As we are all aware sunscreens are important to protect our skin from the sun. The most effective sunscreens are those that protect the skin from UVA and UVB (the suns two main types of harmful ultraviolet rays) the dreaded effects of UV rays include skin damage, premature aging, and the increased risk of developing skin cancer.
So, to be safe it’s important to remember to apply sunscreen when going out in the sun, especially between the hours of 11am and 3pm when the sun is normally strongest.
So, suncreams are important to protect us and its always better to use suncream than not use it, however after close analysis of the common chemical ingredients in a lot of suncreams, we may be adding some other potential dangers to our skin. There are different types of suncream on the market so to clarify further we have split these into two groups based on their ingredients, the mineral sunscreen and the chemical sunscreen.
These 2 types of sunscreens differ in the way they protect the skin. Mineral sunscreen also known as natural sunscreen, sits on the surface of the skin and acts as a physical barrier that reflects the sun’s UV rays away, while chemical sunscreen is absorbed deeper into the skin, converts the UV rays into heat, and releases them from the body.
The common ingredients of mineral sunscreen are:
Natural ingredients like shea butter, coconut oils, and beeswax. Natural sunscreens are not 100% organic, as the ingredients that protect from stronger UV rays are not 100% organic, they are however safer than other chemicals which we detail later. The ingredients used in mineral and natural suncreams are as follows:
- Titanium dioxide – Widely recognised as safe and effective. We recommend you only use in cream form, and not as powder or spray (aerosol) forms as these forms may be hazardous to health and potentially be carcinogenic.
- Zinc oxide – Also widely considered as safe to use, with no evidence of skin penetration, and allowed in concentrations up to 25%. In Europe, the ingredient is labelled with a warning as it may show toxicity to some aquatic life. The ingredient is harmful when swallowed or inhaled which again is why its best used in cream form.
Both the titanium dioxide and the zinc oxide do leave a white cast on skin, which some may find concerning, however this is actually the layer of protection on the surface of the skin, the white coating will not be as obvious as sun block, however it may look like you have not rubbed the cream in properly, which is not the case. The white areas will particularly be noticed around hairs on the skin.
Whilst this white layer may feel embarrassing for some, I’m sure as you ready on your way out, we still feel this is a better option than the chemical suncream.
Some harmful ingredients of chemical sunscreen to avoid are:
The fact that chemical sunscreen is absorbed deeper into the skin unlike the natural sunscream, care must be taken to ensure the ingredients in the cream are not damaging to your body in other ways. The best and quickest way to do this is to do an internet search on each chemical on the ingredients list asking “is xxxx harmful”.
Some harmful or concerning ingredients to be aware of however are as listed below with the reasons why:
- Avobenzone – is commonly used to block the full range of UVA rays and is paired with other chemicals to stabilise as it destabilizes when exposed to light, in face when exposed to sun it breakdown within about 30mins, which could actually effect the time needed before reapplying. So this could actually be affecting the SPF factor.
- Homosalate – an organic compound in a class of chemicals called salicylates. Salicylates absorb ultraviolet (UV) light, specifically, UVB rays, preventing the possibility of DNA damage and increased risk of skin cancer. However studies have highlighted that it could disrupt the endocrine system as traces were identified in human breast milk samples as well as in placental tissue, causing concern over adverse health effects to an unborn child.
- Octinoxate – is a potent UVB absorber effective for sun damage prevention. When combined with avobenzone, they can both provide great protection against burns and aging which is allowed in formulations up to 7.5 percent. However this is not an environmentally friendly chemical and has damaging effects on coral reefs as its damages the corals DNA preventing its recovery from storms, sedimentation and climate change.
- Oxybenzone – one of the most popular ingredient of sunscreens which can filter both UVB and UVA rays. But not great for sensitive skin types. Again however studies have indicated that this too has damaging effects on coral reefs as it damages the corals DNA preventing its recovery from storms, sedimentation and climate change.
- Tinosorb S and Tinosorb M – More popular as European ingredients in sunscreens against skin damage but the FDA has not approved this ingredient for several reasons, among which is “lack of information”, so until this is clarified its maybe best avoiding.
- Trolamine salicylate – Also known as Tea-Salicylate – is a strong UVB absorber but is known to increase allergic dermatitis and photosensitivity. Also, studies conducted on animals showed certain levels of toxicity.
Further ingredients to be avoided if possible is that those with the word paraben in them as these can be harmful both to the body and the environment.
So as we have mentioned before check your suncream ingredients on the internet or better still change to using mineral suncreams.
Mineral sunscreens start protecting your skin from the point of application where chemical sunscreens can require 20- 30 minutes after application before they are best activate to fully protect the skin. Mineral suncreams will probably need reapplying more often than chemical suncreams so please read the instructions of use before using.
The final point however and the main reason we are identifying mineral suncreams as a recommended swap, is the way they are packed when sold. Most chemical sunscreens come in single-use plastic bottles or squeezy tubes that usually end up in landfills or in the oceans damaging marine creatures. Whilst the mineral suncream alternatives normally are packaged in tin cans, aluminium bottles or sunscreen sticks in cardboard wrap!
If you are choosing chemical suncream however then make it a habit to check the category of plastic bottle or tube. Option for those of HDPE #2 which are recyclable when clean, and not for harder to recycle plastics. In most cases the squirty pumps are not recyclable as they are made from multiple types of plastic.
So if your considering trying mineral suncream then check out the below options.
For tinned natural mineral suncream click here.
For natural mineral suncream sticks click here.