Percutaneous absorption of the sunscreen benzophenone-3 after repeated whole-body applications, with and without ultraviolet irradiation

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Benzophenone-3 (BZ-3; 2-hydroxy-4-methoxybenzophenone, oxybenzone) is commonly used to absorb ultraviolet (UV) radiation. BZ-3 penetrates the skin and can be found in the urine. The amount varies between 0·4% and 2%. This seems to be the main metabolic pathway in rats.


To investigate the total amount of BZ-3 excreted in the urine after repeated topical whole-body applications of a sunscreen and to see if UV radiation has any effect on the amount excreted.


Twenty-five volunteers applied a commercially available sunscreen containing 4% BZ-3 morning and night for 5 days. Their urine was measured during those 5 days and during a further 5 days after the last application. They were divided into groups A (unirradiated) and B. Group B received UV radiation according to skin type: UVA between 400 and 707 J cm−2, and UVB between 0·46 and 2·0 J cm−2. BZ-3 in urine was analysed with a high-performance liquid chromatography method.


The volunteers excreted 1·2–8·7% (mean 3·7%) of the total amount of BZ-3 applied. There was no significant difference between the two groups (P < 0·99, t-test).


We show that a large amount of BZ-3 is absorbed. BZ-3 is accumulated in the body as the volunteers excreted BZ-3 5 days after the last application.

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