Octinoxate is a chemical compound manufactured by combining methoxycinnamic acid with 2-ethylhexanol. Octinoxate's ability to absorb UVB rays makes it one of the most common ingredients in sun protection products for the skin and hair. Octinoxate is also known as octyl methoxycinnamate.
Octinoxate absorbs the sun's rays along the entire UVB spectrum, across the wavelengths 280 to 320 nanometers. Octinoxate does not absorb UVA rays. Octinoxate is extremely popular with manufacturers of sun protection products because it is well-tolerated by most people, meaning that there is a lower possibility of it triggering an allergic reaction in consumers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that octinoxate is safe when included in sun protection products at concentrations of up to 7.5%.
Sunscreens that contain octinoxate protect the skin from sunburn, which is caused by excessive, short-term exposure to strong sunlight. The sun's UVB rays trigger a chemical reaction when they reach the surface of the skin. If skin is exposed to the sun gradually, the hormone melanin begins to collect in the surface of the skin. Melanin darkens the color of the skin, causing a sun tan. If the skin is exposed to the sun too suddenly or over an excessive period of time, melanin is unable to collect quickly enough to protect the skin, leading to the individual experiencing the classic symptoms of sunburn, including redness, warmth and pain.
Octinoxate is not only found in traditional sunscreens. It is also listed as an ingredient in other skin care products and cosmetics. Because octinoxate shields the skin from the harmful effects of UVB rays, it is often included in anti-aging skin creams and lotions. It is also found in lip balms that offer sun protection. The sun's rays are one of the most damaging environmental factors when it comes to skin care. Exposure to the sun causes many of the visible signs of premature aging. Sun exposure depletes collagen levels, thins the skin, and causes patches of discoloration known as age spots. By including octinoxate in their day creams and lip balms, manufacturers of skin care products help to promote youthful skin by shielding it from the sun's harmful rays.
Cosmetics manufacturers also use octinoxate in products such as foundation and lipstick. This ensures that the consumer is provided with sun protection while wearing these products. By developing products that multitask, manufacturers help to streamline beauty regimens. This is extremely helpful in the modern environment, where busy individuals are often short of time.
One of the main risks associated with long-term exposure to the sun is the potential for UV rays to generate DNA damage in skin cells. This may ultimately lead to skin cancer forming in some individuals. There are three types of skin cancer, each of which develops slightly differently. The most common skin cancers are squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. Melanoma is less common, but much more aggressive in the way it replicates in the body. Octinoxate has been found to protect skin cells from the type of DNA damage that can be triggered by the sun's UV rays.
Octinoxate is also found listed as an ingredient in hair care products, including shampoo, conditioner, and serum. By including octinoxate in hair care products, manufacturers help to protect hair from the harmful effects of UV rays. Hair is vulnerable to damage from UV rays because it is often exposed to the environment. Hair is particularly susceptible to UV damage when it has been treated with chemicals to curl, relax, or color it. These chemical treatments strip away some of the natural protection afforded to hair, leaving it weak and dehydrated. Weakened hair shafts are more at risk of breaking and splitting.
Some laboratory studies on animals have identified octinoxate as an endocrine disruptor that interferes with the production of hormones by the thyroid. In clinical tests, octinoxate has also been linked with an increase in levels of estrogen in laboratory animals. Due to its ability to produce estrogen-like effects, octinoxate is not recommended for use by pregnant women. It should be noted that these adverse side effects were obtained in laboratory settings using concentrations of octinoxate that are much higher than the levels found in any sunscreen, skin care, hair care, or cosmetic product.