The Two Types of Sunscreen


Sunscreens are divided into two types – natural and chemical. Natural sunscreens use a physical barrier such as zinc oxide or titanium oxide to block UV rays. Chemical sunscreens actually absorb UV rays and neutralize them in the skin tissues. While chemical sunscreens are more easily made into bases and cosmetics, natural sunscreens are generally less irritating and less allergenic, as chemical agents are often irritating to the skin and toxic to the body.

The Dangers of Chemical Sunscreens   

There are several safety concerns that are starting to surround chemical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens can actually increase the risk of cancer as through the neutralizing of UV rays, the agents themselves can actually be carcinogenic. Many sunscreen agents such as octyl-methoxycinnamate, octyl-dimethyl-PABA, benzophenone-3, homosalate, and 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor are known to be endocrine disrupters. The endocrine system controls the levels of hormones in the body and these agents have been shown to disrupt levels of estrogen in the body. Even young children’s hormones are being affected as traces of chemical sunscreens are found in the mother’s breast milk. The higher the SPF, the more toxic the sunscreen. Natural sunscreens are physical blocks that sit on the skin and do not need to be reapplied except after swimming and exercise. Chemical sunscreens, however, rely on the chemical properties and thus need reapplying every few hours as the ingredients become inactive.

The Benefits of Natural Sunscreens

Natural sunscreen agents that use zinc and titanium minerals are better for both health and beauty. Titanium, when used for sunscreen purposes, is coated so that it does not penetrate the skin but rather performs as a shield.


The Importance of SPF

Be aware that SPF only describes how long the sunscreen is active for. It is the amount of time it takes for you to burn multiplied by the SPF number. For example, if it takes you five minutes to burn without any sunscreen on, it will take you 75 minutes to burn if you are wearing an SPF 15 sunscreen. A natural sunscreen with an SPF of 30 is more than sufficient for sun protection. It is widely assumed that the higher SPF gives you a better protection from the sun. In fact, there are actually very small differences between SPF 15 and SPF 30. The UV filtration of a SPF 15 sunscreen is 96 percent and the UV filtration of an SPF 30 sunscreen is 98 percent.


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