Sunscreen is a staple for protecting skin against the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays. There are two types of sunscreens: physical and chemical.
Physical blockers (like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) reflect UV rays, while chemical sunscreens absorb them. Common chemical filters include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene.
UVA & UVB Protection
UVB rays, which cause sunburn, are the primary source of skin damage. They damage the top layer of the skin and can cause DNA mutations which lead to skin cancer. They also cause aging and cataracts by damaging the proteins in your eyes.
UVA rays are much less prevalent but are also harmful to the skin, especially for those with lighter complexions. UVA penetrates deeper into the skin and causes damage that can be slow to appear but may lead to wrinkles, sunspots or melanoma. UVA rays also trigger the formation of free radicals that can directly damage DNA.
A good sunscreen should provide protection against both UVA and UVB. A broad spectrum sunscreen will mention both on its label. The product will usually be rated with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating – this is based on a measurement of UVB penetration through the skin and is standard across countries. The higher the SPF, the more sun protection it offers – however, there is no international standard way to measure UVA protection in sunscreens.
There are two kinds of sunscreen ingredients – physical blockers and chemical absorbers. Physical blockers contain either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, and work by reflecting and scattering UV radiation. Chemical absorbers are organic compounds that bind to the molecular structures of the UV radiation and convert them into long, low-energy wavelengths. The most common chemical UV filters are ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, benzophenone-4, avobenzone and oxybenzone.
Sunscreen is a great tool to protect from both UVA and UVB rays. But even the best sunscreens can wash off from water, sweat and toweling, which is why it’s important to find a water-resistant formula that you can count on. Sunscreens that are labeled “waterproof” or “sweatproof” must pass a special test to ensure they can withstand 40 minutes or 80 minutes of water immersion.
However, a truly waterproof sunscreen is impossible to create since sweat and water can still wash away sunscreen. Instead, sunscreens are formulated to be water resistant by adding certain ingredients that help them stay on skin longer when swimming or sweating.
Water-resistant sunscreens are essential for sports and other recreational activities that require spending a significant amount of time in the water or sweating heavily. Most sunscreens have to be reapplied within two hours, and it’s a good idea to reapply them sooner if you’ve been sweating or swimming.
To make a sunscreen water resistant, cosmetic scientists add polymers that are hydrophobic to skin and form a residual film when dry. The market offers a range of these polymers with varying insolubilities and skin feel tradeoffs. UL Prospector(r) provides listings for many of these materials, along with technical data, samples, and contact details for global suppliers.
Sunscreens typically contain chemicals that absorb or block harmful UV rays, fragrances, preservatives and a base such as lanolin (wool alcohols). Individuals with skin sensitivities can experience contact allergic dermatitis to these ingredients.
Many of the common sunscreen ingredients can cause such reactions, including oxybenzone and octocrylene, which have been shown to trigger skin allergies, disrupt hormones, and increase free radical production, as well as para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) which was one of the earliest sunscreen allergens used before it was replaced with safer alternatives. Other potential allergens include methyl paraben, ethylparaben and propylparaben.
Hypoallergenic sunscreens are formulated to reduce the likelihood of a reaction to these ingredients, which can be particularly beneficial for anyone with sensitive skin. This can include people with eczema, children, or delicate baby skin.
The simplest way to determine if you or your child will react to a specific ingredient in a sunscreen is to do a patch test by applying a small amount of the product to the inside of the arm for a few days. If there is no irritation after that period, it’s safe to use the product on other parts of the body. If a skin reaction does occur, see a physician as soon as possible for antihistamine treatment. This will also help to identify the specific ingredient responsible for the allergy or sensitivity.
Sunscreen is a daily necessity for protecting your skin from sun damage and skin cancer. However, many traditional sunscreens contain ingredients that are harmful to the environment and your health. Non-toxic sunscreens offer a safe alternative with natural, safe and environmentally friendly ingredients.
Non toxic sunscreen contains fewer ingredients that are more beneficial to your skin and the planet. These safe sunscreens are free from chemicals such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octinoxate. These chemicals are known to penetrate the skin and disrupt hormone function. They have also been linked to cellular damage and may cause rashes, allergies and inflammation.
These nontoxic sunscreens use safer ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are considered physical barriers to the sun’s rays. These mineral sunscreens are also free of preservatives such as methylisothiazolinone, ethylhexyl salicylate and butylparaben. These preservatives are known to cause allergic reactions in some people, and they are detrimental to the environment.
This nontoxic sunscreen is formulated with organic shea butter, coconut oil, red raspberry seed oil (which has the highest naturally occurring SPF in the plant world) and pomegranate seed oil. It is reef-safe and has been tested by pediatricians and dermatologists. It has received the EWG’s best rating and is Leaping Bunny verified. It also offers broad spectrum protection with SPF 30. This natural sunscreen is a great choice for kids and the whole family.