• skin penetration;
  • sunscreen;
  • topical application

Aims Topical sunscreens are routinely applied to the skin by a large percentage of the population. This study assessed the extent of absorption of a number of common chemical sunscreen agents into and through human skin following application of commercially available products.

Methods Sunscreen products were applied to excised human epidermis in Franz diffusion cells with the amount penetrating into and across the epidermis assessed by h.p.l.c. for 8 h following application.

Results All sunscreen agents investigated penetrated into the skin (0.25 g m−2 or 14% of applied dose), but only benzophenone-3 passed through the skin in significant amounts (0.08 g m−2 or 10% of the applied dose). With one exception, suncreen agents in corresponding products marketed for adults and children had similar skin penetration profiles.

Conclusions Whilst limited absorption across the skin was observed for the majority of the sunscreens tested, benzophenone-3 demonstrated sufficiently high penetration to warrant further investigation of its continued application.