Mineral sunscreens, sometimes called sunblock or physical sunscreens, are harder to find, they tend to feel heavier, don’t absorb as quickly, and often leave a bit of a chalky finish, (especially for those with darker skin tones), so what’s the upside?
Mineral sunscreen active ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide work to form an actual physical block that shields skin from absorbing any rays, whereas chemical filters absorb UV and turn it into heat that’s released from skin. Mineral sunscreens are also more gentle and less irritating making them a better choice for those with sensitive or acne prone skin, babies and kids. The impact of chemical sunscreens on our reefs and oceans is also a concern. Two of the most common ultraviolet filters, oxybenzone and octinoxate, are being studied for their role in coral bleaching and other detrimental effects on aquatic life, plants, and algae.
Mineral or Chemical aside, the most important thing to look for is one that is broad spectrum, meaning you get both UVA and UVB protection. The SPF rating should be 30-50, protecting you from 96%-98% of UVB rays. Anything higher than 50 will give you minimally more protection but there is little difference in terms of risks of sun damage. An additional factor is water resistance, though no sunscreen is 100% waterproof so stay on top of reapplications.
There are some chemicals typically found in sunscreens that you’ll want to avoid. The first 11 are proposed by the FDA as requiring further testing for safety and efficacy, the remaining we’ve added for various reactive, disruptive, toxicity, and environmental concerns.
- Padimate O
- 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
- PABA (Para-aminobenzoic acid)
- Any nanoparticles or “nano-sized” zinc or titanium
- Microplastics such as “exfoliating beads”
Not sure where to start? You can reference the below EWG guides for SPF daily use in adults, or their selection for babies and kids. Enjoy your summer days!
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