Octocrylene is a common ingredient in chemical sunscreens and anti-aging creams. It protects the skin from UV rays, which can cause sunburns and skin cancer. Some studies have questioned octocrylene’s safety.

Manufacturers worldwide use octocrylene as an additive ingredient in skin care products and cosmetics. It can help protect the skin against UV radiation and also has emollient properties.

However, the ingredient may cause side effects, such as allergic reactions. Some research also shows that it can harm marine life, such as coral.

This article discusses octocrylene in further detail, including its benefits and potential side effects. The article also explores the environmental impact of octocrylene and how to use octocrylene sunscreens.

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Octocrylene is an oil-soluble liquid, meaning it dissolves in oil. It is also an organic compound, which means it contains carbon-hydrogen bonds.

Many companies add it to skin care products because of its ability to absorb harmful UV rays from the sun, helping prevent skin damage.

It is a thick, colorless ingredient that manufacturers include in a variety of cosmetic products, such as sunscreens, lip balms, beauty balm creams, hair conditioners, and anti-aging creams.

Manufacturers include octocrylene in their skin products because it reportedly offers a range of skin benefits.

Absorbs UVA and UVB rays

Unlike many other sunscreen ingredients, octocrylene protects the skin against short UVA and long UVB rays.

Learn more about the risks of UV exposure.

Protects against skin aging

UVA rays comprise 95% of the sun’s rays that reach the ground. Octocrylene can help protect against premature skin aging and signs of sun damage, such as wrinkles and age spots. This is because of its ability to absorb UVA rays.

Helps prevent skin cancer

Octocrylene may help prevent skin cancers because of its ability to absorb UV radiation. Aside from sunburn, UVB rays are responsible for most skin cancers, while UVA rays also contribute to the development of some cancers.

Remains photostable

Octocrylene is photostable, which means its SPF remains stable after exposure to light. This property makes it popular among cosmetic manufacturers.

Boosts the effectiveness of other sunscreen ingredients

The sun protection octocrylene provides at safe levels is more effective in combination with other ingredients. In sunscreens, it combines with other strong yet photo-unstable UV filters, such as avobenzone, to provide a higher SPF while maintaining stability.

Has skin moisturizing effects

Octocrylene also has emollient properties. Emollients cover the top layer of the skin with a thin film to trap moisture. A person may notice that their skin feels softer and moisturized after using an emollient.

Improves water resistance of products

Octocrylene is hydrophobic, meaning it does not mix or dissolve in water. Therefore, it can help add water-resistant properties to sunscreen formulas.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluated the safety of octocrylene for use in sunscreen products and found that concentrations of up to 10% are safe.

The European Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) also stated that octocrylene is safe in products containing concentrations of no more than 10%.

A 2019 review found numerous reports of photo contact allergy due to octocrylene among adults who previously used topical products with ketoprofen, an nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

The review also discussed older studies that found octocrylene can affect the body’s estrogen levels and have endocrine-disrupting properties. However, it concluded that current evidence suggests that the ingredient does not have any potential for endocrine disruption.

The authors of a 2016 study also share this conclusion. However, it is important to note that these findings come from the results of animal studies.

A 2021 study reported that increasing benzophenone content in octocrylene-containing sunscreen over time has caused concern about the ingredient’s safety. Benzophenone is a potential carcinogen and a known endocrine disruptor.

With this in mind, the researchers concluded that further research into this correlation between benzophenone and octocrylene is necessary.

Some people are concerned about the body’s ability to absorb octocrylene, which can present in the blood, urine, and breast milk. It may promote the production of free radicals, which can damage DNA, potentially increasing the risk of melanoma. However, further research is necessary.

People with sensitive skin or skin conditions, such as eczema, may prefer to avoid products containing octocrylene. Alternatively, a person can perform a patch test before using a product containing octocrylene for the first time. The patch test should indicate if an individual is allergic or sensitive to an ingredient in the product.

A 2019 study found that octocrylene accumulates in corals in the form of fatty acid conjugates, which trigger mitochondrial dysfunction. Mitochondria in cells contain mitochondrial DNA and have a role in producing energy. The study authors called for a reevaluation of the octocrylene accumulation rate in the ocean’s food chain.

According to the National Ocean Service, chemicals from sunscreens may threaten marine life and corals. The chemicals may cause defects in young lifeforms, affect reproduction, and accumulate in tissues.

People may wish to look for reef-safe and coral-safe alternatives, choosing physical or mineral sunscreens instead. These sunscreens stay on top of the skin and act as a barrier between the sun and the skin.

Physical sunscreens may contain minerals, such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which are safe and effective sunscreen ingredients. These ingredients are also safer for marine life. Manufacturers label physical sunscreens as “biodegradable sunscreens.”

However, physical sunscreens may leave a white cast on the skin, so they may not be compatible with dark complexions. They may also feel thicker than chemical sunscreens. They can also rub or rinse off quickly, which means frequent reapplication is necessary, especially if a person swims or engages in other outdoor activities.

Learn more about sunburn and dark skin.

To discover more evidence-based information and resources for the environment and sustainability, visit our dedicated hub.

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A person should follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using products containing octocrylene, including sunscreen.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it is best to look for sunscreens with broad-spectrum coverage, which can protect a person against both UVA and UVB rays. The sunscreen should have an SPF above 30.

Here are things a person needs to consider when applying sunscreen:

  • Apply sunscreen while indoors: It may take about 15 minutes before the skin absorbs sunscreen. Going into sunlight before applying sunscreen may risk leaving the skin without protection.
  • Cover the entire body: Most adults use roughly an ounce of sunscreen to cover the whole body.
  • Remember to cover all areas: A person should not forget to cover the face, ears, top of the feet, the back of the neck, and the back. People with thinning hair should also apply sunscreen to their scalp.
  • Apply sunscreen on the lips: Individuals should use a lip balm with at least an SPF above 15.
  • Frequently reapply sunscreen: A person should immediately reapply sunscreen after sweating, showering, and swimming, or every 2 hours.
  • Check if the sunscreen has expired. Expired sunscreens are unstable and may not be able to protect the skin from UV rays.
  • Apply sunscreen even when it is cloudy or in the winter: UV rays are present at all times of the year, even when the temperature drops and on cloudy days.

Octocrylene is a common ingredient that manufacturers add to many skin care products. The FDA considers it safe and effective in products with concentrations of up to 10%.

However, side effects from octocrylene, such as allergic reactions, are possible. Research also shows that octocrylene and other chemical sunscreen ingredients can harm marine life.

Therefore, some people may prefer to use mineral sunscreens instead.

An individual may consider speaking with a doctor or dermatologist about potential allergies. A dermatologist can also recommend which ingredients are best for a person’s skin type.