We all know what a big deal sunscreen is when living in a gorgeous sunny country, but do we really know what’s in the lotion that we put on ours and our family’s skin when stepping out into the sun?
The chemicals that are in sunscreens can be scary to say the least. Like a lot of things in the personal care industry, its hard to tell what is what. So what should you look out for when choosing products to help protect your skin on those sunny days?
Mineral vs Chemical sunscreens:
The active ingredients in sun protection formulas come in two forms, chemical and mineral filters. Sadly, most of the products we have access to in the Middle East fall solely into the chemically filtered sunscreen bucket.
SO what is the difference?
Mineral sunscreens are made without the hormone-disrupting chemicals, or allergens and skin irritants that chemical SPF formulas commonly contain.
Mineral sunscreens use active ingredients, zinc or titanium dioxide that work by sitting on top of the skin to ‘physically’ block UVB (UV rays causing sunburn on the top layer of skin) and UVA (UV rays that penetrate deeper into the skin and cause aging and increased risk of cancer).
Chemical sunscreens work a bit differently. Instead of physically deflecting UV light away from the skin, they work by absorbing the sun’s UV rays into the skin and dissipating the energy via chemical reactions under the skin.
Chemical sunscreens contain a potent mix of active chemicals that are absorbed into the body through the skin. A couple of such chemicals include oxybenzone and octinoxate. These chemicals, even in small doses, can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones in our endocrine system. In fact, the frightening story is that The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has warned the public about the health impacts of oxybenzone for more than a DECADE, stating that it’s chemical make up in UV filters are readily absorbed by the body and may mimic hormones in our bodies. Out of the 1300 sunscreen products with SPF the EWG assessed in 2019, including 750 currently available beach and sport sunscreens, a staggering 2/3 of them still offer inferior sun protection or contain concerning ingredients, such as oxybenzone!
This is scary stuff, as our hormone balance is essential to support effective metabolism and our reproductive health. This is not only true for us, but our littles ones whose hormones are constantly developing.
What else can the chemicals in chemical sunscreens do to our bodies? It is well documented that the mix of chemicals in the products can irritate and inflame our skin. You know that ‘breakout’ that you got after a day at the beach that you thought was just from the oil in the lotion? Well, the EWG has noted that the chemical oxybenzone has been linked in human toxicity research to allergic skin reactions and severely irritated skin. It is not a surprise that the EWG recommend to AVOID the chemical at all costs due to the possible risks.
When comparing the properties used in mineral sunscreens, Zinc, on the other hand, used in mineral sunscreens, is a mineral known for skin health. This trace mineral is responsible for 100’s of different enzymes functioning in our bodies and skin cells are particularly dependent on zinc’s powerful properties. It helps our skins to heal and rejuvenate and may even ward off acne through its immune boosting, anti-inflammatory support (now you can understand why a lot of mum’s swear by zinc based nappy creams!)
3 things to have in mind when shopping for sunscreens:
Active Ingredients: True mineral sunscreens will ONLY list zinc and/or titanium dioxide on their active ingredients list. You also need to be wary of the term “mineral-based.” This often means zinc and/or titanium dioxide have been mixed with other chemical sunscreens.
Inactive Ingredients: Be aware that even if the active ingredients are non-toxic and safe (i.e., mineral), make sure that it’s not loaded with other toxic ingredients. Red flags include any of the suspect labels ending in -paraben, pthalates, sodium laureth sulfate, and fragrance.
Broad-Spectrum Protection: In order to ensure your sunscreen has the ability to block out both UVA and UVB rays, you need to make sure the formula can cover both. Most chemical sunscreens do not have the ‘physical’ ability to deflect both UVA and UVB. Look out for a label on the sunscreen that clearly shows it offers broad-spectrum protection.
The bottom line is that research is pointing more and more to the toxic effects of chemical sunscreens on our bodies. Whether causing skin irritation, breakouts, or more drastic changes to our hormones, the goal is to stay safe in the sun and make safe choices with natural, mineral based ‘physical’ skin protectors. Looking for sunscreens that provide care for you and your family in the sun, without being full of chemicals that negatively affect your health needs to be a priority. Along with considering our 3 things to have in mind when shopping for sunscreen, take a look at EWG’s most recent pocket guide to safer sunscreens.
Here at Nuqi Skin, we will be talking A LOT about how to stay safe and protected in the sun, so watch out for more posts on what mineral based sun lotions we recommend and use ourselves, whatever the season!
Lucy and Sabrina xx