Dive Deeper Blog

Common sunscreen ingredient Octocrylene degrades to easily absorbed carcinogen
March 12, 2021

A new report in a study published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology by French and American researchers at Sorbonne University and Haereticus Environmental Laboratory shows that Octocrylene – one of the most common ingredients in sunscreens breaks down into a carcinogen that’s easily absorbed through human skin.

Found in almost 3,000 products sold in the United States, Octocrylene quickly degrades into benzophenone, a known carcinogen that also causes contact dermatitis and is an endocrine disruptor. Researchers measured levels of benzophenone in 16 products sold in France and the United States after artificially aging them for a year. Benzophenone was found in EVERY product tested that contained octocrylene – sometimes in concentrations as high as 408 milligrams per kilograms(or 448 parts per million), a 134% increase over what it was originally formulated to contain.

Researchers have known for decades that up to 70% of both octocrylene and benzophenone can be absorbed through human skin. Octocrylene is no longer considered “Generally Recognized as Safe and Effective” by the Food and Drug Administration, in large part over concerns about that absorption rate. The state of California has a zero-tolerance policy for benzophenone in skincare products.

Stream2Sea is one of the few companies in the country that has tested our products to ensure they don’t contain octocrylene that could degrade to benzophenone as part of our pioneering initiative to create truly reef-safe sunscreens.

I’ll be the first to admit that formulating and manufacturing products without using ingredients we don’t want on our bodies or in our oceans is a challenge for manufacturers. First of all, we need to formulate aesthetically pleasing and effective sunscreens without chemical stabilizer. That’s relatively easy compared to the challenge of removing chemicals like octocrylene and benzophenone from a production line so that they’re not contaminating our safe formulations.

They’re insidious in cosmetic manufacturing plants.We originally had our formulas manufactured by a contract facility that had been making natural products–a very common practice with consumer brands. UV filters and preservatives were so difficult to remove from their production line, that we ultimately ended up building our own manufacturing facility that had never allowed octocrylene or benzophenones through the doors to eliminate all traces of cross contamination. And we continue to vigilantly guard against them from entering our walls. These ingredients are ubiquitous and can be found in plastics as well as paper and packaging materials.

We’re still a small company but we’ve proven it can be done. We were one of the first companies to pass the stringent requirements to earn the Protect Land+Sea certification from Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, which analytically challenges products for ingredients known to be toxic to coral reefs, including benzophenone.Before that, we tested on coral larva to ensure that they truly are reef safe.

It takes time, money, and vigilant commitment but it needs to be done. We encourage major manufacturers and ingredient suppliers to follow the science that clearly shows the danger of these ingredients to both human beings and our oceans. We need to invest in the innovation necessary to develop products that are safe for consumers and ecosystems.

Join us on our journey to create body care products that are safe for us and for our oceans. Together we can do better!


Autumn Blum
Formulator & CEO
Phone:  (863) 473-4223  Ext: 108  |  Toll Free:  (866) 960-9513  Ext: 108
Stream2Sea  |  PO Box 907  |  Wauchula, FL 33873  |  USA
From Stream2Sea – Protect WHO you love 

♥ Buy One and We'll Donate One to Maui Wildfire Victims ♥

Buy one get one FREE! Use code "primeday". T&Cs apply.

20% Off Sitewide for 24 hours only!