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Mineral Sunscreen: All You Need to Know

Sunscreen is essential for protecting our skin from exposure to the sun. Too much sun exposure can cause premature aging and even skin cancer. But there are also chemicals in some sunscreens that may cause cancer.

Fortunately, mineral sunscreen doesn’t contain these chemicals. But is mineral sunscreen really better? Find out how it stacks up when we compare chemical vs mineral sunscreen.

So what is mineral sunscreen, what are the major differences in mineral vs chemical sunscreen, and how do you choose a mineral sunscreen that meets your needs? Let’s break it down.

There are two main mineral sunscreen ingredients that have been approved by the FDA: titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These naturally occurring minerals protect you from the sun in slightly different ways. Titanium dioxide effectively absorbs the UV light, and zinc oxide, on the other hand, reflects and scatters the UV light. Because they both create a physical barrier to protect you from the sun, mineral sunscreens are also called physical sunscreens.

Physical sunscreens come in many forms: mineral powder sunscreen, mineral sunscreen spray, and lotion. Powder sunscreens help to absorb oil, making them an ideal choice for those with oily or acne-prone skin. While convenient, they aren’t the best for providing full coverage, so mineral sunscreen powder is better for post-application touch-ups. Mineral sunscreen spray needs to be applied in a thick coat for effective coverage. Mineral sunscreen lotion is similar to typical sunscreen. In addition, mineral sunscreens are typically not as water-resistant or long-lasting as chemical versions, so be sure to reapply frequently and after going into the water.

It’s important to use sunscreen whenever you have extended exposure to the sun — more than 20 minutes. The main benefit of using mineral sunscreen vs chemical sunscreen is that you aren’t putting chemicals on your skin that could potentially cause you harm. 

Mineral sunscreen sits on top of the skin. The chemicals in chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, pass into your bloodstream and can remain there for hours. According to the FDA, the worst offenders — avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule — have not been studied enough to know exactly what harm they might pose. But some of them can disrupt hormones and are more likely to get absorbed into the bloodstream of children than adults. Chemicals in sunscreen have also been found in breast milk, indicating that they are likely being transmitted to newborns via their mothers. 

Chemicals in sunscreen have also been found in breast milk, indicating that they are likely being transmitted to newborns via their mothers.

Mineral sunscreen doesn’t contain retinyl palmitate, an ingredient in some chemical sunscreens. This vitamin A derivative has been shown to increase the chances of skin cancer in lab tests on mice. Although some dermatologists say retinyl palmitate is safe, others say they would not recommend a sunscreen in which it’s an ingredient. 

On the other hand, the FDA says that titanium dioxide and zinc oxide have been researched enough to be considered safe. With that in mind, however, it is important to use non-nano mineral sunscreen. This is because the nanoparticles used in some mineral sunscreens may get into the bloodstream, and their effects are not well known.

You may also want to forego mineral spray sunscreen because there isn’t sufficient research on the effects of inhaling spray sunscreens. 

Unlike chemical sunscreens, which have a known impact on the environment, plant life, and human life, mineral sunscreens are safer both for the planet and for humans.

The chemicals in sunscreen have an impact on the environment. Oxybenzone, in particular, has been found to bleach coral, and in high amounts it damages adult coral and destroys baby coral. Oxybenzone and other chemicals found in sunscreen have been found in waters all around the world, and Hawaii has already banned sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Fish and sea plants like algae are also harmed by oxybenzone. This chemical has been found to accumulate in fish and other marine life, as have polymers and preservatives like parabens that are also present in chemical sunscreen.

Once you decide to make the switch from chemical sunscreen, which is the best mineral sunscreen to buy? And what about the best mineral sunscreen for your face? Here’s what to look for and what to avoid.

When choosing a mineral sunscreen, make sure it’s labeled “non-nano,” which means that the mineral particles won’t enter the body.

First off, it is important to know that some mineral sunscreens also contain chemical ingredients. This is why it’s important to read ingredient labels. If you see any of the harmful chemicals mentioned above, choose another sunscreen. When choosing a mineral sunscreen, make sure it’s labeled “non-nano,” which means that the mineral particles won’t enter the body. And according to the American Academy of Dermatology, it’s important to use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, so you’ll want to purchase a mineral sunscreen version that meets this standard. 

The main contraindication to using mineral sunscreen involves nanoparticles.

Some research has found that nanoparticles show up in the body, in places like the bloodstream and the liver. Nanoparticles have also been studied for possible carcinogenic effects. Since there is still insufficient research about nanoparticles, it’s best to avoid them in mineral sunscreen. 

Although it’s an essential part of sun protection, sunscreen is just one part of a broader action plan to prevent or minimize damage from the sun. Rash guards, clothing, hats, and bathing suits formulated with SPF are also helpful. Staying out of direct sun — by going indoors or into the shade — from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. is another way to protect yourself. There are also certain foods that can help you fight damage caused by the sun. 

Antioxidant-rich foods, such as blueberries, fight free radicals from the sun that cause skin damage. They can also improve skin conditions like acne. Foods that are high in lycopene, like tomatoes and watermelon, can absorb UVA and UVB radiation from the sun, although they are not a substitute for sunscreen. Nuts, seeds, and dark leafy greens can help you keep your skin looking its best.

When you use a variety of methods to protect your skin, you can enjoy your time in the sun, knowing you’re giving yourself the best — and healthiest — protection possible. 














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