Avobenzone - 4 Tips on Stable and Less Irritating Sunscreen

Avobenzone is an effective UVA filter. Avobenzone is also known as Parsol 1789, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, 4-tert-butyl-4′-methoxydibenzoylmethane, and Eusolex 9020. The maximum concentration of avobenzone allowed in US is 3%.

Issues about avobenzone have been skin irritation and photostability. Some people that have used avobenzone sunscreen think that their skin and eyes do not tolerate avobenzone, and they have to switch to mineral sunscreen products. But if you know about the formulation of avobenzone sunscreen, you will find that avobenzone can be a good sunscreen ingredient that your skin will tolerate.

Tips on avobenzone sunscreen products

  1. Avobenzone sunscreen products should include octocrylene (inside US) or at least one of the photostabilizers listed at the end of this post.
  2. Avobenzone should not be formulated with octinoxate unless there are special technologies to stabilize them.
  3. Avoid oxybenzone and PABA.
  4. Avoid alcohol-based sunscreen products.

Irritation and skin absorption

So far, the commonly agreed sunscreen ingredients that cause photoallergic reactions are PABA and oxybenzone. Avobenzone is one of those sunscreen ingredients that cause less adverse reactions. In the 15-year research on 2715 patients in St John’s Institute of Dermatology, researchers observed 4 photoallergic reactions and 3 contact allergic reactions caused by avobenzone, compared with 14 photoallergic reactions and 8 allergic contact reactions caused by oxybenzone. In addition, unlike oxybenzone or PABA, avobenzone does not show significant transdermal penetration [1][2][3].

If you are worried about skin absorption of sunscreens, please be informed that alcohol-based formulations tend to increase sunscreen absorption.

The reason why everyday sunscreen users tend to find avobenzone sunscreen irritating is that most (probably more than 90%) of sunscreen products with avobenzone have oxybenzone at the same time. The culprit of stinging and irritation is most likely oxybenzone instead of avobenzone.

Personally, I tested some products with avobenzone but without oxybenzone or ecamsule. I did not experience any irritation like the one I had with products containing oxybenzone. And my eyes did not feel uncomfortable.

Stability

The drawback of avobenzone is photoinstability. According to Clinical Guide to Sunscreens and Photoprotection, only 23% of the original amount of avobenzone remains after 25 MEDs of UV exposure. Outside US, avobenzone can be well stablized by Tinosorb S, which is not approved inside US yet. Inside US, the stabilibty of avobenzone is usually improved by octocrylene. In addition, avobenzone should not be formulated together with octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate) because of their interactions [4].

There are some patented technologies on stabilized avobenzone sunscreen, such as AvoTriplex by Banana Boat, Helioplex by Neutrogena, and SunSure by Hawaiian Tropic. I do not recommend any of these three complexes to everyday sunscreen users because all of them include oxybenzone, on which you can find more information in Oxybenzone – Bad Sunscreen Ingredient.

In US, the most effective ingredient to reduce the degradation of avobenzone, right now, is octocrylene (mixing with 3.6% octocrylene, 90% of the original amount of avobenzone remains after 25 MEDs of UV exposure). Optimizing the emulsions can also help but it has not reached a clear conclusion yet. So please choose avobenzone sunscreen products that include octocrylene or at least one of the following photostabilizers:

  • Tinosorb S (Bemotrizinol, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine): Mixing with 5% Tinosorb S, 81% of the original amount of avobenzone remains after 25 MEDs of UV exposure. Available outside US.
  • Tinosorb M (Bisoctrizole, Methylene Bis-Benzotriazolyl Tetramethylbutylphenol): Available outside US.
  • Butyloctyl Salicylate (Tradename HallBrite BHB): Mixing with 5% Butyloctyl Salicylate, 50% of the original amount of avobenzone remains after 25 MEDs of UV exposure [5].
  • Mexoryl SX (Ecamsule, Terephthalylidene Dicamphor Sulfonic Acid): can cause eye uncomfortableness when it gets into eyes.
  • Corapan TQ (Diethylhexyl-2,6-Naphthalate): Mixing with 5% Corapan TQ, 47% of the original amount of avobenzone remains after 25 MEDs of UV exposure.
  • Parsol SLX (Polysilicone-15): Mixing with 4% Parsol SLX, 53% of the original amount of avobenzone remains after 25 MEDs of UV exposure. Available outside US.
  • Oxynex ST (Diethylhexyl Syringylidene Malonate): Mixing with 0.8% Oxynex ST 73% of the original amount of avobenzone remains after 25 MEDs of UV exposure.
  • SolaStay® S1 (Ethylhexyl Methoxycrylene): US Patents Pending.
  • Tris(tetramethylhydroxypiperidinol)citrate: Mixing with 2% tris(tetramethylhydroxypiperidinol)citrate, 53% of the original amount of avobenzone remains after 25 MEDs of UV exposure.

There are other stabilizers but the above ones are safer.

3 comments to Avobenzone – 4 Tips on Stable and Less Irritating Sunscreen
  • Thank you for reading, Carol. Oxybenzone can build up so we should not use sunscreens with oxybenzone on a daily basis. But you may use Neutrogena sunscreens on rare occasions when you need heavy-duty sun protections, such as staying on the beach for a day. A rare use should not cause any problems. After all, Neutrogena sunscreen, such as Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen SPF 55, is one of the most effective out there when you truly need a heavy-duty sunscreen. Just don’t use such sunscreens on a regular basis.

  • Carol

    Thank you for sharing. Unfortunately, I purchased mutltiple oxybenzone products from Neutrogena. I was attepmting to use them daily since a family member may have skin cancer. I do have sensitive skin and I had a reaction quite badly. Hence what started my research and brought me here. $100 dollars worth of bottles going to the trash. Will only save the Titanium Dioxide ones. I don’t even want to give them away. I will keep reading everything on this site. Thank you Chelsea.

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