For some, sustainability is not just a practice, it's a lifestyle they embrace with everything they do, and a key deciding factor in the brands they support and the products they use. So when it comes to sun care, these individuals aren't just applying any old chemical sunscreen, they care deeply about its effect on the environment.
In recent years, mineral sunscreen has emerged as one of the top eco-friendly sun care products on the market. But how does it differ from traditional medical sunscreen and is it just as effective? Let's dive in and find out.
Mineral sunscreens vs. traditional sunscreens
To get the latter question out of the way, yes, both of these sunscreen types will help protect you from sunburn and more advanced skin damage if used as directed. Both will absorb ultraviolet (UV) rays to prevent sunburn, but where they really differ is in their ingredients:
This type of sunscreen has long been the most widely used sunscreen type and is formulated with chemical ingredients that aren't found in nature. The most common active ingredients in chemical, also known as "synthetic" sunscreens include oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene.
Here's where things get interesting: for these sunscreen to work, the active ingredients have to be absorbed into the skin, which may be an issue with those with allergies or sensitive skin, says Consumer Reports.
While these products have proven to be an effective means of preventing sunburn and skin damage, sustainability issues have arisen in recent years about active ingredients like oxybenzone/octinoxate playing an active role in eliminating coral reef populations through bleaching.
Hawaii even took a major step forward to ban sunscreens with these ingredients in mid-2018 (CNN). While other states have not yet followed suit, it is a trend that bears watching and may induce other consumers to make the switch to natural alternatives.
In addition to having different active ingredients to absorb UV rays, mineral sunscreen has a unique texture that is different from chemical sunscreens that feel more like a moisturizing lotion. Mineral sunscreens utilize active ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium oxide, and as such have a different texture and feel a bit lighter on the skin than chemical variants.
However, the key difference with mineral sunscreen is that while chemical versions are absorbed into the skin, mineral sunscreen sits on top of the skin layers and absorbs UV rays in that fashion. So they may be safer choices for those with sensitive skin, as well as small children. Lastly, because mineral sunscreen uses active ingredients that are derived from natural materials, it is eco-friendly and safe to wear everywhere.
So which is the right choice? According to the Mayo Clinic, you should always practice year-round sun care with the right sunscreen for your needs, but don't let that lull you into a false sense of security! Even with the best product on the market, a combination of shade, sunscreen, clothing coverage and common sense can keep you and your loved ones protected year-round from the sun's rays.