what is the best sunscreen, what is mineral sunscreen, and what is SPF?
It’s getting to that time of year again and although we may be stuck to our balconies and garden’s for now, the sun is shining and the sunscreens are out!
Everyone is trying to get beach-body ready and no matter whether you’re already perfect or if you’re working on personal goals, you can only truly be beach-body ready if you’re lathered up in sunscreen – but, the right sunscreen.
First of all, it’s probably best we understand what SPF is and what it actually means, before moving on to the difference between mineral sunscreen and chemical sunscreen and then ultimately what the best sunscreen is.
What is SPF?
Let’s get back to basics. We really need to understand the question ‘what is SPF’ in order to know what we are looking for and protect ourselves in the sun. SPF – or Sun Protection Factor – is a number dedicated to the amount of UVB protection a particular product can give your skin. This can be in lip balm, face cream, make-up, or sunscreen.
What is UVB you ask? There are three types of UV rays emitted from our sun; UVA, UVB, and UVC. As UVC can’t penetrate our atmosphere, we’ll focus on the other two.
UVA is a very strong ray of sunshine responsible for our pesky wrinkles as well as skin cancer with the ability to penetrate glass and deep down in our skin.
UVB, on the other hand, is the type of radiation that will cause our painful sunburn, sun-poisoning, and more importantly; UVB poses a higher risk towards skin cancer.
Now let’s think about the number itself. SPF 15 lets you know that you will have 15 times longer in the sun before you start to burn and the same goes for SPF 30 where you’ll have 30 times longer.
Not only this, but the SPF number gives you an indication of the barrier of UVB rays. So, what is SPF 15 blockage? The percentage of UVB rays blocked by SPF 15 is 92%. This increases to 97% at SPF 30 and then 98% at SPF 50. With this in mind, it is worth noting that the little difference between SPF 30 and SPF 50 UVB blockage means that – unless your skin is particularly sensitive – then SPF 30 sunscreen should do the trick.
When asking ‘what is the best sunscreen?’, we look towards industry experts such as the Skin Cancer Foundation. They advise that the best sunscreens must always provide protection against UVB and UVA as well as providing moisture and environmentally friendly ingredients so you can enjoy the sun anywhere without impacting natural habitats.
What Is Mineral Sunscreen And What Is Chemical Sunscreen?
Now we know what SPF is and we know how to protect our skin from UV rays, we need to understand what types of sunscreens there are on the market and how they can affect your skin, the planet, sustainability, and your future.
There are two types of sunscreen recipes; a mineral (A.K.A physical) sunscreen and a chemical (A.K.A synthetic) sunscreen. It’s also worth noting here that just because a product contains chemicals or synthetic ingredients does not mean it’s no good. There are good chemicals just as there are bad ones in a lot of products – it’s just being able to identify between the two!
Mineral sunscreen is named as such because their active ingredients are natural; zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They work by creating a protective layer that sits on top of your skin to form a UV-reflective barrier. Companies may also add natural ingredients such as jojoba, beeswax, or rosemary oil for a calming fragrance without irritating the skin.
Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, work in varying ways such as UV-deflection, UV-conversion to heat, or UV-scattering. Instead of sitting on top of the skin, they are absorbed into the skin and can contain ingredients such as oxybenzone, avobenzone octinoxate, or homosalate which are fast-acting. They can also contain perfumes which can cause skin irritation with people who suffer from sensitive skin.
However, some of the active ingredients used in chemical sunscreens have been indicated by health caretakers across the globe as unsafe. With chemical sunscreens being actively absorbed into the body, they have been found in bloodstreams, breast milk and urine samples weeks after use indicating that these chemicals are everywhere in our bodies after just one application.
The active chemical ingredients oxybenzone, octinoxate and homosalate are all widely-used in chemical sunscreens. The worrying thing is these can disrupt hormonal balances, reproductive systems and behaviours in people as well as causing allergic skin reactions. EWG cover all of these associated risks in a great post detailing everything you should know, and we’d highly recommend you give it 5 minutes of your time.
Which Sunscreen Should You Use?
It may be a little obvious but we understand that there’s going to be a number of factors that determine which sunscreen is best for you. These can include availability, allergens, the product’s environmental footprint, the price, and the SPF.
The benefits of mineral sunscreen include knowing they will not have irritants or parabens for you or your environment. As mineral sunscreens have natural products providing a protective layer, they are less likely to interact with any other wildlife that surrounds you. However, a slight downside to mineral sunscreen is that they can be quite hard to rub onto the skin and some of them will leave white residue.
Looking towards chemical sunscreens, we see a recent study in the November 2019 Aquatic Toxiology demonstrating the active ingredient Oxybenzone is bleaching water-born life such as algae. And, it doesn’t end there; it is believed that up to 10% of the world’s coral reefs are threatened by the substances found in chemical sunscreens. The same substances that cause harm to our bodies.
As well as this, tests for viral tendencies in the sea have been carried out, finding that waters exposed to the ingredients from chemical sunscreen have higher viral tendencies causing detrimental effects on fish, urchins, clams, algae, whales and other organisms in the ocean.
Mineral sunscreens are not off the hook: Although their components to building UV protection are considered much more friendly to the environment, one of the active ingredients (zinc oxide) produced substantial amounts of reactive oxygen species under UV illumination. This was found to cause direct oxidative stress in marine organisms.
So, neither sunscreen is perfect, but the effects of chemical sunscreens can be much more damaging to both our bodies and the bodies of life in our marine animals.
What Is The Best Sunscreen?
The best sunscreen is simply being under your roof. It can protect you from all UV rays while saving money in the process. But, we want you to enjoy the outdoors and get your daily dose of Vitamin D to keep your mind and body healthy, so let’s think about which sunscreen would be the best for you:
You need your sunscreen to be ethical and environmentally-friendly. You need to be shielded from both UVA and UVB sun rays while protecting with an SPF of 30 or higher. You also want a sunscreen that won’t irritate your skin and will last. Is all of this possible in one sunscreen? Yes.
There are many great brands out there offering both mineral and chemical sunscreens, made with gentle and kind ingredients, and a consideration towards the environment and coral reefs. We even have a lovely, handpicked and popular range right here, all of which are reef-safe, eco-friendly, organic, cruelty-free and sustainably packaged.
Our Organic Scent-Free Sun Lotion by Green People for a chemical example of friendly sunscreens – without the above-mentioned nasty active ingredients – or our All Natural Sun Screen by Shade if you were interested in a natural, mineral sunscreen. Whichever you go for, including the more mainstream brands, just remember to do your best and avoid those nasty active ingredients!