We’ve been told, time and again, to slather on sunscreen every time we go outside, even on overcast days. What is much less publicized is the dizzying array of chemical ingredients found in most sunscreen brands and their impact on human health. Fortunately you can have sun protection without coating your largest organ in gobs of dubious compounds…
Mineral Sunblock vs. Chemical Sunscreens
In addition to averting sunburns, wearing sunscreen is considered key to preventing skin cancer and stalling the aging effects of sun damage on the skin. That’s a pretty compelling call to action. But as consumer awareness on chemicals found in everyday products grows, so too do concerns over this coconut-fragranced lotion that promises to protect us from the sun’s harmful UV and UVA rays.
Of the two types of sunscreens on the market today, the chemical ones are the most common. Chemical sunscreens are formulated to adhere to and permeate the skin to absorb UV light. They often contain penetration enhancers to assist in the skin’s absorption, and because of this, the chemical ingredients are frequently found in blood, urine, and breast milk.
The ingredients in sunscreen to watch out for are oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate – all of which have been found to disrupt and / or mimic hormones. Oxybenzone – also called benzophenone-3 – is the most prevalent and the most disturbing: this chemical has been detected in more than 97% of the U.S. population, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Mineral sunblock, on the other hand, reflects sunlight away from the skin. Made with the nanoparticles zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, mineral sunblock (also called physical sunscreen) works very differently than chemical sunscreens since it actually blocks and scatters UV light, rather than absorbing it.
Providing strong sun protection, mineral sunblock is the best option for sunscreen to date, since it won’t degrade under sunlight and doesn’t permeate the skin. While there’s no evidence of adverse health effects in conjunction to using mineral sunblock, there has been concern over the inhalation and ingestion of mineral nanoparticles, which can damage the lungs and gastrointestinal tract when consumed in large doses. It is recommended to use creams and lotions and to avoid sprays and powders when using products that contain these minerals.
The 5 Best Natural & Organic Sunscreens
The cure really should not be worse than the disease, and so you won’t find any chemical sunscreens on this list. These mineral sunscreens were selected because of their natural and organic formulations, their effectiveness at sun protection, and their use of minimal (and easily recognizable) ingredients:
Buy It Here: Badger All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30, Unscented
Buy It Here: Beauty By Earth Facial Cream with SPF
How to Use Mineral Sunblock
If you have been using chemical sunscreens all your life, you’ll need to adjust your expectations when making the switch to mineral sunblock. With typical sunscreens, you can slather it on and rub it into the skin until it is absorbed. But because mineral sunblock forms a protective barrier on the skin, it won’t completely soak in. When applied incorrectly, these natural sunscreens can leave telltale streaks or a white sheen on the skin.
To avoid these issues, follow these steps: