Chemical vs. mineral sunscreens - Why make the switch?

Many people are still hesitant to switch from a chemical-based sunscreen that disappears and sinks into your skin vs a mineral sunscreen which acts as a physical block - sitting on the surface of your skin acting as a protective shield against the sun’s rays.

Chemical sunscreens tend to be more popular as they are fast absorbing and don't leave a whitening effect on the skin- all while offering higher SPF values. However, recent studies have shown that the chemicals found in these sunscreens that are meant to protect us can cause harm to our bodies, not to mention the environment.

There are three main ingredients that are cause for concern. Most chemical sunscreens contain the following three ingredients; homosalate, avobenzone and oxybenzone. The most worrisome is oxybenzone, an ingredient that has been shown to have serious endocrine-disrupting effects.

Oxybonzone Concerns:

  1. It is readily absorbed through the skin and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found higher levels of oxybenzone in those who report applying sunscreen.
  2. It causes allergic skin reactions.
  3. It behaves like a hormone disruptor and may be more harmful to children as they are more susceptible to the effects of chemicals.
  4. Endocrine disruptor-  may increase the risk of breast cancer and endometriosis. 

This has led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and European Commission to update their sunscreen regulations to reduce the legal limit for concentrations of many of these chemicals in sunscreens.

Mineral Sunscreens - A Safer Choice:

Mineral sunscreens are considered a better alternative as they are made with zinc oxide and or titanium dioxide. Both are considered safe and effective and provide broad-spectrum protection by reflecting UV radiation away from your skin.  Plus these ingredients do not harm the environment or damage coral reefs. They also provide instant protection, as opposed to chemical sunscreen which can take up to 20 minutes to become fully effective. Mineral sunscreen begins blocking the sun as soon as it is applied.

What About Aerosol Sunscreen? 

Aerosols containing sunscreen chemicals,  zinc and titanium dioxide should be avoided as they can be inhaled causing harm to our lungs and internal organs. Spray sunscreens can also spread harmful ingredients onto sand and into the ocean.

For more information on best practices check out our helpful sunscreen guides:

Sunscreen Safety Tips Our 2022 Guide:

SPF Factor Explained. A deep dive into how SPF works and why a higher SPF isn’t always better: