Hence the name mineral. Zinc oxide is a stable sunscreen ingredient that is much less likely than chemical ingredients to break down in the bottle or on your skin. Note: Although most sunscreen will fall into one of these two categories, combination products also exist. But “the research to date is fairly definitive that [these ingredients] are a distinct and clear and present threat to very specific coral reefs,” he says. “Physical sunscreens contain zinc or titanium dioxide and work by sitting on top of the skin and reflecting the sun’s rays,” Dr. Zenovia says. Always read the label carefully! Physical sunscreens are made of chemicals too. 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. Can you absorb chemical sunscreen? Error, please enter a valid email address. SPF (sun protection factor) is a measure of a particular sunscreen’s ability to protect you from UVB rays (note: NOT UVA rays). What was once a pretty straightforward practice—apply sunscreen, and apply it often—suddenly seems complicated. Chemical sunscreens are typically less thick and more transparent, while physical sunscreens will list zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide in the ingredients. This category includes avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate, and octinoxate, among others. Why? So it’s silly to call something a ‘chemical’ sunscreen. For this reason, Dr. Ebuluk advises her melasma patients to “layer a physical blocker” on pigmentation-prone areas of the face and body “even if they’re using a chemical sunscreen” all over. One dermatologist says that you need to apply less physical sunscreen compared to a chemical sunscreen. 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. “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? Some inorganic chemicals, including minerals such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, act as a physical sunblock. Physical sunblocks, also known as mineral sunscreen, use ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to deflect UVA and UVB rays. We recommend physical sunscreen that has been certified by the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory as reef-safe and free of nanoparticles. 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. 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. “[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. “Many fragrances are fortified with UV sunscreens, even oxybenzone,” says Dr. Downs. While some instinctively shy away from chemical sunscreens in favour of physical options, this can be a hasty decision. But these early products were pasty, pricey, and, uh, really white, so the industry started searching for alternatives. We find that more than a little bit disconcerting. Don’t be. Alas, ensuring your SPF is eco-friendly isn’t as easy as buying a bottle emblazoned with the words “reef-safe.” The buzzy term isn’t regulated by any governing body, and therefore it can’t really be trusted. In contrast, chemical sunscreens absorb the sun’s rays, “convert the rays into heat, and release them into the skin,” the dermatologist explains. Read on: Swai Fish: 5 Reasons Not to Eat Pangasius. “We did some forensic eco-toxicology and found oxybenzone can be poisonous to coral reefs at the concentrations we were seeing,” the researcher says. Because skin cancer sucks. What does “broad spectrum” mean? Or for the environment? These two types of sunscreen ingredients 1 act in different ways, yet both are effective for providing broad spectrum protection against damaging UVA and UVB rays. The Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, a non-profit scientific organization has developed a “Protect Land + Sea” Certification Seal. by Christie Sacco 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. Thanks for joining our newsletter list. If you’re not used to using mineral sunscreen, there are a few things to pay attention to: Mineral Sunscreen: The Nanoparticle Problem. Yet even if you do decide to bask in the glow of the earth’s fiery life force for a full 15 minutes per day, that leaves roughly 945 minutes (not counting sleeping hours) of sun protection to consider. The data collected by the FDA shows that six of the most prominent chemical actives—avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate, and octinoxate—absorb into the bloodstream after a single application. Physical sunscreens are generally assumed to be reef-safe—but you know what happens when you assume, right? Okay, so we agree that wearing sunscreen is important. Well, for starters, the state of Hawaii, the city of Key West, and the US Virgin Islands all recently passed legislation banning the sale of certain sunscreen ingredients thought to damage coral reefs. Is sunscreen bad for you? Non-nano, pH-balanced zinc oxide is far and away the experts’ top choice for a safe, effective, eco-friendly, and skin-loving sunscreen. You may also hear them referred to as mineral or natural sunscreens. Both physical and chemical sunblocks are available. Sound like you? Enter this mineral option, which uses, you guessed it, zinc oxide. 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. 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