Difference between chemical and mineral sunscreen: which is good for you?

I recently visited my dermatologist and she recommended I use a sunscreen.

Something I am not too keen as it sometimes interacts with my primer and moisturizer or foundation.. so today specifically I went sunscreen hunting and I saw the one that she had recommended, from Olay 30 complete, which was about $30 something.. so I kept looking because I was not thrilled by the Olay one.. I went to the La Roche Posay section and finally after looking right and left, decided to get not one but two skincare products. One is the Anthelios 50 Mineral and the other is the Anthelios 50 Daily Anti-Aging Primer with sunscreen. Now while I was there, I checked the ingredients, and noticed some had mineral sunscreen and others had regular chemical sunscreen. Not sure of which one is best, I did a quick research and here is what I found from an online search. 

Difference Between Mineral And Chemical Sunscreen:

The main difference between chemical and mineral sunscreens can be found in their ingredient lists. Chemical sunscreens have ingredients that may potentially cause health problems for you and your baby. Mineral sunscreens, on the other hand, use two natural minerals—zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—as active ingredients. These minerals simply sit on top of your skin and protect it by reflecting away UV rays.

To better understand the differences between chemical and mineral sunscreens, let’s take a closer look at each.

What Is A Chemical Sunscreen?

A chemical sunscreen is one whose active ingredients are non-natural, chemical compounds. Here are a few examples of chemical ingredients commonly found in sunscreen.

  • Oxybenzone
  • Avobenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • Homosalate
  • Octisalate 
  • Octocrylene

Despite the fact that these compounds have all been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), research shows potential risks for several of them, including:

  • Octinoxate
  • Oxybenzone
  • Octocrylene
  • Padimate O

The active ingredients in chemical sunscreens, like the ones listed above, are effective because they absorb the sun’s UV rays. Then, through a chemical reaction, the sunscreen dissipates the UV rays. This means that your skin is protected because the UV rays never actually hit your body.

However, before these chemicals can offer any UV protection, your skin has to absorb them. This can cause irritation and discomfort, especially for children with sensitive skin.

Additionally, trace amounts of the chemicals found in chemical sunscreens can trickle into your bloodstream. Once in your bloodstream, they can filter into other bodily fluids, such as breastmilk. A study published by a team of scientists, led by Dr. Margret Schlumpf of the University of Zurich, found trace amounts of at least one sunscreen chemical in the breast milk of 76.5 percent of the women they tested.

Octinoxate was detected in a whopping 64.7 percent of the sampled women’s breast milk. Three other FDA-approved sunscreen chemicals—oxybenzone, octocrylene, and padimate O—were also found in significant amounts. This raises serious questions about breastfeeding safety.

At this point, you must be wondering whether or not these chemicals are safe for your baby. Let’s address that concern now.

What Is A Mineral Sunscreen?

A mineral sunscreen is just what it sounds like—a sunscreen that uses minerals as its active ingredients. The minerals most often used are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Both of these ingredients occur naturally, although they can also be created synthetically. Mineral sunscreens work in a completely different way than chemical sunscreens. Remember, chemical sunscreens penetrate your skin and offer protection by dissipating UV rays. By contrast, mineral sunscreens simply sit on top of your skin and reflect UV rays away from your body.

Mineral sunscreens are sometimes called physical sunscreens because they provide a physical barrier between your skin and the sun’s rays. Think of these minerals as millions of tiny mirrors resting on the surface of your skin, bouncing away harmful UV rays.

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