A big topic that came up on our recent LB Activation to Sayulita was sunscreen and choosing between mineral and chemical sunscreens, and the debate has stuck with me all summer long as I ramped up sun protection for myself and my family. If you remember the conversation from our Studio LB facebook group, our community’s clear favorite for nontoxic and reef-safe sunscreen was Blue Lizard’s sensitive formula. While I’m not brand or type loyal, I’ve been good about wearing SPF on my face my entire life and I’m aiming to be more consistent with wearing sunscreen on body since living in California. I tend to stay out of the sun and I do eat tomatoes and tomato paste everyday and I feel that it helps me tremendously, as I rarely burn.
There are two main types of sunscreen types, and I feel like it’s important to take a look at chemical versus physical or mineral sunscreens and where each shines. While these two main types of sunscreens work differently, they both provide protection against the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Mineral, or physical, sunscreen contains two main ingredients: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Honestly, I use both. even if I do look a tiny bit like a 1980s lifeguard with a bright white zinc nose.
Mineral sunscreens are more commonly reef safe, and gentler on our environment. They form a barrier on the surface of your skin to reflect UV rays, and require liberal application. Try putting a thick mineral sunscreen on a squirmy toddler or an 8 year old kid (Mars goes to both camp and school with Sun Bum or Neutrogena Kids wet skin spray packed in his bookbag - it just works best for our family. Mineral would be a hot mess for him to apply on his own and would ruin his clothes). In my mind, the only downside of mineral sunscreen is application! You really have to cover fully, and it can be less user friendly than chemical sunscreen formulas.
Chemical sunscreen ingredients include avobenzone, oxybenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate. Whew, that’s a mouthful. You probably grew up with chemical sunscreens: Banana Boat, Coppertone, Neutrogena, Hawaiian Tropic, etc. Chemical sunscreen penetrates the top layer of your skin to absorb UV rays before they damage the skin. Unfortunately, there is data to support that some chemical sunscreen ingredients like oxybenzone are detrimental to coral reefs, and the FDA has suggested they could act as hormone disruptors. Pros certain chemical sunscreens include ease of application, and that they can contain antioxidants and other anti-aging ingredients like green tea or reservatrol.
When I asked Board Certified Cosmetic Dermatologist Dr. Kimberly Jerdan her take, she said “although chemical sunscreens can be formulated to last longer, the heat generated by the absorption can worsen skin conditions like melasma and rosacea.” She’s strongly pro-mineral sunblock over chemical formulations. Dr. Jerdan suggests finding mineral sunscreens with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide with a concentration above 10%, and stresses that reapplication is key every two hours when outside, sweating, or physically active. She regularly shares insider skincare information on Instagram @drskinberly.
Whatever you choose to wear, make sure to wear it regularly. Always look for the term “broad spectrum” which means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and I’ve routinely heard that SPF 30 or higher is a good idea. Then reapply reapply reapply as you’re in the sun, or after going for a dip. And of course, talk to your dermatologist about which brand is right for you and your skin type!