There have been many changes within the sunscreen industry over the past 3 to 5 years; some ingredients are now banned while others are currently being investigated for their safety. Understanding your options when it comes to SPF and the ingredients to look for are key to not only getting the most protection possible but doing so safely.
Types of Sunscreen
There are two types of sunscreen, and each protects you differently. Chemical sunscreen and Physical sunscreen.
Physical sunscreens contain zinc or titanium dioxide and work by sitting on top of the skin and reflecting the sun’s rays. They ‘block’ the sun’s rays from penetrating and protect your skin from both UVA (aging rays) and UVB (burning or skin cancer rays) damage. Physical sunscreen is also called “mineral sunscreen,” since the two active ingredients on the market, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are natural minerals.
Zinc oxide was the original sunscreen in ointments, think back to the white lifeguard nose of the 1970’s. These early products were pasty, pricey, and very white, so the industry started searching for alternatives. In the early 80’s, the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries moved to make these formulas more lightweight, more aesthetically pleasing, shelf stable, and less expensive. That is when we begin to see the evolution of the chemical sunscreens.
Chemical sunscreens absorb the sun’s rays, convert the rays into heat, and release them into the skin. This category includes the following ingredients: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate, and octinoxate, among others. Chemical sunscreen is sometimes referred to as “synthetic sunscreen,” since these active ingredients are all man-made.
Chemical formulations reigned supreme for decades because, the primary ingredients are easier to formulate with and they are much less expensive than zinc and titanium dioxide. Unfortunately, we found that “cheaper is not always better,” so, now mineral sunscreens are coming back into favor because people are realizing the health implications and the environmental impact of some of the chemical sunscreens.
Are Chemical SPF’s Safe?
The recent concern over the safety of chemical sunscreens stems from an early 2020 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The data collected by the FDA shows that six of the most prominent chemical actives—avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate, and octinoxate—absorb into the bloodstream after a single application. When applied every two hours as directed, these ingredients appear in the blood at concentrations that surpass the FDA’s safety thresholds—meaning safety data has not been collected or analyzed at these levels prior.
The data did not say that those ingredients are dangerous, absorption does not necessarily equate to harm. We need more data about whether there are any harmful effects. Some ingredient conscientious consumers are choosing to avoid chemical sunscreens until further research is conducted.
Other, older studies indicate that a handful of chemical sunscreens act as endocrine disruptors—that is, they interfere with the body’s hormonal system. Oxybenzone has appeared in human breast milk, amniotic fluid, urine, and blood plasma.
Oxybenzone is linked to Hirschsprung’s disease, and over 98 percent of the population can show that it is in their blood or in their urine. Other studies have linked octinoxate and homosalate to hormone disruption, as well.
Chemical SPF & Environmental Safety
In 2008 a study began investigating why the coral reefs in particular areas of the Virgin Islands National Park were dying. Forensic eco-toxicology and found oxybenzone can be poisonous to coral reefs. That research helped inform the current legislation in the state of Hawaii and the city of Key West, Florida, which bans the sale of oxybenzone as well as octinoxate. Oxybenzone causes deformities in the larval state of coral, the same thing as it does with humans. Both oxybenzone and octinoxate cause DNA damage, so they are genotoxic.
This environmental research is relatively new and has faced its fair share of scrutiny and criticism from those who say climate change, not sunscreen, is to blame for the degradation of the world’s coral reefs. Pollution, human interference and other environmental changes certainly come into play, but the research to date shows that the ingredients in question are a distinct and clear and present threat to very specific coral reefs.
Choosing Your SPF
Regardless of the type of SPF you choose, wearing it everyday is vital to skin health as well as helping to avoid potential skin cancers. When spending a prolonged period of time outdoors, whether it be playing tennis or golf or spending the day at the beach, be sure to reapply your SPF every two hours, after swimming or any activity that causes excessive perspiration.
GLOWBIOTICS sun care is chemical-free 100% mineral based, containing 11% Titanium Dioxide, 4% Zinc Oxide. Safe for those wishing to avoid toxins, parabens, sulfates, or other known harmful ingredients in their skincare. A high-performance, non-irritating tinted sunscreen is specifically designed for the delicate face and neck area and provides that broad spectrum SPF 30 protection. The water-free, oil-free formula is enhanced with essential vitamins and antioxidants, making it great for all skin types.