“And most manufacturers aren’t pH-balancing their products.” He recommends purchasing pH strips to test sunscreens yourself, since most brands don’t share (or perhaps aren’t aware of) the pH levels of their goods. In contrast, chemical sunscreens absorb the sun’s rays, “convert the rays into heat, and release … The Must-Have Jewelry on Our Editor’s Holiday Wish List, The Must-Have Beauty & Wellness Items on Our Staffer’s Holiday Wish List, In the Kitchen with Purely Elizabeth Founder Elizabeth Stein, Countersun Tinted Mineral Sunscreen Mist SPF 30, Everyday Coverage Tinted Sunscreen SPF 30, Clear Zinc Unscented Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30, Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35 PA+++, Eryfotona Actinica Daily Mineral Sun Protection, Ultimate Sun Protector Lotion SPF 50+ Sunscreen, Invisible Physical Defense Sunscreen SPF 30, How to Reapply Sunscreen When You’re Wearing Makeup, Our 21 Favorite Beauty Products for a Day at the Beach, Zinc Up Your Beauty Routine for Clearer Skin. © 2010-2017 The Coveteur Inc. All Rights Reserved. These chemicals disrupt coral reproduction, cause coral bleaching, and damage coral DNA. Three active ingredients found in sunscreen made in the USA, oxybenzone, octinoxate, and butylparaben, have been shown to be incredibly damaging to coral reefs in numerous ways. You did it! “Zinc oxide by itself blocks the full UV range,” Brian Guadagno, founder of Raw Elements, tells Coveteur, which is why it’s always the primary active ingredient (and often the only active ingredient) in physical sunscreens. Chemical formulations reigned supreme for decades because “the [primary ingredients are] easier to formulate with and they’re much cheaper,” says Dr. Craig Downs, a forensic eco-toxicologist and the executive director of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory. “[The average person should get] 10 to 15 minutes of midday sunlight several times a week,” says Dr. Aanand Geria, a board-certified dermatologist with Geria Dermatology in New Jersey, acknowledging that this is a bit of a “controversial” stance for a US dermatologist to take. But these early products were pasty, pricey, and, uh, really white, so the industry started searching for alternatives. Recent studies suggest that 70% of new skin cancer cases diagnosed each year are the result of exposure to the sun. Chemical sunscreen is the conventional sunscreen that you’ve always known and loved. What about zinc oxide sunscreen or mineral sunscreen? Confused? What does SPF measure, again? Our 21 Favorite Beauty Products for a Day at the Beach “People have different values when they’re selecting products, so we have some exciting things coming that will incorporate zinc.”, “What’s most important to me is that people are wearing sunscreen, period,” Dr. Ebuluk says. But particles that are very, very small, or nanoparticles, reintroduce environmental risks, because they can be ingested by coral reefs and other marine animals, causing internal damage. Physical sunscreen, sometimes called mineral sunscreen, contains tiny mineral particles which sit on top of your skin and act as filters, physically reflecting and deflecting the sun’s rays. Why? You get the easy-to-use benefits of a spray, added antioxidant protection, and a naturally-derived tropical scent. What was once a pretty straightforward practice—apply sunscreen, and apply it often—suddenly seems complicated. Chemical sunscreens include ingredients such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, ecamsule, and octinoxate. One dermatologist says that you need to apply less physical sunscreen compared to a chemical sunscreen. “Many fragrances are fortified with UV sunscreens, even oxybenzone,” says Dr. Downs. The biggest complaint that people have about physical sunscreen is that it is more difficult to apply, and is more visible on the skin, since it does not become absorbed the way chemical sunscreen does. We use non-nano Zinc Oxide for our sunscreens, and here’s why: Titanium Dioxide works as a hybrid by scattering and absorbing UVA1 and UVB rays. You can find the full chart of active ingredient toxicity here. “But once you get out of that nano size”—anything larger than 120 nanometers—“it becomes innocuous and non-toxic.”. Avocado Benefits: How Healthy is this Trending Superfood? In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the difference between chemical and physical sunscreen, and what to look for when buying sun protection. Mineral sunscreen is also much less likely to cause allergic reactions, is broad spectrum by nature, it won’t clog your pores. Ahead, the experts answer all of your (sun)burning questions. In other words, chemical sunscreens do not protect against blue light (which is a form of visible light, not UV light), but physical sunscreens do. Physical sunscreens remain on the skin's surface. Other, older studies indicate that a handful of chemical sunscreens act as endocrine disruptors—that is, they interfere with the body’s hormonal system. And for that, you have two choices: physical sunscreen or chemical sunscreen. Many people choose chemical sunscreen because it is easier to apply than physical sunscreen, it tends to be more waterproof, it can easily be combined with moisturizers, and less product is needed to get protection. Chemical sunscreens absorb sun rays while mineral sunscreens reflect them away. Studies link excessive sun exposure to skin cancer and premature aging of the skin. Zinc oxide sunscreen is often recommended as the safest and most environmentally friendly (more on that later). Sound like you? A handful of products combine zinc oxide with chemical filters. You can consult with both your dermatologist and primary care doctor to determine the ideal amount of sun for you. Chemical sunscreen formulations, on the other hand, contain a cocktail of active synthetics, since each chemical sunscreen compound targets a different type of UV light (short-range UV-A, long-range UV-A, or UV-B). Badger: Clear Sport Sunscreen Cream in a Tin – SPF 40, 2. Important Information regarding Health-related Topics. Physical sunblocks, also known as mineral sunscreen, use ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to deflect UVA and UVB rays. In 2008 Dr. Downs began investigating why the coral reefs in particular areas of the Virgin Islands National Park were dying. While this is true for some sunscreens, it is not necessary when using brands containing zinc oxide. While you’re at it, eliminate any products that list “fragrance” as an ingredient. To make it worse, many of these chemicals have been shown to disrupt hormones like estrogen, androgen, and progesterone, and have even produced thyroid and behavioral alterations in animal studies. The ins, outs, and WTFs of physical versus chemical sunscreen ingredients. “Because it is a physical blocker, it works as soon as you apply it, so technically it does not need to applied 15–30 minutes before sun exposure, as a chemical sunscreen does,” explains Dr. Shah. Because skin cancer sucks. Physical sunscreens are generally assumed to be reef-safe—but you know what happens when you assume, right? To help you see the complete sun safety picture, we’ve rounded up the pros and cons of both types of sunscreen. That said, studies also link “sensible” sun exposure to optimal vitamin D levels, lowered blood pressure, and increased survival rates for other types of cancer. “If it’s anything below six, you’re going to start dissolving the zinc oxide, and that’s not a safe product.”. “Zinc oxide was the original sunscreen in ointments—think back to the white lifeguard nose of the 1970s,” Guadagno shares. Thanks for joining our newsletter list. So it’s silly to call something a ‘chemical’ sunscreen. While physical sunscreens have not been found to absorb into the bloodstream or negatively impact hormonal health, any sunscreen ingredient—physical or chemical—can be harmful if inhaled into the lungs via aerosol formulations (because sunscreen belongs on you, not in you). Physical sunscreens contain active mineral ingredients, such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which work by sitting on top of the skin to deflect damaging UV rays away from the skin.” “Both chemical and physical sunscreens have their own set of pros and cons,” added Dr. Natalie: Chemical Sunscreen. That research helped inform the current legislation in the state of Hawaii and the city of Key West, Florida, which bans the sale of oxybenzone as well as octinoxate. The Coveteur, Coveteurs, and Coveteur'd are trademarks of The Coveteur Inc. This environmental research is relatively new and has faced its fair share of scrutiny and criticism from those who say climate change, not sunscreen, is to blame for the degradation of the world’s coral reefs. July 1, 2020 The help of a third party is essential. “We need more data about whether there are any harmful effects.” Particularly conscientious consumers are choosing to avoid chemical sunscreens until further research is conducted, just in case. Non-nano, pH-balanced zinc oxide is far and away the experts’ top choice for a safe, effective, eco-friendly, and skin-loving sunscreen. It also has some natural ingredients and calls itself a 99.3% Natural Sunscreen. When the FDA began to consider sunscreen safety, it grandfathered in active ingredients from the late 1970s without reviewing the evidence of their potential hazards. We have rounded up the best zinc oxide sunscreen lotions available on the market right now. To make physical sunscreens feel better and avoid the 'ghosting' effect, some products use nano-sized articles of zinc oxide and titanium oxide. Chemical vs. physical sunscreen Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the physical type, meaning the sunblock is not absorbed by the skin’s surface, according to "The New York Times." Zinc oxide sunscreen is often recommended as the safest and most environmentally friendly (more on that later). You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Physical sunscreens are made of chemicals too. “They ‘block’ the sun’s rays from penetrating and protect your skin from both UV-A (aging rays) and UV-B (skin cancer rays) damage.” Physical sunscreen is also called “mineral sunscreen,” since the two active ingredients on the market—zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—are natural minerals. What is the difference between a physical and a chemical sunscreen? Really, it’s no wonder you’re starting to wonder WTF is in your SPF. For those who are confused, physical sunscreens contain either Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide and form a film on top of the skin that reflects or scatters UV light while chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays before they can do any damage. Bubble Recipes: How to Make a DIY Bubble Solution For Kids, Minimalist Wardrobe: Closet Clearing Tips and Tricks, How to Store Ginger Root: 6 Ways to Keep Your Ginger Fresh for Longer, Zero Waste Bathroom: Tips for Using Less Plastic, 11 Flowers for Bees: Turn Your Garden or Balcony Into a Bee Paradise, Food Waste: 10 Pro Tips for Reducing Food Waste. “Moving towards the ’80s, the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries are asking, How can we make these formulas more lightweight, more aesthetically pleasing, shelf stable, and inexpensive? In the past year alone, the Food and Drug Administration released two studies showing that six chemical sunscreens absorb all the way into the bloodstream after topical application; the long-term health implications of this are still unknown. “Both oxybenzone and octinoxate cause DNA damage, so they’re genotoxic.”. UV radiation is divided into three main categories: UVC rays are mostly filtered out by the atmosphere, so we don’t have to worry too much about those. While there might not be enough data to show whether or not chemical sunscreen is toxic for your body, there is more than enough evidence to prove that it is helping to destroy the world’s coral reefs. “Oxybenzone is linked to [the birth defect of] Hirschsprung’s disease,” Dr. Downs adds, “and over 98 percent of the population can show that it’s in their blood or in their urine.” (The scientist notes that, “like secondhand smoke,” people who don’t personally use oxybenzone can still encounter the chemical via public swimming pools, where “the oxybenzone concentration can be in the parts per thousand, and you’re unknowingly absorbing it.”) Animal studies have linked octinoxate and homosalate to hormone disruption, as well. They do make it in a tinted version, so sometimes I’ll mix in a bit of that if the zinc oxide is showing up too much. Olen: Sunblocz Baby and Kids Sunscreen- SPF 50. Perhaps you’ve realized this. Unlike their chemical counterparts that work by … “With sun care, you have to speak to all, and synthetic doesn’t speak to all,” Lundy explains. “Oxybenzone has appeared in human breast milk, amniotic fluid, urine, and blood plasma,” says Dr. Zenovia. (Absorption doesn’t necessarily equate to harm.) (Fragrance is considered “proprietary” under FDA regulations, so brands aren’t required to disclose the ingredients in their fragrance blends.). “Put a little dab on the pH paper, and if it’s below a pH of seven, I wouldn’t trust it, because it’s acidified,” he says. To protect yourself against all of the harmful rays of the sun, the first thing to look for when buying any sunscreen is to make sure that broad spectrum protection is stated specifically on the packaging. “Just like in other industries, darker skin has been left out [of the sun-care space],” Shontay Lundy, founder of Black Girl Sunscreen, tells Coveteur. Spring is here, do you know what's in your sunscreen? According to National Geographic, 14,000 tons of sunscreen are thought to wash into the oceans each year. Physical sunscreen is also called “mineral sunscreen,” since the two active ingredients on the market—zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—are natural minerals. This sunscreen is clearly physical with Non-Nano Zinc Oxide & Titanium Dioxide and no chemical filters. If they're not on the ingredients list, then you know it's a chemical formula! To ensure your next zinc oxide sunscreen offers premium sun protection and there are a few must-have features you should look for: “We did some forensic eco-toxicology and found oxybenzone can be poisonous to coral reefs at the concentrations we were seeing,” the researcher says. Error, please enter a valid email address. Read on to boost your … So what’s going on here? We know that the last thing you want to do when you’re on your way out the door to the beach is do a deep dive into the literature on the subtle (and not so subtle) differences between types of sunscreen. Physical (mineral) sunscreen that has been labeled with this seal has been laboratory‐tested using analytical‐forensic techniques to verify that the product is free of the chemicals that are on the “HEL LIST”, which are: And so, without further ado, the physical sunscreens that have managed to make achieve “Protect Land + Sea” certification are: 1. “Now mineral sunscreens are coming back into favor because people are realizing the health implications and the environmental impact of [some of the] chemical sunscreens,” says Guadagno. Are all sunscreen ingredients equal? The minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the main active ingredients in physical blocks. However, there’s one area where the physical blocker still lags behind, and that’s wearability—specifically, wearability for Black and brown skin. Physical sunscreen, sometimes called mineral sunscreen, contains tiny mineral particles which sit on top of your skin and act as filters, physically reflecting and deflecting the sun’s rays. According to dermatologists, environmental toxicologists, and product formulators, it is possible to choose a sunscreen that’s safe for your body, safe for the planet, good for your skin, and above all, effective—and making the most informed decision comes down to understanding the differences between chemical and physical SPF. Because manufacturers do not currently have an obligation to list particle size on sunscreens, and since the words “natural” and “organic” are not regulated by the FDA, plus the general permissibility of arcane labeling practices in the United States, it is incredibly difficult for consumers to make an informed decision when trying to purchase sunscreen. So we’ve done the work for you. Zinc oxide is found in the sunscreens that are recommended by dermatologists because they don’t contain oxybenzone (a harmful chemical), which is very common in most other sunscreens. That’s when we begin to see the evolution of the chemical sunscreens.”. categories: Environment. Zinc oxide gives broader UV protection than titanium dioxide and is cosmetically more elegant to use (aka invisible on your skin) Zinc oxide does not irritate sensitive skin. Not only are mineral sunscreens reef-safe, but they also tend to be gentler on skin. Why? This second set of facts explains why countries across the globe, like the United Kingdom and Australia, recommend getting 10–15 minutes of sunlight per day sans sunscreen. Some inorganic chemicals, including minerals such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, act as a physical sunblock. While some instinctively shy away from chemical sunscreens in favour of physical options, this can be a hasty decision. “Any acidic sunscreen will cause zinc oxide to dissolve into zinc, so you lose your SPF,” Dr. Downs explains. “For sensitive or rosacea-prone skin, I only recommend mineral sunscreens because they’re less likely to cause an immediate stinging or burning sensation,” Dr. Geria says. He adds that those using retinol or glycolic acid in their skin-care routine should look to mineral SPF as well, “since the ingredients are inert and won’t cause further irritation.” Fun fact: Zinc is the main ingredient in diaper cream, so you know it’s good at calming redness and irritation. 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