Sunscreen 101: Chemical vs. Mineral
One of the many reasons we need to wear sunscreen is to protect our skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Skin cancer rates are on the rise and sunscreen is proven to to decrease the risks but sunscreen also help slow down premature aging, the development of wrinkles and minimising hyperpigmentation.
However, many of us are confused by the number of choices we have with sunscreen. As well as considering the basic care and protection, we also need to consider possible skin concerns our family may have. Looking around the shops can be bewildering – will this product cause outbreak? Will it irritate my child’s skin? Does it provide anti aging properties?
We are here to help minimise some of the confusion by looking at the pros and cons of two of the main sunscreen types – Chemical and Mineral.
What are they?
Chemical Sunscreens contain organic (carbon-based) compounds using a combination of two to six of these active ingredients: oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, avobenzone, homosalate and octocrylene. They work by changing UV rays into heat and creating a chemical reaction which dissipates the heat back off the skin. They can be referred to as chemical or organic absorbers.
- The formula is easier to add additional ingredients too such as peptides and enzymes. This means your sunscreen can have great anti ageing and healthy skin properties.
- Chemical sunscreens tend to be easier to spread making it more wearable and ideal for daily use.
- You often do not need to apply as carefully or as often as there is no risk of spaces between the sunscreen molecules after application.
- This type of sunscreen can require up to 20 minutes after application to work.
- The higher the SPF the higher the risk of irritation for individuals with sensitive skin. There may also be an increased chance of redness in the skin of people who suffer from rosacea as the chemical process of changing the UV rays into heat can increase flushing.
- May clog the pores of people who have oily skin.
- You may need to reapply more often as the protection it offer gets used up more quickly when in direct UV light.
How to Apply
We are all different shapes and sizes so there can be no exact measurement but sunscreen should always be applied generously. Make sure you wait at least 20 minutes before you head outside as the sunscreen needs to be absorbed into your skin. Apply all over to any exposed skin – remember your head, ears, tops of your feet and ankles. You should also protect you lips with a lip balm with a minimum 15 SPF. You should look at reapplying at least every two hours, some sunscreens do last longer so use your best judgement. Always check the expiry date on your sunscreen.
What are they?
Mineral sunscreens contain active minerals such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They work by sitting on top of the skin to deflect the sun’s rays away from the skin much like a mirror. They can also be referred to as physical blockers.
- It can last longer when in direct UV light and not doing physical activities which make you sweat.
- Better for rosacea sufferers and other heat activated skin complaints as it deflects the heat from the skin.
- Much less likely to clog your skin so ideal for blemish prone and oily skin.
- Has a longer shelf life
- No need to wait – protection starts as soon as you apply to the skin.
- Great for sensitive skin as less likely to cause irritation.
- Offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays and has a naturally broad spectrum.
- Can leave a chalky white mark on the skin so may not suit mid to dark skin tones. It can also cause white drips to show on the skin when sweating. You can now buy tinted mineral sunscreen.
- The sunscreen may run or sweat off meaning you will need to make more frequent applications.
- If not applied generously and fairly accurately a mineral sunscreen may offer less protection as the UV light can get between the molecules.
- Some people find it too opaque and chalky to wear under makeup.
- Many have a much thicker consistency making it harder to apply and rub in
How to Apply
Once again there is no exact measurement but the general rule of thumb is to apply liberally and often. As mineral sunscreen is a physical sunscreen it sits on top of your skin even after it’s been rubbed in. The best way to start is to apply a pea sized amount to begin with, rub it in and apply more as needed. Take your time and massage it into your skin to ensure a full coverage. Although you may want to apply a little at a time be generous – there is no such thing as too much sunscreen. You will need to reapply at least every 2 hours but use your judgement – if it’s really sunny outside don’t be afraid of reapplying more often. If you are swimming or taking part in physical activities which make you sweat you will need to apply every 40-80 minutes.
So, which sunscreen should you choose?
Weighing up the pros and cons, the mineral sunscreen appears to come out tops but really it depends on you, your lifestyle and priorities. If you are looking for quick easy application with effective sun protection then the chemical sunscreen could be for you. However, the mineral sunscreen is great for people with skin problems and offers a broader spectrum of protection. It may also be a good idea to check for sunscreen compatibility with a patch test on your skin.
The key conclusion is that we should all be looking to wear sunscreen everyday in order to protect our skin. Sun protective hats and clothing can offer further protection and it is always best to limit your exposure to all UV rays.
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