With seventeen sunscreen ingredients approved for use in the US by the Food and Drug Administration, Chemical sunscreen ingredients, such as PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) and cinnamates, absorb UV rays and convert the sun’s radiation into heat energy, while physical sunscreens (such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) deflect and scatter the rays before they penetrate your skin. Both types can be effective and safe if used properly. Let us take a closer look at the Sun’s rays and the chemicals we use to protect ourselves from them.

 

There are two types of UV light that can harm your skin UVA, and UVB. A broad-spectrum sunscreen can protect you from both. UVA rays can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkling and age spots. UVB rays can burn your skin. Too much exposure to UVA or UVB rays can cause skin cancer. Because as you know, the skin is the body’s largest organ and what we put on it matters. A few of the active ingredients commonly used in sunscreen have been linked to endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity, and/or developmental/ reproductive toxicity. One is even known to kill coral reefs! When it comes to choosing a safe sunscreen, there are just a few things to look for.

You want to try to choose a sunscreen with zinc oxide as the active ingredient. Zinc oxide is a mineral that provides broad-spectrum protection from the sun rays (that is, it blocks both UVA and UVB rays) and is soothing to the skin. It is also the active ingredient in many natural diaper creams! As a physical sunscreen, it remains on top of the skin rather than being absorbed into the skin as with chemical sunscreens.

You want to avoid sunscreens with Oxybenzone as the active ingredient. This chemical has been linked to endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity, and/or developmental/reproductive toxicity. This chemical is also toxic to coral reefs. Watch out for Titanium dioxide as an active ingredient as well. This mineral doesn’t provide the same UVA protection as zinc oxide and there is evidence that it begins to degrade once it is exposed to sunlight.

Sunscreen is an important part of a sun protection regimen that should also include seeking the shade, avoiding UV tanning, and wearing protective clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses. By educating yourself about your sunscreen options, you can be more confident that the product you choose will fit your needs, offering you the best protection from the sun’s harmful rays and helping to ensure that you use it regularly. After all, the sunscreen you apply consistently is the best sunscreen of all.