Are Chemical Sunscreens Dangerous?

It’s been a hot topic as of late – whether chemical sunscreens are dangerous. According to a study by the FDA, the four most common active ingredients in chemical sunscreens absorb into the body at a higher rate than previously thought. But just because an ingredient is absorbed into the skin doesn’t make it dangerous – the FDA noted that further testing would be needed to determine that.

However, days before the FDA study was published I had my own bad experience with chemical sunscreen. I had been traveling for the weekend and packed my then-favorite sunscreen in a travel-friendly container. When I went to apply it one morning I scooped some onto my finger and noticed it looked separated. Skeeved out, I washed it off my finger and within seconds my skin started to feel incredibly dry and soon chunks of my skin began to fall off. I applied vaseline and covered it with a band-aid but was left with a fissure on my finger for weeks after.

Chemical Sunscreen vs. Mineral Sunscreens

That sunscreen was a chemical sunscreen and while I may not be a scientist, my common sense tells me that I shouldn’t continue putting that sunscreen on my skin. Imagine I hadn’t noticed the product separation and had applied the sunscreen to my face?

Ever since that day I switched over to using only mineral sunscreens. Unlike chemical sunscreens, which work by penetrating the skin and absorbing and breaking down the UV rays, mineral sunscreens sit atop the skin and work to reflect the sun’s rays. This is why chemical sunscreens are more lightweight and transparent whereas mineral sunscreens are harder to apply and tend to leave a whitecast.

How can you tell the difference between chemical sunscreens and mineral sunscreens?

Aside from the obvious application differences, chemical sunscreens are typically made of a combination of the four following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule. On the other hand, mineral sunscreens are made of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

My Mineral Sunscreen Recommendations

Although I do think it’s possible that traveling with the sunscreen outside of its original container could have caused the product to destabilize and dry out my skin, I still would not want to put something on my skin that has even a chance of doing this. This is ultimately why I made the personal decision to switch to mineral sunscreens and here are a few of my favorites:

1. Coola Daydream Mineral Primer SPF 30 ($42)

Although I work in an office I still believe it’s important to apply sunscreen to your face daily and this mineral sunscreen by Coola makes that easy. It glides on easily, doesn’t leave a whitecast and sits nicely under makeup.

2. Thinksport Sunscreen SPF 50+ ($12.99)

This sunscreen was introduced to me by my mom and I was pleasantly surprised. It was easier to apply than most mineral sunscreens and hardly left a whitecast once blended in. It’s also great if you’re going to be hanging out in the pool or in the ocean since it’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, which is a lot longer than most mineral sunscreens I’ve seen.

3. Bare Republic Mineral Sunscreen Face Lotion SPF 30 ($13.79)

Easier to find than the Thinksport, I’ve seen Bare Republic sunscreens stocked on shelves in every Target I’ve set foot in. It’s a better option than the Coola mineral primer for days where you’ll be out in the sun for a longer period of time. The downside is that it’s much harder to apply and leaves a slight whitecast.

4. Bare Republic Mineral Sunscreen Lotion Sport SPF 50 ($10.99)

The body version of the Bare Republic face lotion, this sunscreen has a higher SPF and is water resistant up to 80 minutes like the Thinksport. Once again, it is much harder to apply and does leave a slight whitecast.

Goodbye Chemical Sunscreens

Despite the annoying whitecast, I’ve found mineral sunscreens to be effective and gives me better peace of mind than chemical ones. If you’re interested in a more in-depth breakdown of the FDA study before you make the switch (or not!), this Dermstore post on chemical sunscreens does a great job.

Will you be ditching chemical sunscreens? Leave your reasoning why or why not in the comments section!

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