Oxybenzone is chemical commonly found in conventional sunscreens with the primary function of absorbing ultraviolet light from the sun. Chemical sunscreens use ingredients that are designed to stick to and penetrate into your skin. But while it may be effective in blocking harmful rays, it has other negative effects as many sunscreen chemicals are absorbed into the body and can be measured in the blood, urine and breast milk.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG)reveals that the active chemicals commonly used in sunscreen are endocrine disruptors, estrogenic and may interfere with thyroid and other hormone processes in the body. Basically, they interfere with the systems in our bodies that balance our hormones and keep our bodies functioning at their regular state.
Oxybenzone can reduce sperm count in men and may contribute to endometriosis in women. Oxybenzone is linked to allergic skin reactions and may disrupt hormones (Rodriguez 2006, Kraus 2012). The EWG warns against using oxybenzone, especially on children or pregnant/breastfeeding women.
Oxybenzone is also believed to harm coral reef populations. It is estimated that up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen is deposited into the world’s oceans each year, which is toxic to algae in coral. As of May 1, 2018, the State of Hawaii successfully passed a bill proposing a ban on the sale of chemical sunscreen in an effort to protect aquatic life.
Moral of the story is that ingredients in sunscreen should not be irritating, cause skin reactions, or be otherwise toxic to us. Choosing a mineral-based natural sunscreen with toxin-free ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide is a healthier and earth-friendly way to protect the skin from the sun.