The Differences Between Non-Mineral and Mineral Sunscreen

IMG_3071Not having any sunscreen can turn a fun family day outside at the park or beach into a nightmare situation. Don’t tarnish what is likely to become a great memory with loved ones by not using the right kind of sunscreen. But with so many varieties it’s easy to get lost in all the terms and jargon. The topic has even been brought to the national stage, with President Obama signing the Sunscreen Innovation Act in 2014 to help bring more safe UV-regulated ingredients to the public.


There are two main types of sunscreen to familiarize yourself with: non-mineral and mineral sunscreen. This article is going to go over the pros and cons of both varieties to help you make an informed decision regarding the future of your skincare.


Non-Mineral (Chemical) Sunscreen

Typically, you will find anywhere from two to six of the following active ingredients inside non-mineral sunscreen: octisalate, avobenzone, homosalate, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and octinoxate. These ingredients absorb rays as part of a chemical reaction that dissipates the heat off the skin.


              UV Protection:  There is no evidence to support that Sun Protection Factor (SPF), higher than 50, is correlated to better protection against UV rays in any substantive way. For example, a sunscreen with a SPF of 50 may guarantee protection for up to five hours, but that doesn’t mean that a SPF of 100 will protect you for 10 hours.  In fact, an SPF of 50 will block about 98 percent of UVB rays, while 100 SPF will block a mere 1 percent more for a total of 99 percent.


Ingredient Safety: It’s hard to make any meaningful distinctions between the active chemicals in sunscreens, if you don’t happen to have a master’s degree in chemistry. What does the layperson know about these ingredients and what they mean? What is the real difference between avobenzone and oxybenzone? For starters, oxybenzone was gifted an 8 out of 10 hazard rating by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) on account of its skin penetration, hormone disruption and allergy problems.


Instead, the EWG suggests avobenzone, which has a much lower hazard rating, comparable with more mineral-based solutions, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.





Mineral Sunscreen

Mineral sunscreens will contain active mineral ingredients, such as zine oxide and titanium dioxide. Instead of using chemical-based reactions to deflect the sun, they function more as a mirror to reflect the harmful UV rays away from exposed skin.


UV Protection: The whole point of sunscreen is to protect yourself and your loved ones from harmful UV rays. In that regard, mineral options take the cake according to the EWG – in particular, zinc oxide delivers the best broad-spectrum coverage (defends against both UVA and UVB rays).


Ingredient Safety: Traditionally, mineral sunscreens are gentler on skin than their chemical counterparts. Although, just because it is mineral-based, does not mean that it’s altogether harmless. Avoid titanium dioxide in its spray form, as the EWG reports higher levels of toxicity when it is inhaled.


It is important to wear sunscreen every day, but not just sunscreen – protective hats and sunglasses will also help limit exposure to harmful UV rays. With the right protection and a little bit of care, you can soak up the sun’s rays while still staying safe.


I'm a mother of 2 who likes to get involved in too much! Besides writing here I started a non-profit, I'm on the PTO board, very active in my community and volunteer in the school. I enjoy music, reading, cooking, traveling and spending time with my family. We just adopted our 3rd cat and love them all!

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