What You Need To Know About Sunscreen
Adding sunscreen to your daily skincare regimen is actually so important for maintaining youthful skin on your face and body, and it is extremely important for your overall health as it can lower your risk of getting skin cancer!
Types Of Sunscreen
First off, did you know that different types of sunscreen exists? There are two main types on the market: chemical and physical sunscreen. Physical sunscreen contains the following active mineral ingredients: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. On the other hand, chemical sunscreen contain these active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.
Minerals in physical sunscreen work by sitting on top of the skin to deflect and scatter damaging UV rays away from the skin. UV rays are what the sun emits, and there are two types: UVA (aging rays) and UVB (burning rays). The natural minerals in physical sunscreens are naturally “broad spectrum,” which means that they deflect BOTH UVA and UVB rays. This is important because, to protect your skin best, you want to deflect rays that can age your skin and also burn your skin.
Chemical sunscreens contain chemical compounds which create a reaction on the skin that absorb UV rays and soaks into the skin like a sponge, turning the rays into heat. This heat is then released from the skin. Chemical sunscreen can also protect from UVA and UVB rays, but as you will learn, it comes at a cost.
Physical Sunscreen Pros and Cons
Let’s cover some pros and cons for physical sunscreen. It is extremely safe for the skin, but like anything, there are some drawbacks.
- Offers protection against UVA and UVB and is naturally broad spectrum
- Protects from the sun as soon as it is applied (it sits on the skin like a shield)
- Less likely to cause stinging or irritation to the skin (the natural minerals are well tolerated by even sensitive skin types)
- Better for people with heat-activated skin conditions like rosacea and redness (because it does not heat the skin)
- Less likely to clog pores
- Longer shelf life
- Safe for our hormones and safe for the environment
- Can help prevent skin cancer
- Can rub off/sweat off easier so must be reapplied more often
- May leave a cast on the skin when first applied
Chemical Sunscreen Pros and Cons
Chemical sunscreen is more commonly found on shelves than physical sunscreen. Why? Well, check out the pros of using it and you may understand.
- Less is needed to protect the skin
- Needs to be applied less often
- Tends to be thinner and spreads easier
- Cheaper in cost
- Potentially increases brown spots/melasma/discoloration (due to chemical sunscreen’s ability to increase internal skin temperature)
- Requires application 20 minutes or more before sun exposure in order to work (it must penetrate into the skin before it protects)
- Increased chance of irritation and stinging due to harsh ingredients
- Contain endocrine-disrupting ingredients which may contribute to cancer (aka it can harm our hormones)
- May clog pores
- Negatively impact the environment (these chemicals are hurting our oceans and coral reefs)
What To Look For In A Sunscreen
With all that being said, I suggest physical sunscreens over chemical sunscreens. I would like to think that we wear sunscreen for two main reasons: to protect our skin and to prevent skin cancer (that is why I wear it anyway!). But after learning how chemical sunscreen can irritate the skin, and also that it can contribute to cancer due to endocrine-disrupting chemicals being absorbed into the skin, I am steering clear of chemical sunscreens and you should, too.
Again, physical sunscreens can actually help prevent skin cancer as they deflect the harmful rays from the sun, which makes the rays bounce off our skin. There is no heating of the skin taking place (like with chemical sunscreen), plus the natural minerals in this sunscreen are a much safer alternative as they don’t disrupt hormones. Physical sunscreen is naturally broad spectrum, which blocks both types of rays (UVA and UVB), keeping our skin from aging and burning!
So, we now know that we should look for physical sunscreen, which contains either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as an active ingredient, but here are a few other things to look for when choosing a sunscreen that is right for you:
- Broad spectrum (remember: physical sunscreen is naturally broad spectrum)
- Non-comedogenic (aka won’t clog pores)
- SPF 30 or 50
- Note: SPF numbers that are higher than 50 are used for marketing purposes to push people to think that it is stronger. The FDA is actually proposing a ban on sunscreens labeled with an SPF over 50 now because there is no scientific evidence showing that they offer any more protection than lower numbers. The new suggestion is to wear sunscreens between 30 and 50.
My Favorite Sunscreens
I have experimented with a few different physical sunscreens (I love being a guinea pig with skincare products), and these are my favorites for both face and body:
- Marie Veronique – Everyday Coverage Tinted Sunscreen SPF 30
- Eminence Lilikoi Light Defense Face Primer
- BeautyCounter CounterSun Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
- ThinkSport SPF 50
- Eminence Lilikoi Mineral Defense Sport Sunscreen SPF 30
As an Esthetician, my number one tip to you is this: wear physical sunscreen on your face every single day, and put it on your body any time you are outside for more than 15 minutes. Physical sunscreen has been a game changer for me as my skin tone is more even, I don't get burnt, and I'm keeping my skin youthful.