Sunscreen, also known as sunfilter or sunblock, is a photoprotective topical product for the skin that absorbs or reflects some of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation and thus helps protect against sunburn and most importantly prevent skin cancer. Sunscreens come as lotions, sprays, gels, foams (such as an expanded foam lotion or whipped lotion), sticks, powders and other topical products.
Sunscreens are classified into inorganic (mistakenly called ‘physical’) sunscreens (i.e., zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) and organic (also, mistakenly referred to as ‘chemical’) sunscreens.
Despite popular belief, both types of sunscreens work mainly by absorption of UV light(UV-Absorbers)
Diligent use of sunscreen can also help to slow or temporarily prevent the development of wrinkles, dark spots and sagging skin.
In addition to moisturizers and other inactive ingredients, sunscreens contain one or more of the following active ingredients, which are either organic or mineral in nature:
- Organic chemical compounds that absorb ultraviolet light(UV-Absorbers).
- Inorganic particulates that reflect, scatter, and absorb UV light (such as titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or a combination of both).
- Organic substances that mostly absorb UV light like organic chemical compounds, but contain multiple chromophores that reflect and scatter a fraction of light like inorganic particulates. An example is Tinosorb M. The mode of action is about 90% by absorption and 10% by scattering.
Sunscreening agents are used in some hair care products such as shampoos, conditioners and styling agents to protect against protein degradation and color loss. Currently, benzophenone-4 and ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate are the two sunscreens most commonly used in hair products.
The following UV-absorbers are the FDA allowable active ingredients in sunscreens:
|UV-filter||Other names||Maximum concentration||Permitted in these countries||Results of safety testing||UVA||UVB|
|p-Aminobenzoic acid||PABA||15% (EU: banned from sale to consumers from 8 October 2009)||USA, AUS||Protects against skin tumors in mice. Shown to increase DNA defects, however, and is now less commonly used.||X|
|Padimate O||OD-PABA, octyldimethyl-PABA, σ-PABA||8% (EU, USA, AUS) 10% (JP)(Not currently supported in EU and may be delisted)||EU, USA, AUS, JP||X|
|Phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid||Ensulizole, Eusolex 232, PBSA, Parsol HS||4% (US, AUS) 8% (EU) 3% (JP)||EU, USA, AUS, JP||Genotoxic in bacteria||X|
|Cinoxate||2-Ethoxyethyl p-methoxycinnamate||3% (US) 6% (AUS)||USA, AUS||X||X|
|Oxybenzone||Benzophenone-3, Eusolex 4360, Escalol 567||6% (US) 10% (AUS, EU)||EU, USA, AUS||X||X|
|Homosalate||Homomethyl salicylate, HMS||10% (EU) 15% (US, AUS)||EU, USA, AUS||X|
|Menthyl anthranilate||Meradimate||5%||USA, AUS||X|
|Octocrylene||Eusolex OCR, Parsol 340, 2-Cyano-3,3-diphenyl acrylic acid, 2-ethylhexylester||10%||EU, USA, AUS||Increases reactive oxygen species (ROS)||X||X|
|Octyl methoxycinnamate||Octinoxate, EMC, OMC, Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, Escalol 557, 2-Ethylhexyl-paramethoxycinnamate, Parsol MCX||7.5% (US) 10% (EU, AUS) 20% (JP)||EU, USA, AUS, JP||Banned in Hawaii since 2021 – harmful to coral||X|
|Octyl salicylate||Octisalate, 2-Ethylhexyl salicylate, Escalol 587,||5% (EU, USA, AUS) 10% (JP)||EU, USA, AUS, JP||X|
|Sulisobenzone||2-Hydroxy-4-Methoxybenzophenone-5-sulfonic acid, 3-Benzoyl-4-hydroxy-6-methoxybenzenesulfonic acid, Benzophenone-4, Escalol 577||5% (EU) 10% (US, AUS, JP)||EU, USA, AUS, JP||X||X|
|Trolamine salicylate||Triethanolamine salicylate||12%||USA, AUS||X|
phenyl)propane-1,3-dione, Butyl methoxy dibenzoylmethane, BMDBM, Parsol 1789, Eusolex 9020
|3% (US) 5% (EU, AUS)||EU, USA, AUS||X|
|Ecamsule||Mexoryl SX, Terephthalylidene Dicamphor Sulfonic Acid||10%||EU, AUS (US: approved in certain formulations up to 3% via New Drug Application (NDA) Route)||Protects against skin tumors in mice||X|
|Titanium dioxide||CI77891, TiO₂||25% (US) No limit (JP)||EU, USA, AUS, JP||X|
|Zinc oxide||CI77947, ZnO||25% (US) No limit (AUS, JP)||EU, USA, AUS, JP||Protects against skin tumors in mice||X||X|
Zinc oxide was approved as a UV filter by the EU in 2016.
Other ingredients approved within the EU and other parts of the world, that have not been included in the current FDA Monograph:
|UV-filter||Other names||Maximum concentration||Permitted in|
|4-Methylbenzylidene camphor||Enzacamene, Parsol 5000, Eusolex 6300, MBC||4%*||EU, AUS|
|Parsol Max, Tinosorb M||Bisoctrizole, Methylene Bis-Benzotriazolyl Tetramethylbutylphenol, MBBT||10%*||EU, AUS, JP|
|Parsol Shield, Tinosorb S||Bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenol triazine, Bemotrizinol, BEMT, anisotriazine||10% (EU, AUS) 3% (JP)*||EU, AUS, JP|
|Tinosorb A2B||Tris-Biphenyl Triazine||10%||EU|
|Neo Heliopan AP||Bisdisulizole Disodium, Disodium phenyl dibenzimidazole tetrasulfonate, bisimidazylate, DPDT||10%||EU, AUS|
|Mexoryl XL||Drometrizole Trisiloxane||15%||EU, AUS|
|Benzophenone-9||Uvinul DS 49, CAS 3121-60-6, Sodium Dihydroxy Dimethoxy Disulfobenzophenone ||10%||JP|
|Uvinul T 150||Octyl triazone, ethylhexyl triazone, EHT||5% (EU, AUS) 3% (JP)*||EU, AUS|
|Uvinul A Plus||Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate||10% (EU, JP)||EU, JP|
|Uvasorb HEB||Iscotrizinol, Diethylhexyl butamido triazone, DBT||10% (EU) 5% (JP)*||EU, JP|
|Parsol SLX||Dimethico-diethylbenzalmalonate, Polysilicone-15||10%||EU, AUS, JP|
|Amiloxate||Isopentyl-4-methoxycinnamate, Isoamyl p-Methoxycinnamate, IMC, Neo Heliopan E1000||10%*||EU, AUS|
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