Guide to Mineral Sunscreens: What They Are + Why They're Safer
Guide to Mineral Sunscreens: What They Are + Why They're Safer
Why We Need Sun Protection
The sun emits different types of ultraviolet rays. The ones to be concerned about, in terms of the damage that they cause to the skin, are UVA and UVB rays.
UVAs are the ones that reach our skin all year long, no matter the weather, because they can even penetrate clouds. These are the rays that cause damage to the deepest layers of our skin (the dermis) and cause photo-aging. They destroy collagen and elastin, leading to wrinkling and sagging.
UVBs are the rays that damage the most superficial layer of our skin. They cause the reddening of our skin (the sun-tan/sun-burnt look). “Tan” is basically a nice way to describe a sunburn—there goes the myth of a “healthy” looking tan!
A quick way to remember the difference between the two types of rays is to think of A = aging, and B = burning.
How We Can Prevent Sun Damage
Besides not exposing our skin to the sun by covering up with appropriate items, like a large-brimmed hat and protective clothing, the best way to prevent sun damage is wearing a sunscreen product. This is especially important between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the UV rays are the strongest. However, keep in mind that the type of sunscreen, the amount applied, and proper reapplication can make a significant difference in its effectiveness.
Types of Sunscreen
A mineral sunscreen, also called a physical sunscreen or sunblock, is a product that uses a mineral active ingredient—zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or a combination of the two. Mineral sunscreens work by deflecting UV rays—they create a physical barrier, (hence the name physical), that blocks the UV rays (hence the name sunblock), which prevent the rays from penetrating into the skin and causing damage.
Chemical sunscreens (also called organic sunscreens, due to the organic (carbon-based) compounds that work as active, filtering ingredients) work by absorbing the UV rays, converting them into heat and then releasing them. Chemical sunscreens have raised some concerns in light of the potential harmful effects that they may have on our bodies and, more specifically, on our skin.
Health concerns caused by chemical sunscreens are a controversial subject due to the lack of conclusive research. The evidence available suggests that certain chemical active ingredients, particularly oxybenzone, avobenzone, homosalate and octinoxate, may cause hormonal disruption and could also be neurotoxic.
Skin concerns include irritation (especially in delicate skin types), sensitization, and allergic reactions. They may sting/burn upon application, and worsen inflammatory skin conditions like rosacea and acne due to the heat caused by the active ingredients absorbing the UV rays. This is why if you do suffer from acne or rosacea, a mineral sunscreen may be the best option for you.
Chemical active ingredients are also:
- Less stable in the sun, which could lead to free radical formation, and cause photo-aging—the very thing we try to prevent by applying high quality, antioxidant-rich skincare products on our face;
- Not nearly as effective as mineral sunscreens against UVA rays, which is why they are often combined with mineral active ingredients in chemical sunscreen products.
Environmental Impact of Chemical Sunscreens
Chemical sunscreens have not only raised health concerns, but they are also considered a threat to the environment. Hawaii has recently passed a bill that bans octinoxate and oxybenzone, two common chemical active ingredients found in many sunscreen products. These are known to pollute the waters and impact the ecosystems; harming marine organisms. A special concern was voiced over the coral reefs, which are believed to be bleached by these chemicals, leading to the corals’ death. According to the bill, fish, sea urchins, and shrimp are also affected.
At The Detox Market, all sunscreen products are mineral-based, so you don’t have to worry about all the potential issues caused by chemical filters. Mineral sunscreens are also more stable and effective, offering full-spectrum protections, making it a safer option for the environment and all of us.
Nanotechnology in Mineral Sunscreens
The only concern expressed about mineral sunscreens is presented by the size of the mineral particles. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, the two common active ingredients found in mineral formulas, have poor particle dispersion, which causes mineral sunscreen to look white on the skin and be challenging to spread evenly. Thankfully, the newest mineral sunscreen formulas contain micronized particles, which are easier to apply and do not look nearly as chalky as they used to years ago. The problem with micronized particles is that the smaller they are, the higher the chance that the may penetrate the skin. For that reason, it is important to look for reputable brands that do not use nano-sized mineral particles, which are small enough to potentially cause health issues, especially in powder and spray sunscreens, because they could be inhaled. The Detox Market does not allow nanoparticles.
Broad-Spectrum and Sun Protection Factor (SPF) Ratings
The two most important things to look for in a sunscreen are the broad-spectrum label and SPF rating:
- Broad-spectrum means that the product has passed an FDA-regulated test that proves that the product is effective against both UVA and UVB rays. When a sunscreen is not labeled as broad-spectrum it may offer protection only against UVBs. The best and most effective broad-spectrum active ingredient in mineral sunscreens is zinc oxide, followed by titanium dioxide.
- SPF (sun protection factor), measures a sunscreen’s ability to prevent sun damage from UVB rays. The simplest way to explain the most up-to-date SPF ratings are below:
- SPF 15 filters about 93% of UVB rays
- SPF 30 filters 97%
- SPF 50 filters 98%
- Sunscreens with SPF above 50 do not offer significantly more protection than SPF 50 (about 98.5 %)
- Here is another way to explain SPF ratings: If it takes 10 minutes for your skin to burn in the sun, with an SPF 15 sunscreen it will take 15 times longer for your skin to burn (so 10 x 15 = 150 minutes), and with an SPF 30 sunscreen it will take 30 times longer, etc. That being said, no matter what the SPF rating of a sunscreen is, it should be re-applied throughout the day, as often as indicated on the product label, which is typically every two hours.
How Much Sunscreen To Apply
It is thought that most people do not wear nearly as much sunscreen as they should for optimal protection. Most individuals (amount varies depending on the size of your body) need approximately 1 ounce of sunscreen to cover your entire body, and a nickel-sized amount for your face and neck.
Once you have applied the proper amount of product over your skin using a pressing motion, make sure that it has “settled” before you apply any makeup on top. If you apply sunscreen and then immediately apply foundation on top and blend it vigorously with a brush or your fingers, you can remove the sunscreen from your skin and lose the sun-protective benefits.
Reapplication: Two hours from application, sunscreens lose their effectiveness. If you are still exposed to sun rays at the two-hour mark, make sure to promptly re-apply as recommended by the product manufacturer. Make sure to also reapply if you sweat or swim, as recommended on the sunscreen label. Most sunscreens are not water-resistant, or are water-resistant for a limited time.
The Best Mineral Sunscreens
Finding the perfect mineral sunscreen for the face can be a challenge. After trying many products, here are some faves.
Un-tinted Sunscreens For Face:
Normal, combo, or oily skin
Normal to oily skin types—meet your sun care saviour! This protective mineral SPF 30 acts as a protector and moisturizer that instantly melts into the skin to plump the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. I love that this formula gives you a beautiful sheen alone, or blends beautifully under makeup.
Dry and dehydrated skin
This creamy sunscreen is unscented and perfect for all skin types—especially those in need of a deeper dose of hydration. It's moisturizing, non-greasy, and goes seamlessly without leaving a white-cast. It makes the perfect base under makeup for dry and dehydrated complexions.
All skin types
This lightweight moisturizer provides optimal sun protection and a deep dose of hydration. It has a comfortable texture that feels emollient, but not heavy, to deliver your best (protected!) skin ever.
Tinted Sunscreens for Face:
Normal to Oily Skin
This tinted sunscreen is a great option normal to oily skin types due to the matte finish and lightweight texture. Available in five inclusive shades, this sunscreen keeps you protected while providing a beautiful, radiant finish.
This tinted serum has a very comfortable, luminous but non-greasy finish, and provides light-to-medium coverage. The shade range is vast, so finding the perfect match to your skin tone is easy! This great multi-tasking product works as a moisturizer, sheer foundation and sun-protection at the same time.
All skin types
This is the body sunscreen I have been using for years. It is effective, moisturizing, and glides on like a dream! I share this with my family on beach days, and no one has ever gotten a sunburn while using it.
Sunscreen for the Lips
Solara Pout Protector SPF 15
Lip sunburns are more common than you might think, and they can cause significant discomfort. Although lip sunscreen is the only sunscreen that I don’t wear on a daily basis, when I spend time outdoors or at the beach I use this pout protector from Soalra. It is a very comfortable, moisturizing, and soothing formula that provides a sheer tint. It comes in several fun colors, with my favorite being Kokomo, an easy-to-wear mauve.
How we chose the best mineral sunscreens on this list
These mineral sunscreens were meticulously curated by our team of experts based on their innovation, performance, and buzz-worthiness. At the Detox Market, all of the products we carry have pure ingredients, exceptional performance, and cruelty free formulations. We've been the trusted clean beauty experts for over a decade, cutting through the clean beauty noise and providing you with nothing but the best in green beauty. You can learn more about our commitment to clean beauty here.