Why Mineral Sunscreen Is the Best Choice
This is what we know - wearing sunscreen is critical.
The importance of wearing sunscreen is crystal clear, now more than ever. Simply put, it prevents sun damage, that overtime can lead to skin cancer like Melanoma — the most dangerous type of them all. Not only that, but it significantly prevents the premature aging of skin. So, we’re told (and told and told again) that we should wear sunscreen every. single. day — even on days when we don’t think we’ll be exposed to the sun for long amounts of time.
“But why do I need sunscreen every single day? I won’t be outside, and I’m not sunbathing at the beach.”
We hate to burst your bubble, but you still are still exposed to the sun’s rays when you take a walk outside, drive in the car or enjoy your coffee outside under an umbrella-covered table — heck, even on cloudy days. It’s in these particular situations that we don’t think we need sunscreen. But we’re wrong. Immediate sun damage might manifest itself in the form of a sunburn. We pay the consequences, look red, feel the sting in a hot shower, treat it with aloe, and it eventually fades. But long lasting sun damage happens over the span of years and years of unprotected sun exposure, so get used to wearing sunscreen each and every day like it’s your job.
The difference between UVA and UVB rays
There are several things to consider when choosing the right sunscreen. First, you’ll want to make sure you’re using a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. UVA and UVB rays are different and provide their own amounts of damage to your skin.
What’s the difference? UVB rays are shorter ultraviolet waves and are the ones responsible for producing a visible and painful sunburn. They penetrate the top, superficial layers of the skin and are especially dangerous as they play a big role in causing many types of skin cancers, like melanoma.
UVA rays are longer ultraviolet rays that penetrate the deeper layers of the skin. They are more responsible for the premature aging of skin; in other words, they lead to dark spots and wrinkling of the skin much earlier than it should actually happen.
So when shopping around for the best sunscreen, be sure it is “broad spectrum” and effectively blocks both UVA/UVB rays.
How much SPF do I need?
SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor” — the higher the number, the more sun protection. Point blank — dermatologists advise using a sunscreen with SPF 30 at the very least. SPF 30 sunscreens block 97% of UVB rays — the dangerous ones that give us a nasty sunburn.
SPF 50 will block about 98%, and that’s where we draw the line. No sunscreen is going to protect your skin completely — which is exactly why sunscreens that claim they have more than SPF 50, can be misleading.
For instance, a sunscreen labeled “SPF 100” will not offer double the amount of sun protection than an SPF 50 sunscreen, and it certainly doesn’t mean you can spend more time outdoors in the sun when using a high-SPF sunscreen. All sunscreens need to used and reapplied in the exact same manner.
What to think about when choosing a sunscreen
There are things to think about when choosing the right sunscreen. Is it going to break you out? How does it look and feel on the skin? Does it smell funky? Is it safe for the environment? Who knew choosing a sunscreen could be so complicated?
And to make matters even more complicated, there are two types of sunscreens — one you should ideally use, and one you should avoid.
The two types of sunscreens: Mineral vs. Chemical
The two types of sunscreens are mineral sunscreens and chemical (or synthetic) sunscreens. One is not more protective than the other; they simply use different ingredients to protect skin when exposed to the sun. And additionally, both can cater to different skin types and needs, like oily skin or super dry skin.
So let’s break down the difference…
Mineral sunscreens are physical sunscreens; mineral sunscreen ingredients physically block and deflect the sun’s rays, rather than absorbing them like chemical sunscreens. To determine whether a sunscreen is truly a mineral sunscreen, look for the active ingredients to be Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. These are naturally occurring minerals from the Earth, and provide broad spectrum UVA/UVB sun protection.
When formulated into a sunscreen lotion, Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide sit on top of the skin to block harmful ultraviolet rays — while Titanium Dioxide and Zinc oxide look like white powders in their natural form, and in a sunscreen, are thicker and whiter than their chemical counterparts, they do still rub in nicely. However, a white sheen may be noticeable on darker skin tones.
- Contain active ingredients Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide
- Are physical blockers of both UVA/UVB rays
- Can leave a white sheen if too much is used, but with proper use, blend in completely
- Are safe for the environment and safe for coral reefs
- Natural active ingredients, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are less likely to irritate skin and won’t absorb into the skin, and eventually enter the bloodstream
Chemical sunscreen uses chemical compounds like oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone to block ultraviolet rays from the sun. They do this by changing UV rays into heat, which is then released from the skin. Chemical sunscreens absorb into the skin, rather than sit on top of the skin like mineral sunscreens.
Chemical sunscreens are a problem, as of late, because of their active ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate and octisalate. These chemicals, when washed off in the ocean, harm coral reefs and have contributed to coral bleaching. It’s become such a big deal because entire economies depend on the life of some of the coral reefs that are in danger. Not only that — coral reefs are home to thousands of marine species.
So even though chemical sunscreens are under a little bit of fire, there are reasons why consumers continue to buy and use them. They tend to be thinner and easier to blend completely into skin. Some consumers find them more cosmetically appealing than mineral sunscreens since they are less likely to leave any type of white sheen. Additionally, their formulas are easier to add extra ingredients to – ones that might offer a matte finish, offer anti-aging qualities and more.
But the glaring effects of how the chemical ingredients affect the environment can’t be ignored.
- Are typically thinner and will not leave visible white cast
- Absorb into the deeper layers of skin
- Contain harmful ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate
- Those harmful ingredients are directly linked to contributing to coral bleaching
- Those chemical ingredients can also irritate skin
Is mineral sunscreen better than chemical sunscreen?
Mineral and biodegradable sunscreens have become increasingly popular because, simply put, they are the better choice for the environment. They employ natural ingredients to protect skin from sun damage, rather than chemicals that harm the ocean's coral reefs. The formula sits atop the skin, rather than fully absorbing into the skin and entering the bloodstream like chemical sunscreens.
The bottom line — both types of sunscreen protect your skin. It’s just a matter of choosing one that protects you and the environment at the same time.