Mineral versus chemical sunscreen has been a hot topic of discussion over the past few months as it surfaced from a recent JAMA study. In the study, the question of whether active sunscreen ingredients can be found in the bloodstream was studied. In this study of less than 25 healthy volunteers, each volunteer applied a commercially available sunscreen for four days on more than 75% of the body four times a day. This is consistent with the maximum dose of an every two hour re-application that is recommended by most sunscreen manufacturers. Blood samples were taken from the volunteers to look for four active sunscreen ingredients: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule. All four of these ingredients were found in the bloodstream. Results of this study has the FDA recommending further testing on the safety and effectiveness of these and other chemical sunscreen ingredients.
The FDA considers two other ingredients, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, as safe and effective sunscreen ingredients. Both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can be found in chemical-free sunscreens as these active ingredients are not chemicals but minerals. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are physical blockers of both UVA and UVB rays. Since they are not chemicals, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are non-irritating to the skin and gentler on the eyes. These chemical-free sunscreens are the best sunscreens for babies, from baby to toddler years, because of this low irritation. For the years past babyhood and toddlerhood, these products are great to use on the face while using a different type of sunscreen on the rest of the body. Watch out for nanoparticle-sized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide because of the concern of absorption through the skin to the rest of the body. Rather, micronized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are best. The micronized versions will leave a whitish residue on the skin after application, and that is a good thing to see. (Read more on titanium dioxide in sunscreen)
With this new information, you may be wondering what is best for you and your family. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Many, many studies have shown that sunburns cause DNA damage. Repeated DNA damage can lead to skin cancer development. Just one blistering childhood sunburn can increase the melanoma risk. Continue sunscreen use to avoid a sunburn.
- Sunscreens are not the only tactic to avoid a sunburn. Remember that UPF sun shirts and sun hats are great ways to avoid a sunburn. Avoid the peak sunshine hours of 10 A.M. to 4 P.M.
- Consider using chemical-free sunscreens with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as the active sunscreen ingredients.