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Update About the Effects of the Sunscreen Ingredients Oxybenzone and Octinoxate on Humans and the Environment

Siller, Alfredo BS; Blaszak, Scott C. BS; Lazar, Michelle; Olasz Harken, Edit MD, PhD

doi: 10.1097/PSN.0000000000000244
Departments: Skin Care Department

As skin cancer prevalence continues to rise, the importance of sun protection, including sunscreen use, has become accepted in the public. Sunscreens are divided into two main categories based on the type of their active ingredient, organic and inorganic ultraviolet (UV) filters. It has been shown that inorganic filters are more effective at blocking forms of UV light, both UVA and UVB, as compared with organic filters because organic sunscreens absorb and convert radiation whereas inorganic sunscreens reflect radiation. The use of the two most common organic filters, oxybenzone and octinoxate, has recently been restricted in Hawaii due to their harmful effect on the coral reefs. Here, we discuss recent studies about these specific filters related to the adverse health risks they pose for humans and other organisms, as well as environmental repercussions.

Alfredo Siller, BS, is medical student, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

Scott C. Blaszak, BS, is medical student, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

Michelle Lazar, is college student, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Edit B. Olasz Harken, MD, PhD, is Associate Professor, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She is co-founder of Harken Derm LLC.

Address correspondence to Edit B. Olasz Harken, MD, PhD, Department of Dermatology, Medical College of Wisconsin, 8700 Watertown Plank Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53226 (

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2018 by American Society of Plastic Surgical Nurses