Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreen

Mineral vs. chemical sunscreen

According to a study put out by the American Academy of Dermatology, skin-cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. With one in five Americans developing skin cancer within their lifetime, it’s no surprise that the age old debate of organic vs engineered is not limited to the food we eat. It also applies to hygiene products, cosmetics and even the sunscreen we use.

In this article, we'll aim to highlight the key differences and let you be the judge of which one is right for you. The first key difference is the method by which these sunscreens block the sun. According to the website Everyday Health, physical sunscreen, also known as mineral sunscreen, works by sitting on your skin and acting like a shell that reflects the sun’s UV rays away.

Whereas chemical sunscreen sinks into the skin where it absorbs the sun’s UV rays keeping it from being absorbed by your cells. Mineral sunscreen seems to be a clear winner since no chemical sunscreen can offer a 100% absorption rate. Another point in favor of mineral sunscreen, is that it can block UV rays that come through windows.

This leads to the logical next question, “Which one is safer”? The answer is both, in a strange way. You see, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates sunscreen products, hasn’t labeled either type of sunscreen unsafe.

Back in February of 2019, the FDA proposed a rule to update regulatory requirements for sunscreen products sold in the United States. As part of this proposed rule, the FDA called for additional safety information on 12 active ingredients commonly found in chemical sunscreens, with these 6 being the most common: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate. Compared to the typical two active ingredients found in mineral sunscreen: Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, this a big contrast.

This decision likely came from the findings published in May of 2019, by the Journal of the American Medical Association. It asserted that the 4 most common chemical ingredients found in chemical sunscreen, could be absorbed into the bloodstream at levels far above what the FDA deemed safe. You might be wondering if anyone made a hybrid of these two types of sunscreens?

Yes, according to reports by MDAnderson.org. The results of this attempt were mediocre at best, resulting in the weakening of the properties of both sunscreens. The reports went on to say:

“Hybrid sunscreens offer mineral protection with thinner formula. Hybrid sunscreens have a combination of active ingredients including mineral and chemical compounds, allowing for a thinner formulation that rubs in better. With these types of sunscreens, you’ll still want to read the label to make sure you’re applying them correctly to get the most protection.”

So it seems mineral sunscreen takes a strong lead over it’s chemical counterpart. In addition, mineral sunscreen's active ingredients are just what their name implies, minerals from the earth. All mineral sunscreens contain either Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide, and some, like Kovr Sunscreen, contain both. 

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