Summer is upon us in the North and we all know how important SPF is to our skin’s health and appearance. If you’re a follower of beauty trends, you may have heard of mineral sunscreen on repeat lately and wondered what the difference is between them and your regular drugstore brands you’ve been using since childhood. With more research coming to light about the harmful affects of some chemical sunscreen ingredients, dermatologists and other health professionals are basically insisting we make the switch.
Here’s what you need to know…
Likely the sunscreen you’ve been using is classified as a “chemical” sunscreen. These represent the majority of products readily available on the market and at drugstores. These products contain synthetic ingredients that have a chemical reaction as they come in contact with the sun and work to absorb (and repel) the light and harmful UV rays. “Mineral” (or physical) sunscreens contain either zinc oxide or titanium oxide-natural minerals that work by sitting on the skin’s surface and reflecting the sun’s rays to keep skin protected.
- When it comes to UVA and UVB protection (the whole reason we use sunscreen in the first place) mineral sunscreens that contain zinc oxide as their active ingredient are the most effective products available as they offer full spectrum sun protection. This means it covers UVB exposure which protects skin from burning, as well as UVA rays which are responsible for skin cancer and photo-aging. Many common chemical sunscreens in North America actually only contain UVB protection leaving you exposed to the sun’s other major risk factors.
- Since zinc oxide is a natural mineral itself, mineral sunscreens often don’t contain harmful synthetic ingredients and are classified as a natural product. Chemical sunscreens on the other hand contain synthetic ingredients needed for sun protection that are often harmful to our health with the main additive to watch for (although not limited to)- Oxybenzone. Oxybenzone should be avoided at all costs as it’s easily absorbed into the skin and is a well known hormone disruptor, rated 8/10 as a harmful ingredient by the Environmental Working Group (EWG.)
- Oxybenzone is as harmful to our oceans as it is to us and has been found to be very toxic to coral reefs and marine life resulting in bleaching, DNA damage and abnormal growth in coral. This year Hawaii passed legislation that bans Oxybenzone and Octinoxate for these very reasons and hopefully other governments won’t be far behind.
- Because mineral sunscreens don’t need to soak into the skin in order to provide sun protection, you can apply them and be covered right away. Chemical sunscreens tend to wear off and loose efficacy a lot quicker that mineral options that stay on the skin a lot longer.
- Many of the synthetic ingredients are not only harmful internally but cause skin irritations and allergies in many people with sensitivities. Make sure to read the product label to ensure other components of a product aren’t an irritant for you but if you are a sensitive skin type, mineral sunscreen is the way to go!
Mineral sunscreens may not be as readily available as synthetic sunscreens found in drug store so I’m here to make life easy for you by recommending a brand I’ve been using (and loving) this Summer- LaSpa Naturals. LaSpa is a Canadian company offering a truly natural sunscreen range that contains 100% plant derived ingredients with the active sun protection ingredient being Zinc Oxide. You’ll get all the benefits above in a completely natural formula that is fragrance free and hypoallergenic.
A common complaint about mineral sunscreens is that because of the formula is thicker it can be harder to rub into your skin. If you can recall retro images of women sunbathing with a strip of white across their nose, this is zinc oxide, a common natural ingredient in mineral sunscreens that keep your skin protected. I can honestly say that LaSpa has nailed their formulation. Their products are made with natural oils (coconut and avocado) which make for easy application with the added bonus of natural hydration for the skin. You can find LaSpa products in local spas or online here.