Benzophenone - ChemicalSafetyFacts.org

Benzophenone

Benzophenone is a sweet-smelling organic compound that occurs naturally in grapes and other fruits. Benzophenone is intentionally added to some foods to enhance flavor and fragrance. The compound also can act as a UV filter when added to many personal care and consumer products and plastics packaging.

Uses & Benefits

In skincare products like soap and lip balm, benzophenone helps prevent the other product ingredients from degrading under UV light – protecting the product’s color and scent. Oxybenzone, a derivative of benzophenone, is also an ingredient in many sunscreens due to its ability to absorb harmful UV rays.

As a fragrance and flavoring ingredient, benzophenone can provide a delicate, rose-like scent and flavor to some baked goods, ice cream and candy.

Benzophenone is also widely used in a range of household products and consumer goods. In laundry and cleaning products, benzophenone is added to the product formulation as a perfume compound, and it also helps to protect the product against degradation that could be caused by UV rays and exposure to air. 

In consumer products like sunglasses, shoes and sports equipment, benzophenone helps to protect against UV rays that could damage or deteriorate the product. In addition, as an ingredient in plastics and plastic packaging, it helps to prevent sun damage and fading of the product inside the packaging.

Safety Information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved benzophenone-3 (BP3), also known as oxybenzone, as an active ingredient in sunscreen. In addition, a Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) expert scientific panel states that benzophenone and its derivatives (benzophenone-1, -3, -4, -5, -9 and -11) are safe as typically used in cosmetics and personal care products.  

FDA states that benzophenone is safe to use as both as a direct and indirect food additive. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) also concludes that current uses of benzophenone as a flavoring substance are safe.

Answering Questions

Is benzophenone-3 in sunscreen?

The benzophenone derivative benzophenone-3 (BP3), also known as oxybenzone, is a common, FDA-approved active ingredient in many sunscreen products. Oxybenzone helps protect skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays by absorbing UV radiation and dissipating it as heat.

Is benzophenone-3 or oxybenzone in sunscreen bad for you?

Numerous scientific panels and regulatory bodies, including FDA and the CIR, have reviewed benzophenone-3 and oxybenzone and determined it is safe for individuals when used as a sunscreen ingredient. In addition, in the United States, FDA regulates sunscreens as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and subjects their active ingredients to rigorous scientific assessment, which includes a safety and efficacy review.

Why has the state of Hawaii banned oxybenzone in sunscreen?

Hawaii’s legislature recently acted on some research claiming that the sunscreen ingredient oxybenzone may have negative effects on coral reefs and other marine species under certain circumstances.

The ban is somewhat controversial, as many other scientific and medical experts claim the research is very limited as to the negative effects of these ingredients on coral reefs. Others claim that some of the research cited was inconclusive and based on a limited body of scientific evidence. Another recent report from the International Coral Reef Initiative concluded that further research is needed to better understand if sunscreen ingredients pose a realistic threat to marine ecosystems.

Mineral sunscreens, also called sun blocks that use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to physically block the sun’s rays, are not affected by current legislative action under discussion and will still be permitted for sale in Hawaii.