Now that summer is here, you’re likely beach, pool or vacation bound, which means it’s time to pick up a new sunscreen. It sounds silly, but we get that finding the right sunscreen for your body (and personal preference!) can be a pain, especially if you’ve got sensitivities to ingredients or are looking for a more natural option. Plus, with so many options on shelves these days, how do you choose?!
Luckily, there’s an excellent sunscreen option for those who have chemical allergies, want a more natural option, or simply want to switch up their SPF this summer: mineral sunscreen.
What is mineral sunscreen?
Mineral sunscreens are a type of physical sunscreen, a category of SPF that’s aptly named. These formulas physically protect the skin at the surface level by deflecting the sun’s rays rather than absorbing them, as chemical sunscreens do.
The most common mineral sunscreen ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These ingredients, found in thousands of cosmetics ranging from moisturizers to mineral makeup, provide broad spectrum coverage, aka they protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays. Mineral sunscreens come in creams, lotions, and sprays, and can be used on the face or body.
Why are mineral sunscreens considered the safer, or more natural, option?
Mineral sunscreens are made from minerals that occur naturally on earth. While natural products are not always the safer option, they are the less controversial one — especially when it comes to sunscreens.
Some chemical sunscreen ingredients have come under fire in recent years; studies have linked chemicals to abnormalities in estrogen production, which some say could lead to chemical imbalances and health issues. Other studies show that chemicals found in sunscreens end up in our lakes and oceans, and can be bad for the environment and wildlife. These findings don’t necessarily mean you should forever ditch chemical sunscreens, but if you’re looking for an alternate, mineral sunscreens may be the way to go.
Why do some people prefer mineral sunscreens?
Some people opt for a physical or mineral sunscreen because they don’t like the way chemical formulations feel on their skin. Chemicals allow your skin to absorb the UV rays from the sun but without any harmful side effects. This, however, creates a chemical reaction within your skin between the UV rays and the sunscreen, which actually builds heat in your skin. If you’re feeling especially overheated at the beach or pool, it may be because your sunscreen is working double time to protect you!
Are there any downsides to mineral sunscreens?
In their natural form, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are white powders, meaning they will generally thicken a sunscreen formula. This, of course, makes them less ideal for those looking for a lightweight sunscreen option. And their white color, though generally diffused within a sunscreen formulation, can still leave a white sheen on darker skin tones. Mineral sunscreens are also less than ideal for situations involving flash photography. In fact, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the primary culprits of flashback, aka the white appearance of skin in photos, due to their function of deflecting light.
If you’ve ever noticed that your face looks like it’s glowing or is washed out in photos, it may be because your foundation or primer has zinc oxide or titanium dioxide in it!
The bottom line is this: Wearing SPF to protect your skin from signs of aging, sun burn, sun damage and skin cancer is absolutely critical. What sunscreen you wear is less important, as long as it’s broad spectrum, meaning it protects you from UVA and UVB rays. Mineral sunscreens do just that, but so can chemical options, and what it comes down to is personal preference. Some people love the way mineral sunscreens feel, others are big fans of chemical formulas.
No sunscreen product is perfect, but protecting yourself is critical, so pick an option — and reapply often!