Lately, the FDA is changing the way consumers think about their ingredients in sunscreen.
They believe that mineral sunscreens are safe, but products that use chemicals need more research.
Mineral sunscreen ingredients, specifically Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide are considered safe
We often find the differences in sunscreen throw many of my clients, but besides their rather complex-sounding names, the way it protects your skin from UV light is actually quite simple.
Here’s what you need to know about Titanium dioxide and Zinc oxide aka mineral sunscreen and how they differ from their chemical cousins.
What is the difference between physical and chemical sunscreen?
There are actually two different kinds of sun lotion: physical and chemical.
Both classes have been shown to reduce damage to the skin, reduce the risk of sunburn, and skin cancer, the only real difference, is how they do that?
Chemical sunscreens act almost like a sponge, absorbing UV light, while physical sunscreens act more like a shield, deflecting the sun’s rays.
made of synthetic ingredients like Oxybenzone and Octinoxate, they act almost like a sponge absorbing harmful UVA and UVB rays, and converting them into heat.
Because of their makeup, chemical sunscreens tend to be more elegant in terms of ease of application and don’t part a white residue.
Chemical sunscreen ingredients are behind the controversial FDA study carried out in 2019, which found they easily get absorbed into the bloodstream. The reason physical sunscreens have become so mainstream of late is that people are worried about their body absorbing the ingredients found in chemical sun tan lotion.
Physical sunscreen is often referred to as mineral sunscreen, it uses either Zinc or Titanium, and they act more like a shield – physically blocking the sun’s radiation by forming a barrier that sits on top of the skin. This makes the UV rays bounce off of the barrier, so they can’t penetrate into the skin which can cause cancer.
While it is possible that you could absorb a small amount of mineral sunscreen, it’s unlikely based on the way they work on the skin: They literally sit on top and deflect the sun’s UV rays.
Physical sunscreens are very gentle on the skin and are recommended by both the FDA as safe to use and the national eczema association.
What to look for in a physical sunscreen
Sunscreens should be “broad-spectrum,” this means they should have both UVA and UVB protection and be water-resistant.
SPF refers to how well the product reduces the penetration of UVB light, which causes sunburn and certain skin cancers.
UVA light referred to as the ageing ray is more difficult to block, which has also been shown to contribute to certain melanomas. The ‘broad-spectrum’ formula, is a product that mitigates both UVA and UVB rays.
The naked truth
How do you use physical sunscreens?
Because these physical sunscreens use both Titanium dioxide and Zinc oxide – two white minerals that can leave behind a chalky white finish, it can be an issue for some. So look for sunscreens that say “clear” or “tinted” on the label.
Any sunscreen should be applied 15 to 20 minutes before heading out. It takes time for the ingredients to be absorbed, so until then, your skin is essentially unprotected.