Men Should Know...SPF: Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreen, Part 2 of 4

Posted on Apr 20, 2015

 

"So what is that sunscreen on the nose anyway?  Zinc, right?  But is that better than what I use?"  That's why we're here bro; to help you get in the know on sunscreen.  Part two of our four part series tackles mineral vs. chemical sunscreen: the differences, the risks, the advantages, and everything in between.

The most commonly used sunscreens are "chemical absorbers." They contain carbon compounds made in a laboratory. Some 22 chemicals have become available in the U.S. to shield the skin from the sun's harmful rays since the first compound PABA was developed in the 1940s. Some of the most popular are oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate, and homosalate.  PABA has since been removed from most all sunscreens due to health concerns.  Now days oxybenzone is justifiably being scrutinized heavily due to health risks (and it's likely in your sunscreen...go check...seriously, go check). 

Mineral (aka Physical) blockers come in two types: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—natural minerals ground down to fine powders. These used to leave white residue on the skin (like our phenomenal photo of Mr. Spicoli above) but modern processing techniques are improving this issue.  Fit Face's Advanced Protection, for example, uses a patented zinc oxide mixture that leaves zero white residue.   

Mineral sunscreen actually covers the skin and deflects the sun's rays, while chemical sunscreen absorbs into the skin and absorbs the rays.  It's commonly believed that mineral sunscreens are safer and healthier since they don't involve chemical compounds absorbing into your skin.  Mineral sunscreen is also better tolerated on those with sensitive skin, as chemical sunscreens have toxins in them which can be absorbed and can cause allergic reactions on the skin level.  But because mineral sunscreens are on top of the skin they are also more susceptible to washing off with water and sweat.

We at Fit Face believe that the best approach is to use a sunscreen that is mineral based, but that also includes small amounts of the safer chemical compounds to help increase protection after sweating or rubbing, and to reduce white residue (because if it makes your face white then no dude is going to use it anyway, and that's definitely not smart sun protection).

We at Fit Face believe that the best approach is to use a sunscreen that is mineral based, but that also includes small amounts of the safer chemical compounds to help increase protection after sweating or rubbing, and to reduce white residue (because if it makes your face white then no dude is going to use it anyway, and that's definitely not smart sun protection). 

 

Now it's your turn to weigh the pros of healthy mineral sunscreen vs. the risks of chemical sunscreen.  Take a look below: 

  Physical Chemical
How They Work Physical sunscreens protect your skin from the sun by deflecting or blocking the sun's rays. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the sun's rays. Some chemical filters can scatter sun rays, but still mostly just absorb them.
UV Filters
(UV filters are the active ingredient in sunscreens that protects you from the sun.)
Titanium dioxide (TiO2)

Zinc oxide (ZnO)
Octylcrylene

Avobenzone

Octinoxate Octisalate

Oxybenzone

Homosalate

Helioplex

4-MBC

Mexoryl SX and XL

Tinosorb S and M

Uvinul T 150

Stability Generally stable Most are photostable, but some are not.

Avobenzone is notoriously unstable. However, it can be stabilized when formulated in conjunction with other UV filters.
Comedogenicity (acne causing) Titanium dioxide can be problematic for some people. (If you break out from physical sunscreen, titanium dioxide could be the culprit.)

Zinc oxide is generally safe. It can be used on delicate skin.
Chemical filters tend to be more irritating to skin.

If it gets in your eyes, it can make your eyes sting and water.

Some can cause allergic reactions.
Protection
How much protection is offered depends on the amount of the active ingredient in the sunscreen, particle size of the UV filters,photostability, and overall product formulation.
Titanium dioxide protects against UVB rays, but not the full spectrum of UVA rays.

Zinc oxide protects against the entire spectrum of UVB and UVA rays.

Starts protecting immediately upon application.
Chemical filters offer coverage against UVA and UVB rays, but the range of protection will depend on the particular active and its stability.

Avobenzone, for example, protects against the full spectrum UVA rays.

Must wait 20 minutes after application for effective sun protection.
Texture May leave a white cast or tint.

Rubs off more easily and must be frequently reapplied.
Colorless, odorless, usually runny.
Safety Generally safe.

Don't cause free radicals.

Note: Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide labeled as nano-particles are controversial at the moment.
Some chemical filters generate free radicals which can cause skin damage, irritation, and aging.