Unexpected Photolysis of the Sunscreen Octinoxate in the Presence of the Sunscreen Avobenzone


  • Posted on the website on 23 November 2004

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A major concern raised about photostability studies of sunscreen products is that the photodegradation of sunscreens does not readily translate into changes in product performance. This study examines the correlation between photochemical degradation of sunscreen agents and changes in protection provided by sunscreen films. Films of a commercial sunscreen product containing avobenzone, oxybenzone and octinoxate were irradiated using a fluorescent UV-A phototherapy lamp with additional UV-B blocking filter. Periodically, during irradiation the transmittances of the films were measured and samples collected for chemical analysis of the sunscreen agents using high-performance liquid chromatography techniques. The results show that UV-induced changes in UV transmittance of sunscreen films correlate with changes in concentration of sunscreen agents. In a parallel experiment, we also irradiated a thin film of the same product in the cavity of an electron spin resonance (ESR) spectrometer. We report the concomitant photolysis of avobenzone and octinoxate that predominates over expected E/Z photoisomerization and that irradiation of a film of this product produced free radicals detected by ESR spectroscopy that persisted even after exposure had ended.