Category Spotlight: Sunscreen
Sunscreen is a $1.85 billion industry in the US. The sun care category is among the fastest growing in skin care overall, supported by growing consumer awareness about the dangers of sun-damaged skin.
When choosing a new sunscreen, consumers generally have two options. A mineral sunscreen or a chemical sunscreen.
How do mineral sunscreens work?
Mineral sunscreens use active mineral ingredients to reflect the sun’s rays. Ground into fine powders mineral sunscreens rely on ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to act as a physical sunblock reflecting or scattering the light away from your skin.
How do chemical sunscreens work?
Chemical sunscreens use a combination of two or more FDA approved active ingredients to absorb the sun’s rays, so your skin doesn’t. There are 16 FDA approved active ingredients for use in sunscreens. Only eight ingredients from the approved list are regularly used, and just two of those offer good UV-A protection.
The eight most commonly used sunscreen ingredients are:
- Chemical ingredients: Oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, homosalate, octocrylene
- Mineral ingredients: Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide
Typically, mineral sunscreens are believed to be a safer choice, though both mineral and chemical sunscreens come with concerns. Here are a few things to consider:
- Avoid products that contain oxybenzone
Ingredient Rating: High Health Concern
Oxybenzone is suspected of causing contact or photocontact sensitivity, according to the medical literature (Article by S Schauder and H Ippen in Contact Dermatitis). Oxybenzone (or its metabolites) is frequently detected in human blood or urine, indicating significant U.S. population exposure.
- Choose lotion sunscreens over aerosol and spray-on products. Sunscreen sprays and mists are liked for their convenience and ease of use. The risk of inhaling the sunscreen is the reason Consumer Reports warns that spray on sunscreen should never be used on children, and adults are cautioned to avoid inhalation.
Top Rated Sunscreens on GoodGuide
Traits to look for: Broad spectrum, SPF 50+, GoodGuide Rating of 7+
Bottom Line on the Importance of Sunscreen
It’s important to wear sunscreen, but as important is to choose a sunscreen without ingredients that carry medium or high health concerns.
With thousands of sunscreen products on the market, which sunscreen do you use most often, a mineral or chemical formulation? When you run out, or are far from your trusted stash, how do you choose which to buy?