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Octisalate for Skin: Benefits and How to Use

Woman with a swatch of sunscreen on her arm.

By this point, you’re hopefully wearing sunscreen daily. (Yes, as in, every single day.) And if it’s a chemical formula you’re reaching for on the reg, then it’s very likely that you’re already using octisalate. It’s a chemical sunscreen ingredient, though not one you’ll ever see solo; instead, it’s cocktailed with other chemical ‘screens in order to offer long-lasting, broad-spectrum protection against the sun.

We asked board-certified dermatologist Alan J. Parks and cosmetic scientist Shuting Hu to weigh in on why.

Keep reading to learn more about this ubiquitous sunscreen ingredient.


TYPE OF INGREDIENT: Chemical sunscreen

MAIN BENEFITS: Absorbs UVB rays, those responsible for causing burning of the skin. It also stabilizes other sunscreen ingredients and makes formulas more water-resistant, says Parks.

WHO SHOULD USE IT: Anyone who wants an effective, long-lasting sunscreen, says Hu, with the one caveat being that those who are allergic to it should obviously steer clear.

WORKS WELL WITH: Other chemical sunscreen ingredients, specifically those that absorb UVA rays, such as octocrylene and avobenzone.

DON’T USE WITH: According to the experts we spoke with, there are no ingredients known to interact negatively with octisalate.

What Is Octisalate?

“Octisalate is a chemical that’s often found in sunscreen and works to prolong sun protection,” says Hu. Fun fact: While this is its primary function and where you’re most likely to find it, octisalate is also used as a fragrance ingredient, she adds. It is one of a handful of common chemical sunscreen ingredients—other ones you’ve probably heard of include avobenzone, oxybenzone, homosalate, and octocrylene.

Benefits of Octisalate for Skin

All of the aforementioned chemicals work the same way: They soak into the skin, where they then absorb and filter out the sun’s rays, transforming them into a form that doesn’t damage the skin, explains Parks. But some are formulated to block UVA rays, some UVB rays; octisalate falls into the latter category, he adds.

As a quick reminder, UVA rays are responsible for signs of aging. UVB rays are associated with sunburns, although both types are damaging to the skin and can cause skin cancer, notes Parks. For that reason, octisalate is always paired with other chemicals that can block UVA rays so the final product is a broad-spectrum sunscreen that will adequately protect your skin.

While that’s the main benefit of octisalate, it also has pretty major secondary benefits: “Octisalate is also known to help stabilize other sunscreen ingredients as well as help make formulas more water-resistant,” says Parks.

Side Effects of Octisalate for Skin

“Octisalate is typically well-tolerated by all skin types, except for those who have an allergy to it,” says Parks. “It is one of the safer ingredients, though there are some concerns about its allergenic effects,” adds Hu.

You may have also heard recent talks about the FDA investigating the safety of chemical sunscreen ingredients, octisalate included. And yes, that is in fact the case; it’s one of a dozen sunscreen ingredients that the agency says require more safety information before they can be deemed GRASE, generally recognized as safe and effective.1 That being said, the overarching opinion of experts is that the well-known, well-studied, well-proven risks of unprotected sun exposure far outweigh any possible issues with chemical sunscreen. “Both physical and chemical types of sun protection are safe,” says Parks.

If you’re really concerned and/or have especially sensitive or reactive skin, then simply stick with the physical formulas that rely on minerals such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for sun protection.

How to Use Octisalate for Skin

If you do want to look for a sunscreen with octisalate, just make sure it’s a broad-spectrum formula with at least an SPF 30, and, of course, apply it daily. Also worth noting: “While octisalate itself doesn’t clog pores, it can trap other pore-clogging culprits, such as makeup and skincare, which can lead to irritation and potential breakouts,” notes Hu. “It’s important to make sure you thoroughly cleanse your skin of any sunscreen products after each use.”

The Best Products With Octisalate

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40+ $34.00

This aptly-named option is one of Hu’s picks: “It’s lightweight, fragrance-free, and doesn’t leave a white sheen on your skin.” She also lauds it for being rich in antioxidants and oil-free, making it a universal choice for all skin types.

EltaMD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 $26.00

Parks is a fan of this chemical-mineral hybrid; it contains both octisalate and octinoxate, as well as zinc oxide, he says. “It’s a great sunscreen for athletes or those who spend a lot of time sweating or in the water and need an effective, water-resistant formula,” he points out. (It offers 80 minutes of water resistance, to be precise.)

Revision Skincare Intellishade Original SPF 45 $76.00

Who doesn’t love a good multi-tasker? This one-stop-shop delivers the effects of five different products, says Parks of one of his faves. For the sun protection part of things, it blends octinoxate and octisalate, along with minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. It also hydrates, offers a potent dose of protective antioxidants, contains anti-aging peptides, and provides a universal tint that leaves skin fresh and glowy.

Innisfree Daily UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 36 $15.00

Hu likes that this formula is both phthalate- and paraben-free, as well as the fact that it’s lightweight and water-based. Plus, there’s also cica in the mix to make it nice and soothing, she adds.

Peter Thomas Roth
Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench SPF 45 Hyaluronic Acid Cloud Moisturizer $52.00

A whopping 30 percent concentration of hyaluronic acid makes this sunscreen next-level hydrating, while a combination of chemical sunscreens (octisalate included) offer broad-spectrum protection. It goes on like a cream, but quickly dries down to a nearly undetectable finish, and Parks says it’s a good option for all skin types.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Moisturizer UV $20.00

Those who prefer a daily moisturizer that just happens to have built-in sun protection should try this pick. “This moisturizer-sunscreen combo is ultra-hydrating and soothing while providing broad-spectrum sun protection,” says Parks. “Ceramides, dimethicone, and niacinamide soothe redness and irritation, while avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, and octocrylene protect the skin from sun damage and signs of aging.”

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion Sunscreen SPF 30 $16.00

A choice pick for anyone who worries that sunscreen will cause breakouts, “this is is oil-free and non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog pores,” says Hu. She also likes that it feels water-like on the skin (credit the fact that it’s a gel formula) and won’t leave behind any greasy residue.

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