Physical/Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreen.

What’s the best way to protect your skin & the environment from the sun when you have sensitive skin? What's the difference between mineral or physical sunscreens & chemical sunscreens?

A physical sunscreen is healthier, non irritating, doesn’t disrupt your hormones & is better for reef health than typical chemical sunscreens. 

Image by Mandanaturals.

Chemical sunscreens provide UV ray protection by first absorbing into your skin & then absorbing and transforming UV rays into infrared rays (heat). This is then released into the air. They take at least 20 minutes to become effective.

This contain synthetic carbon based compounds such as avobenzone, octinoxate, or oxybenzone. Studies show that these compounds are systemically absorbed into the body after a single use, and can be detected on the skin and in blood weeks after application. In fact, the CDC estimated that about 97% of Americans have oxybenzone in their blood.

Previous studies detected many sunscreen ingredients in breast milk and urine samples (Schlumpf 2008, Schlumpf 2010). In addition, it’s possible for sunscreen users to inhale ingredients in sunscreen sprays and ingest some of the ingredients they apply to their lips, so the ingredients must not be harmful to the lungs or internal organs. Ingredients like oxybenzone and octocrylene are reported to generate allergic reactions in the skin at a high rate. 

Many of these chemicals have been shown to disrupt hormones like estrogen, androgen, and progesterone, and have even produced thyroid and behavioural alterations in animal studies.

According to National Geographic, 14,000 tons of sunscreen are thought to wash into the oceans each year. 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. These chemicals disrupt coral reproduction, cause coral bleaching, and damage coral DNA.

Physical sunscreen or mineral sunscreen, contains tiny mineral particles which sit on surface of your skin and act as physical filters by reflecting and deflecting the sun’s rays. The main active ingredients are zinc oxide & titanium dioxide. Zinc oxide sunscreen is often recommended as the safest and most environmentally friendly. Mineral sunscreen is also much less likely to cause allergic reactions, is broad-spectrum by nature, works instantly & it won’t clog your pores.

As they work by sitting on top of your skin & don’t contain active chemical ingredients, you don’t run the risk of introducing possibly toxic chemicals into your body when you use it. It is also completely safe for the environment.

Apply mineral sunscreen generously to make sure that there are no gaps between mineral particles. Zinc oxide sunscreen is generally considered better, because titanium dioxide has been shown to be more irritating to the skin, and is significantly less effective at protecting you from UVA rays. Physical sunscreen washes off easily, and must be reapplied if you are swimming, or sweating.

They can rub, sweat, or rinse off easily, meaning more frequent reapplication is needed. Those with large particle sizes may leave a white trace on the skin, making some formulas incompatible with darker skin tones, but you can also find invisible zinc. They also tend to be thicker so they require more effort to rub in.


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