Ah, that amazing feeling of sticking your toes in the sand for the first time in months!
But nothing ruins a beautiful day at the beach like an uncomfortable sunburn.
While I believe in the importance of adequate sun exposure for vitamin D production and use certain foods to protect my skin from sun damage from the inside out, long periods of direct sun exposure definitely do require sunscreen.
There are really SO MANY sunscreen options on the market nowadays, but the most important thing to consider is whether to choose a chemical sunscreen or natural mineral sunscreen.
Here are 5 reasons why mineral sunscreen is best for your health and the planet.
1. The active ingredients in mineral sunscreen* do not absorb into the skin
Remember how your skin is your body’s largest organ and the majority of what you apply to it gets absorbed directly into the bloodstream? Well chemical sunscreen depends on this—it works by the active ingredients absorbing into the skin where they then scatter the sun’s rays. But some of these active ingredients (such as homosalate and oxybenzone) have been linked to endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity, and/or developmental/reproductive toxicity.
When you choose a mineral sunscreen *made with non-nano active ingredients, however, the active ingredient does not absorb into the skin. Instead it acts as a protective layer on top of your skin, reflecting rays like a mirror. This is why non-nano zinc oxide is considered the gold standard of natural, mineral-based sun protection!
2. Mineral sunscreen offers immediate, long-lasting protection
Because the active ingredients in chemical sunscreens need time to absorb into your skin, you need to wait for a period of time (usually 15-20 minutes) before going into the sun.
But since they act as mirrors, mineral sunscreens start working as soon as they are applied.
3. Mineral sunscreen offers broad-spectrum protection
If you’re wondering “Is mineral sunscreen as effective?” not only is the answer YES! but actually EVEN MORE!
While all chemical sunscreens protect your skin from the skin-burning UVB rays, some don’t offer protection from deeper-penetrating UVA rays. UVA rays are associated with premature aging, something I’m sure we’d all like to avoid!
Mineral sunscreens protect from both UVB and UVA rays.
4. Mineral sunscreen is less irritating to sensitive skin
Some of the active ingredients used chemical sunscreens trigger allergies and skin reactions (since they’re not natural and the skin is like “What!?“).
Since mineral sunscreens contain natural minerals as their active ingredients, they are much less likely to cause irritation. In fact, zinc oxide—one of the most popular mineral sunscreen ingredients—is actually used in natural diaper rash creams to soothe irritated little bottoms.
5. Mineral sunscreen is better for the environment
One of the most commonly used active ingredients in chemical sunscreens oxybenzone is known to kill coral reefs, which are home to 25% of all ocean life. For this reason, reefs are disappearing twice as fast as rain forests!
According to TIME:
Currently, somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 tons of sunscreen enters coral reef areas around the world each year, according to the U.S. National Park Service. That’s a lot of sunscreen considering how little it takes to cause toxic effects. According to the new research, toxicity occurs at a concentration of 62 parts per trillion. That’s the equivalent of a drop of water in an Olympic swimming pool.
If we can do our part to prevent this just by switching to natural mineral sunscreen, why wouldn’t we?
So let’s review… Is mineral sunscreen better than chemical?
Absolutely… hands down…
Now the question is: which mineral sunscreen is best?
Of course, not all mineral sunscreens are created equally!
You’ll still find some mineral sunscreens with unhealthy ingredients like artificial fragrance (an endocrine disruptor) and retinyl palmitate (which is believed to increase the rate at which cancerous cells divide when combined with sunlight).
The following mineral sunblocks have a 1 Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Database Ranking, meaning they are amongst the least toxic options on the market.
It sprays on white which helps ensure you’re not missing any spots, but with a little rub quickly sinks into skin without leaving any whiteness. None. At all. AND it’s made with non-nano zinc oxide. Yes: perfection!
In case you’re concerned about the spray mechanism: it uses a non-aerosol, bag-on-valve actuator system. So it’s actually air-powered. So there are no potentially harmful — for you or the environment — propellant chemicals used at all!
The formula also contains a good dose of antioxidants to help further protect the skin from UV damage since antioxidants neutralize free-radicals, and UV exposure creates free-radicals in the skin.
If you prefer a classic lotion over a spray, the Countersun mineral lotion is the way to go.
Like its mist counterpart, the formula is made with non-nano zinc oxide yet quickly disappears into the skin — leaving no white whatsoever! It also includes antioxidants to further protect skin and leaves skin feeling hydrated and dewy, but not sticky or heavy.
Again, all around perfection!
A budget-friendly option with a high-level of protection that’s easy to rub in.
Again, this formula is made with non-nano zinc oxide, doesn’t contain any other unhealthy ingredients, and it rubs into skin very easily without leaving a white residue. It also smells delicious!
Provides great protection, has a super clean ingredient list, and doesn’t leave skin looking white thanks to a slight tint. In fact, I actually love how this makes my skin look and feel: really dewy, moisturized, and glowy.
I don’t mind that it doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles because I apply it on top of a vitamin C serum, which gives my skin those other goodies.
In addition to protecting skin with zinc oxide, it also provides skin with anti-aging goodies like red algae extract, kukui oil, and macadamia nut oil.
Since it’s actually a primer, this is a fantastic option if you’re going to be wearing makeup over your sunscreen. It’s not tinted and provides a nice matte finish with a good dose of moisture.
It also protects skin with non-nano zinc oxide and contains other skin-loving goodies like plumping hyaluronic acid and the powerhouse antioxidant astaxanthin.