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What Is Octinoxate?

By B. Turner
Updated May 21, 2024
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Octinoxate is a chemical compound that is found in many different types of cosmetics and personal care products. Manufacturers derive this ingredient from petroleum by-products, then add it to makeup, lotion and moisturizers. While octinoxate offers numerous benefits in terms of sun protection, it also poses some potential health risks which are not well understood by the public. Despite its potential risks, this compound remains a widely used ingredient for adding sun protection to common skin care and grooming products.

To make octinoxate, scientists mix sulfuric acid with methanol, a petroleum by-product. When heat is applied to this mixture, the ingredients undergo a permanent chemical reaction, resulting in a compound which is insoluble in water. This compound, known by the scientific name ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, is more commonly referred to as octinoxate.

This ingredient can be found in the majority of sunscreen products on the markets, including lotions, creams, sticks and sprays. It is also added to cosmetics, such as foundation or lipstick, where it helps to protect the wearer against sun damage. This component is also used in many moisturizers, body care products and standard cosmetics, where it often serves as the primary active ingredients in these products. It is also sometimes mixed with a similar compound known as oxybenzone in order to increase its effectiveness.

When used in personal care products and cosmetics, octinoxate primarily serves as a sun protectant. It blocks both UVA and UVB rays, though it offers much greater protection against the latter. By protecting the skin from sun damage, this ingredient helps to prevent DNA changes that could contribute to skin cancer. It also reduces wrinkles and keeps skin looking younger and healthier. For some individuals, products containing sun protectant agents like octinoxate may also reduce dark spots, freckles, and other signs of sun damage and aging.

Despite its many advantages, octinoxate also poses some risks. Some users may develop allergies to this ingredient, which may prevent them from coming into contact with this compound. This ingredient is also a hormone or endocrine disrupter, which means that it may negatively impact the health of an unborn fetus. Like other petroleum-based sun protectants, this compound may build up in the body over time, leading to the potential for future health problems. Finally, as octinoxate is washed into the ocean or other water bodies, it may pose a threat to wildlife in terms of pollution and endocrine disruption.

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Discussion Comments
By anon306425 — On Nov 29, 2012

I have been using "Bain de Soleil" for 45 years. I liked it then, and still like it now. I use it every day on my face as a moisturizer. No damage done.

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