UV filter

Octinoxate at a glance

  • Globally approved UV filter in use for over 50 years
  • Provides excellent UVB protection and filters a portion of UVA rays
  • Backed by numerous studies confirming its safety as used in sunscreens
  • Its cinnamic acid component can be allergenic for some
  • Also known as octyl methoxycinnamate and ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate

Octinoxate description

Also known as octyl methoxycinnamate and ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, octinoxate is the oldest and most common sunscreen active used in sunscreens around the world. Technically considered broad spectrum on its own, octinoxate remains most effective within the UVB range, since its UVA-protecting abilities peak at 360 nanometers (the UVA light spectrum goes from 320–400 nanometers). Interestingly, research has also shown that peak UV absorption of octinoxate is 310 nanometers, just shy of where the UVA spectrum begins. But for certain, octinoxate is a reliable UVB filter. Octinoxate has a solid record of safety backed by decades of research and mounds of studies. No studies have demonstrated that octinoxate, as used in SPF products, is harmful to people. In the studies where such claims are made, the conditions are simply do not apply to how octinoxate is used in sunscreens. This sunscreen ingredient’s cinnamic acid component can be allergenic for some people; however, this is an individual response and simply means your skin cannot tolerate this ingredient. Octinoxate is not considered irritating or photosensitizing to broad populations. The risk of an allergic response can be minimized by formulating octinoxate in the oil phase (not the water phase) of a sunscreen. This along with other formulary steps such as encapsulation and special emulsification approaches also stabilise octinoxate. When such steps are not taken, upwards of 60% of octinoxate’s protective ability in a sunscreen is lost when exposed to UV light. But since this issue is well known among sunscreen chemists, it’s not a concern for today’s sunscreens with octinoxate. Octinoxate is sometimes accused of being a hormone disruptor. This effect has primarily been demonstrated via oral intake of large amounts of this ingredient or examining its effect on isolated cells. In cases where a hormonal change was measured via topical application, the difference was one million-fold less than what was measured from normal hormonal activity in the body. Studies involving people have shown that octinoxate does not have a biologically significant effect on hormones. There simply isn’t any research backing the claim that octinoxate has any link to health risks when used in sunscreen formulas. In fact, the European Union’s (EU) permitted usage level for octinoxate in sunscreens is higher than the maximum amount permitted in the United States (7.5% in the United States, 10% in the EU). China, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, India and Thailand are among the other countries permitting octinoxate levels up to 10%. Octinoxate is often accused of being a threat to coral reefs and has been banned from use in sunscreen in some parts of the world; however, numerous data gaps exist on this issue. Such gaps include the lack of information on many other UV filters whose effects on coral reefs have yet to be studied. More important, research is clear that several other factors, from changing climate to coastal development and invasive species have a much stronger link to coral reef damage and demise than sunscreen use by people. This sunscreen active is one of several currently undergoing further safety testing under the purview of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This testing is to gain a better understanding of the systemic absorption, metabolism, and elimination of these sunscreen actives when small amounts enter the body via topical use. As referenced above, the presence of this or other sunscreen actives in the body does not mean your health is at risk. It is anticipated that the additional testing being done will reaffirm the safety of these ingredients; however, those who remain concerned can choose sunscreens with mineral actives (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) which are not included in the FDA’s new call for additional testing.

Octinoxate references

  • Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, April 2021, pages 967–988
  • International Journal of Dermatology, September 2020, pages 1,033–1,042
  • Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences, December 2019, pages 66–70
  • International Journal of Cosmetic Science, January 2018, pages 356–366
  • Pharmazie, 2013, pages 34-40
  • Archives of Dermatology, July 2011, pages 865–866

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


We couldn't find this in our ingredient dictionary. We log all missing ingredients and make continuous updates.

Not rated