Let’s get down to business…
If you didn’t finish that sentence in your head with “to defeat the Huns,” we can’t be friends. But all Mulan aside, we need to get down to the nitty gritty of sun protection; the good, the bad, the ugly and the great.
So where to start? Let’s first look at the difference between the chemical and mineral type sunscreens.
Chemical VS. Mineral
As mentioned in Sun-Care 101: The Basics of SPF, chemical-based sunscreens use chemical ingredients to absorb and dissipate the UVA/UVB rays while mineral sunscreens use naturally occurring minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to reflect the UVA/UVB rays.
But what’s better?
Well, ideally you want to stay away from sunscreens with chemically active ingredients. And don’t be fooled by the labels. It may say “mineral” or “all-natural” but unless you flip the bottle over and see what’s really inside, you could end up with a harmful sunscreen in your arsenal. Here are some of the chemicals you most want to avoid and why:
- Oxybenzone: is a penetration enhancer, so it basically let’s other chemicals penetrate your skin. Why isn’t it good for you? Aside from allowing other chemicals to penetrate, when it’s exposed to UV rays it reacts and can cause an eczema-like allergic reaction
- Octinoxate: one of the most common ingredients in sunscreens, it can cause a hormonal disruption on your estrogen levels.
- Homosalate: once absorbed into our skin, it can become toxic and cause other hormonal disruptions.
- Paraben Preservatives: those beginning in (butyl-, ethyl-, methyl-, and propyl-) can induce allergic reactions, development and reproductive toxicity and more hormonal disruptions.
As a side note, chemicals from your sunscreen can stay in your blood system up to five days from a single application and has been detected in blood, urine and breast milk. And what’s worse is that some chemical sunscreens can be damaging for your skin and cause premature aging. This is caused by free radical production from sunscreen chemicals that aren’t very photostable when in contact with the UV rays. In other words, “No, I’m good thanks.”
Why Mineral Sunscreen?
Mineral sunscreens, also known as physical sunscreens use naturally occurring active ingredients specifically zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Zinc oxide is one of the most extensive UVA/UVB protectants out there, and titanium dioxide is a close second. But you also want to ensure you’re getting the right amount of zinc oxide. Anything under 24 SPF is likely to have 15% or less zinc oxide and won’t give you the coverage you need. You should look for sunscreens that have 15%+ for best results.
Key standouts in your mineral sunscreen:
- You always want a zinc oxide dominate sunscreen, even when titanium dioxide is present because it better protects from UVA rays.
- Even though you want to avoid Octinoxate in your sunscreens, you can often find it even in a mineral-based product. The key is to ensure that it has no more than 7.5% concentration in an encapsulated form. When present in this concentration it acts like a mineral and avoids any harmful side affects.
- 20% or more of zinc oxide will give you full coverage from UVA/UVB rays and is most often found in mineral sunscreens with 32 SPF or more.
There are of course so many other factors to consider as well, does your sunscreen contain unstable oils like almond oil, canola oil, rose hip oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil and more? You want to avoid any oils that are more than about 10-15% polyunsaturated as exposure to UV rays can cause pigmentation, cell damage and premature aging!
And then did you know that AHAs and Vitamin A enhance sun sensitivity and the possibility of a sunburn? Not exactly ingredients you want in a sunscreen.
But, the main thing to keep in mind when shopping for your sunscreen and checking out the ingredients is that you always want to look closely at the top 5. The ingredients that often make up about 80% of your product can usually be found at the top of the list. So, look out for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide at the top. If they’re not there, it might not be worth the purchase.
Happy shopping and stay safe in the sun!
Let us know in the comments what your favourite sunscreen brand is and why!