This time of year it’s especially important to wear sunscreen!

Every year in the U.S. about one third of the population gets sunburned and as most know, excessive sun exposure is linked to skin cancer.

When properly used, sunscreen is the best way to protect your skin from harmful UV rays and reduce the risk of skin cancer!

Now let’s talk about the different kinds of sunscreen because contrary to popular belief, not all sunscreen ingredients are equal.

There are two main types, physical sunscreens and chemical sunscreens.

Physical Sunscreens:

Physical sunscreens contain active mineral ingredients that sit on the top of the skin and block UV rays. Examples are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

Pros:
  • Naturally broad-spectrum, offering protection against both UVA and UVB rays
  • No wait needed, protects from the sun as soon as its applied
  • Lasts longer when in direct UV light
  • Less likely to cause skin irritation or allergic reactions
  • Better option for sensitive or acne-prone skin because it’s less pore-clogging
  • Longer shelf life 

Cons:
  • May leave white film on skin making some formulas incompatible with darker skin tones
  • Can rub or rinse off easily
  • Must be applied generously to properly coat skin

Chemical Sunscreens:

Chemical sunscreens contain organic compounds such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, and avobenzone which soak into the top layer of skin and work by absorbing UV rays as they enter the skin.

Pros:
  • Less is needed to protect skin 
  • Spreads easier on skin, tends to be a thinner consistency

Cons:
  • Requires 20-30 minutes after application to begin working
  • Higher risk of skin irritation, multiple ingredients are required to make broad spectrum formulas that protect against UVA and UVB
  • Re-application required frequently
  • May clog pores for oily skin types
  • The higher the SPF the higher the chance of irritation
  • Many compounds used are highly toxic to marine life

Environmental Impact:

As mentioned above, a big con of chemical sunscreens is that many of the compounds used are highly toxic to marine organisms, especially coral reefs.

Chemicals like oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene damage coral and are largely responsible for coral reef bleaching.

Coral are bright and colorful because of microscopic algae called zooxanthellae.

Coral bleaching happens when coral becomes damaged or stressed and in response expel the algae, turning them white.

This makes for unhealthy coral reefs that cannot support marine wildlife.

Research done in Hawaii shows that coral reefs are exposed to 6,000 tons of sunscreen lotion every year.

When beachgoers wearing sunscreen go swimming they carry these chemicals into the ocean.

Concentrations as low as one drop of water in over six Olympic-sized swimming pools have shown to cause serious coral bleaching!

Coral reefs support some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet!

Thousands of marine animals depend on coral reefs for survival, including sea turtles, fish, crabs, shrimp, jellyfish, sea birds, starfish, and more!

Sunscreen is essential for skin health and UV protection, but not all sunscreens are the same and its important to be mindful of the differences.

Take a little extra time to look over the ingredients next time you buy some screen, it will only benefit you and the environment!