Sampling on the new SPF15 is going well and people are liking it a lot. I am still in love with it myself. In the meantime, I’ve been doing more research on Avobenzone and Octocrylene, the SPF ingredients. It’s a mixed bag.

Avobenzone: I am pretty comfortable with Avobenzone. It’s been around since 1981 and I haven’t seen many negative reports on it. It’s a great broad spectrum protectant, and the only chemical sunscreen that really does the job when it comes to UVA rays (the ones that cause cancer). Plus, in the formula that I’ve mocked up, it really doesn’t seem to break anyone out at all. Quite the contrary, people really like how their skin is looking, myself included. So, Avobenzone is a thumbs up. But here’s the kicker–it’s unstable. Once exposed to the sun, it can break down almost completely within 30 minutes. That gives very little protection, especially to people who are out in the sun for a while. That’s where Octocrylene comes in.

Octocrylene: Octocrylene is a relatively weak sunscreen, and works mainly to block only UVB spectrum sunlight (the rays that burn the skin). But, it’s extremely stable, and when combined with Avobenzone, it helps Avobenzone remain stable, thus providing hours of support. The other day, I wore the sunscreen at a pool for hours and I achieved only a light pink hue. However, Octocrylene, much like other popular UVB blockers like Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, tend to produce free radicals when exposed to the sun. This is what has been fueling the long running debate over which is better, sun exposure or sunscreen exposure. I’m using Octocrylene at the lowest percentage I can, but it’s still in there at 7%.

Bottom line: There are only three options when it comes to broad spectrum support: Avobenzone, Zinc Oxide, and Titanium Dioxide. None are an ideal option. Avobenzone must be stabilized and may come with some free radicals. Zinc and Titanium are severe flake promoters and simply do not work well with benzoyl peroxide. Plus, to achieve “vanishing” formulas which do not go on completely opaque like Zinc and Titanium will normally, manufacturers micronize the Zinc and Titanium, which causes an entirely new controversy over whether these micro-particles are safe when absorbed into the body.

So what do we do?: The best bet is to limit sun exposure in the first place, thus eliminating burns and reducing skin damage. I say “limit” because I have a hunch that the sun is very important to our overall health and well being and some exposure may be beneficial. I personally try to get some sun on my body any day that I can, perhaps 15 minutes on each side (keep in mind I am pretty fair and the darker your skin the more you may need). You may also choose to wear a hat instead of sunscreen on the face. In the event that you feel that you do want sunscreen protection, if you are going with Avobenzone-based product, try to find one with antioxidants in the formula. Our formula will have a healthy dose of vitamin E to help combat the free radicals. Also, in the future, look for encapsulated Avobenzone to hit the market. This will be a new product but one that may be interesting for its ability to stay stable on its own.

20 Responses to “More on Avobenzone and Octocrylene – our sunscreen ingredients”

  • Dave

    This is interesting. I guess I didn’t realize that creating a sunscreen was such a complicated experience of weighing the pros and cons. Keep up the good work and research, Dan.

  • Trent

    I have found that sunscreens with zinc oxide do not flake as much if you moisturize beforehand; jojoba oil can help as well. I think I will stick with zinc oxide because I think it is beneficial to my skin – I even use a zinc-oxide ointment at night to hasten the fading process of some stubborn red marks. That said, if there is any further research that shows it is somehow “bad” for me, then I’d certainly think about changing.

  • Mr. Pineapple

    When should we expect to see your suncreen product available to purchase? Mahalo

  • Christina

    Wow, thanks for the information regarding sunscreen ingredients! I have just started using CG smoothers tinted moisturizer (with SPF 15) and I was wondering why it made my face slightly more flakey than usual…now I know it’s because one of the ingredients in it is zinc oxide, one of the “flake promoters” as you mentioned in your blog.

    Just cancelled my order from amazon for more sg smoothers and am waiting for your sunscreen to come out! 🙂

  • Jeff

    Hello Dan, Very nice explanation of the synergistic relationship of Avobenzone & Octocrylene.
    Have you tried our product? We use these ingredients and sell to many dermatologists who recommend our product for people to tend to break out.

  • Ex

    The “finding supplies” section practically says avobenzone should be avoided.. Since when is it recommended?

  • Dave

    Yeah I think if there is a change in philosophy it needs to be made clear throughout the site.

  • Kristy

    Dan, I’ve followed your website for years and to my knowledge, you’ve always said that avobenzone is a breakout trigger and that zinc oxide was the best option for acne-prone people. Since when did your philosophy on this change? And what is the reason behind the change? You always seemed vehemently anti-avobenzone before, and the sudden change of heart is confusing.

  • Daniel

    I’m confused on the avobenzone as well. I always thought that was what you were supposed to stay away from in a sunscreen? I spent hours looking for a zinc/titanium oxide sunscreen as I was beginning to feel that my avebenzone based SPF was causing breakouts. I bought Neutrogena Sensitive Skin 60+ SPF Sunblock Lotion with PureScreen. It has Titanium Dioxide – 4.9% and Zinc Oxide – 4.7% as the 2 active ingredients. I was excited to finally find something without Avebenzone in it, then I come home and find this? I’m hoping that using the moisturizer with the normal regimen and only putting on the sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside will help.

  • Daniel

    Zinc/Titanium dioxide with the normal regimen didn’t work. Tested on my forehead and neck and it caused a flaky appearance. I hardly used any so I’m returning it for something with avebenzone I guess?

  • Acne Esthetician

    We use avobenzone with a photo stabilizer in our line of products as well – I have been looking for the perfect sunscreen for years also – it’s a challenge.

    I want to warn against avobenzone being used by people who suffer from rosacea. Because avobenzone “absorbs” the uva, it can create some heat in the skin. Zinc is a much better choice for rosacea sufferers.

  • Jenny

    I find that ANY chemical sunscreen will cause me to break out, or cause my face to burn. Even the coveted oil of olay sensitive skin formula. I don’t have sensitive skin- I rarely moisturize and my skin tolerates BP quite well.

  • lala

    have you ever thought about powder sunscreens to use with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide? maybe it could lessen the chance of the benzoyl peroxide balling up

    try the colorescience ones!

  • Laura

    Can’t wait for the SPF to come out! I recently moved to Hawaii and the humidity + sun exposure + sunscreen = breakouts. I still can’t find a sunscreen for my face that I like. Right now I’m using Jergens Natural Glow Healthy Complexion Daily Facial Moisturizer with SPF 20, and I’m satisfied with it. The only thing I don’t like about it is the price. I think it’s only 2 oz. and cost over $10!

    How often do you recommend reapplying SPF 15 when out in the sun?

  • Acne Esthetician

    @Nick – Mexoryl is a great sunscreen ingredient but it is “owned” by L’Oreal, so cannot be used in a private label formula.

  • katie

    @dan I see this is an old thread and its been five years since you thought of making a sunscreen and i see it never really stuck around but I just want to relay on some information on zinc oxide formulas that are out there that are fantastic there is this brand called Cotz and they use micro sized zinc oxide particles suspended in silicone so that they cant enter the skin as the debate was claiming. there formula is amazing but if you still want to create your own I think that may be your answer and they use the slightest tint to there sunscreen but its undetectable it only eliminates the white cast. they have untinted as well I hope you read this and consider looking into this 🙂

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