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March 17, 2021 3 min read

Have you ever looked at the sunscreen options at the store and found you didn't know what half of them meant when looking at the ingredients? While chemical sunscreens are easier to apply on the skin, the ingredients are just that, chemicals.

Why Chemical Sunscreen is Harmful to You

There are over 30 different ingredients found in sunscreens, but they are non-natural, chemical compounds. Some examples include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate, homosalate, octisalate, and octocrylene. 

The ingredients in these sunscreens are effective because they can absorb the sun's UV rays and dissipate those rays. What this means is that you protected because the rays never hit your body. But, before the chemicals can offer any protection, your skin has to absorb them.

Chemical ingredients found in sunscreen is not only harmful to ocean ecosystems but are also toxic to our health, more so if exposed at a young age. The chemicals listed above can get into your bloodstream and can find their way into other fluids in your body, such as breast milk.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends avoiding sunscreens with oxybenzone because it may disrupt hormones and lead to allergic skin reactions. But many sunscreen products contain this chemical and the others listed above.

Using these products that contain these ingredients comes with an increased risk of irritation and stinging on parts of the body it comes in contact with. They can cause damage to both your skin and eyes. They can also clog pores and increase breakouts on sensitive or acne-prone skin. 

Some other chemical sunscreen ingredients you want to avoid include petrolatum (mineral oil) because it takes years to biodegrade and is harmful to the health of aquatic life. There is also the concern of inactive ingredients that make up anywhere from 50 to 70 percent of sunscreen.

One ingredient that has been a cause for concern is methylisothiazolinone. Over the years, physicians have reported severe skin allergies, especially among children. This ingredient has become common in sunscreen. It is a matter of concern because sunscreen products containing this ingredient are intended to be reapplied often and to large portions of the body. This means that sunscreen users have most likely being exposed to high concentrations of it. 

Two other common ingredients in sunscreen, oxybenzone, and octinoxate were recently banned in Hawaii. Studies have shown that those two ingredients cause coral bleaching. They can be harmful to the safety and health of the coral reefs.

The Difference of Mineral to Chemical Sunscreen

While both types of sunscreens, mineral, and chemical, provide UV protection, the key difference is that mineral sunscreen is safer for your body's health and the planet. 

Mineral-based sunscreens have two main ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They do not contain any of the ingredients in chemical sunscreens. Both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide occur naturally and are safer for all skin types.

While it feels sticky going on the skin and is harder to rub in, the ingredients do not penetrate your skin like chemical sunscreens. Mineral sunscreens sit on top of your skin and reflect UV rays away from your body. It is like a shield between your skin and the sun's rays.

Mineral sunscreens are best for the health of children, adults with sensitive skin, and melasma. Unlike chemical sunscreens, which takes around 20 to 30 minutes to absorb in the skin after application, mineral sunscreen offers immediate protection.