemical sunscreens may contribute to the decline in the health of coral reefs around the world.

It’s important to note, however, that coral bleaching caused by sunscreen, including natural or reef-friendly alternatives like zinc oxide, is considered low contribution factor.

Reproductive Health Concerns

Research has shown some evidence that octinoxate can cause reproductive problems. These reproductive problems include decreased sperm count and a disruption of the endocrine system or hormones. Most of this research has been conducted on animals and has not been reproduced in humans. Again, these studies used high concentrations of octinoxate and are outside the scope of topical application.

blood circulation

One of the top concerns about controversial skin care ingredients is whether they will get into the bloodstream. Some studies have shown that octinoxate is present in human urine and breast milk. More research is needed to determine the full effects of octinoxate on the human body.

Can Octinoxate be used on congested skin?

Octinoxate isn’t necessarily linked to acne, but anecdotally people say that it makes acne worse. Some research has found that octinoxate can cause adverse reactions in some skin types, especially sensitized skin types.

In which product is octinoxate used?

As you’d expect, you can find octinoxate in many sunscreen formulations, but also in foundations, hair dyes, shampoos, nail polishes, and lip balms. When used in cosmetics, the purpose of Octinoxate is to keep the physical integrity of the product stable, especially when exposed to sunlight, making it a common ingredient in “long-lasting” cosmetic brands and products.

However, some recent studies on this chemical have shown that when used in sunscreens it can break down faster than previously thought, which can decrease the effectiveness of the product and lead to long-term problems such as hyperpigmentation. This is not the only concern many skin care professionals have about the use of octinoxate, and many have suggested caution when using it.

PubChem, Compound Summary Octinoxate, National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Raffa, R, Pergolizzi, J, Taylor, R, & Kitzen, J, 2018. “Sunscreen Bans: Coral Reefs and Skin Cancer,” Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, vol. 44, is. 1.
Adler, B & DeLeo, V, 2020. “Sunscreen Safety: An Overview of Current Studies on Humans and the Environment,” Journal of Photodermatology, vol. 9, pp. 1-9. .
Ouchene, L, Litvinov, I & Netchiporouk, E, 2019. “Hawaii and other jurisdictions prohibit oxybenzone or octynoxate sunscreens based on the confirmed harmful environmental effects of sunscreen ingredients on aquatic environments,” Journal of Cutaneous Medicine.

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