There are different types of sunscreen…who knew.
I for sure didn’t even a few months ago. I will be honest, I have always known to get my sunscreen at the drugstore and never questioned what I was putting on my body. In fact, I thought I was doing myself a favour by using a sunscreen every time I was exposed to the sun.
After doing some research into sunscreen, I soon realized that there is chemical and physical (mineral) based sunscreen…and I had been using chemical-based sunscreen this whole time.
So here is the difference:
Chemical-based sunscreen works by absorbing UV radiation and converting it into small amounts of heat (1). The ingredients used to do this include avobenzone, homsalate, oxtocrylene, octisalate, oxtinoxate and oxybenzone which are all classified as drug ingredients (1).
Physical or mineral-based sunscreen works by utilizing mineral compounds that work by scattering and reflecting UV radiation (1). Examples of these compounds include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide which are classified by Health Canada as natural ingredients (1).
When I came across this information I was already startled that one type uses drug-based ingredients and another uses a natural ingredient to do the same purpose- protect us.
When looking a little deeper at the drug-based ingredients, two ingredients commonly used have high toxicity concerns. Oxybenzone which is found in most sunscreens on store shelves (and in all of the ones I used to use) has strong evidence linked to skin allergy and has moderate evidence to show that this ingredient mimics estrogen, therefore acting as a hormone disruptor (2). Interestingly enough, oxybenzone is actually banned in Hawaii because of the harmful effects it has on the coral- which raises more red flags about its use on human bodies (3). Another ingredient of concern is Octinoxate (Octyl methoxycinnamate), which has high links to skin allergy and acts as a hormone disruptor (2). Based on animal studies, octinoxate causes reproductive system, thyroid, and behavioural alterations (2). I could go on about my concern about these ingredients commonly found in chemical-based sunscreen but the bottom line is…we shouldn’t be putting these toxic ingredients on our body.
So what should we be using to protect ourselves?
Mineral-based sunscreen made of titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or avobenzone. None of these have any evidence of hormone disruption, and only avobenzone is an allergen (3). However, it should be noted that titanium dioxide and zinc oxide have inhalation concerns so it is best to not use a spray format on your face (3).
Something else to consider when looking into sunscreen is what are we actually protecting ourselves against? Yes, we all know that we don’t want to burn or create sun damage. However, we are actually protecting ourselves from UVA & UVB rays. In order to protect against both of these rays, we require a broad-spectrum sunscreen. UVB is the ray that commonly may lead to skin cancer, whereas UVA and UVB contribute to burns (4). Therefore, it is important to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
After doing some research I have found a few brands that I would recommend:
- Green Beaver Mineral Sunscreen
If you do have any concerns about if these brands are appropriate for your children under two years of age, please speak with your medical doctor.