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What to Use: Chemical or Natural Sunscreens?
Whether you’re going surfing or simply going on your commute to work, putting on sunscreen is a must. Sunscreens not only protects your skin from wrinkles and uneven skin tone but also prevents skin cancer.
But with the growing number of sunscreens in the market, it could be tricky to find the best one. Nonetheless, sunscreens are generally categorized into two: chemical and natural (also known as physical or mineral sunscreen).
Today, we’ll talk about the differences between chemical and natural sunscreen and how you can decide which sunscreen is best for you.
What is chemical sunscreen?
A chemical sunscreen uses one or more active ingredients to absorb UV rays before your skin does. These active ingredients include octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, octinoxate, oxybenzone, and avobenzone. Once the UV rays are absorbed by these chemical filters, they are converted into heat and released through the skin.
What is natural sunscreen?
On the other hand, a natural sunscreen works by creating a physical barrier that shields the skin from UV rays. More accurately, it works by reflecting the sun’s rays away from your skin. Natural sunscreen also provides broad-spectrum protection by blocking UVA rays, even those that enter through your windows. Most natural sunscreens are formulated with zinc oxide and titanium oxide, which are FDA-approved.
Some individuals might take the definition of “natural sunscreen” even further by choosing sunscreens that are reef-safe and formulated with organic ingredients.
Pros and cons of chemical sunscreen
Chemical sunscreens do not leave a visible layer on the skin. In other words, they leave no whitecast and are lighter and more sheer. So, they’re more suitable for a variety of skin tones. Additionally, since chemical sunscreens are designed for absorption, they do not leave you feeling sticky or greasy after application. This also makes it easier for you to apply your other skincare products.
But chemical sunscreen’s faster absorption rate also means that it enters the bloodstream quickly. Nevertheless, there is no definitive study outlining the harms of this chemical absorption. The bottom line is that the proven health risks of sun exposure still outweigh the potential risks involved in absorbing sunscreen chemicals.
However, if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, you might want to stay away from chemical sunscreens since they can be fairly irritating. This type of sunscreen can also exacerbate skin conditions like melasma or rosacea.
Another concern that has been raised about chemical sunscreens is its environmental impact. Specifically, some studies show that some chemical sunscreen ingredients like oxybenzone may bleach and damage coral reefs. Hence, beachgoers are advised to avoid using chemical sunscreens when swimming.
Pros and cons of natural sunscreen
Natural sunscreens sit on top of the skin in order to block UV rays. Thus, their formulations tend to be thicker. Take note that this thick formulation could lead to breakouts in acne-prone individuals. Historically, this type of sunscreen has been harder to rub in. Additionally, it is more visible when applied, especially for darker skin tones. Recently, however, many mineral sunscreens have been reformulated in order to be absorbed more easily without leaving a visible film.
On the positive side, natural sunscreen is better suited for sensitive skin. Last but not least, it is more effective at broad-spectrum protection (i.e., it protects against both UVA and UVB rays).
Natural sunscreen vs chemical sunscreen
The secret to having a bright and even skin tone even as you age is to apply sunscreen daily, even when you’re staying home or when it’s snowing. This is true whether you use chemical or physical sunscreen.
If you’re still having trouble choosing between natural sunscreen and chemical sunscreen, consider your skin type and your needs. For people with sensitive skin, mineral or natural sunscreen is generally better. However, for those with darker skin pigmentation, chemical sunscreens are your best bet since they leave no whitecast. Finally, if you’re swimming in the ocean, you might want to switch to natural sunscreen because it’s safer for coral reefs and other sea organisms.
Remember: while it’s possible to repair skin damage, it’s best to prevent the damage from even happening. No matter what you do, pick a sunscreen that you will happily wear every day. And don’t forget to do a patch test before you apply any sunscreen to your face. Last but not least, if you’ve had blistering sunburns despite your best efforts, make time for skin cancer screening.
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