The Sunscreen Debate – Chemical vs. Mineral
It’s summer and although you should wear sunscreen all year round, with the heat you typically have more skin exposed. This sparked a conversation about sunscreen in my Aqua Fitness class last week. There is a lot of confusion about the recent claims that some are bad for you. Frustrated that I could not answer questions such as; Which ones are bad for you? Why are they bad? What options do we have? I dug into to see what I could find.
There are two different types of Sunscreen and they work in different ways:
Chemical Based These are ABSORBED into your body and the chemicals protect you by absorbing the sun’s rays. Ingredients you may see on labels include avobenzone, oxybenzone, Mexoryl SX and SL, octocrylene, homosalate and octisalate.
Mineral Based These don’t get absorbed into your body at all. They sit on top of your skin and REFLECT the sun’s rays. There are two ingredients you’ll see, usually in combination: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
NOTE ON SAFETY CONCERNS: Although everyone agreed that we all need to protect our skin from the sun’s damaging rays I found A LOT of conflicting data as to which type of sunscreen was better. Even though chemicals sunscreens are absorbed into the skin some claim that it doesn’t mean they are harmful. One of the worst is ingredients is Oxybenzone which was assigned a hazard score of 8 out of 10 by the Environmental Working Group (a U.S. environmental advocacy organization) because of skin penetration, hormone disruption, and allergy problems. Another active ingredient in chemical sunscreens is avobenzone which, at 3 percent, boasts a low-hazard rank, 2 out of 10.
I am taking the same stance I do when someone asks what food they should eat to be healthy – EVERYONE is different and you need to decide for yourself which works for you.
Here is an easy to use Pro/Con list to help you decide.
|Offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays and is naturally broad spectrum|
|Can rub off, sweat off and rinse off easily, meaning more frequent reapplication when outdoors is needed|
|Protects from the sun as soon as it’s applied, no wait needed|
|May leave a white-ish cast on the skin, making some formulas incompatible for medium to dark skin tones (remember the white noses)|
|Lasts longer when in direct UV light (but NOT when doing physical activities that cause the skin to get wet or sweat)||May be too chalky and opaque for daily use under makeup|
|Less likely to cause a stinging irritation on the skin, making it better for sensitive skin||Can create an occlusive film, which results in increased perspiration during physical activities and, therefore, causes it to wear off more quickly|
|Better for those with heat-activated skin (like those with rosacea and redness) since it deflects the heat and energy given off by the sun away from the skin||Can be thicker, which will require more effort to rub in|
|Less likely to be pore-clogging, making it ideal for blemish-prone skin types||Can cause white drips to show on the skin when sweating|
|Longer shelf life|
|Can be less protective if not applied generously and accurately since UV light can get between the sunscreen molecules and get into the skin|
|Tends to be thinner and, therefore, spreads more easily on the skin, making it more wearable for daily use||Requires about 20 minutes after application before it begins to work|
|Less is needed to protect the skin||The protection it offers gets used up more quickly when in direct UV light, so reapplication must be more frequent|
|Formula is easier to add additional treatment ingredients, such as peptides and enzymes, which offer other skin benefits|
|Increased chance of irritation and stinging due to the multiple ingredients combined in order to achieve broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection. The higher the SPF the higher the risk of irritation|
|Chemicals are being absorbed into your body. What if the concerns are true?|
|Increased chance of redness for rosacea-prone skin types because it changes UV rays into heat which can exacerbate flushing|
|Requires about 20 minutes after application before it begins to work|
|The protection it offers gets used up more quickly when in direct UV light, so reapplication must be more frequent|
I am pulling together a list of best mineral based sunscreens and will have it for you in my next article. In the meantime…READ YOUR LABELS, do some experimenting but PLEASE PICK ONE AND WEAR SUNSCREEN!
If you have any recommendations, comments or suggestions please let me know.