Is Chemical or Mineral Sunscreen Safer?

The Best Sunscreen To Safely Shield You From the Sun

chemical-or-mineral-sunscreenThe sun will begin shining brighter as warmer weather heads our way.

That means you should begin to stock up on sunscreen to keep your skin healthy and burn-free.

But with so many different options on the shelves – and new brands popping up all the time – it’s important for you to understand what it is that you’re plastering all over your body.

There are two common types of sunscreens available: chemical and mineral.

Both can be purchased everywhere, and they may even be on the shelf next to each other. But while they provide great sun protection, one may be less harmful to your body.

What’s in Chemical Sunscreen

Chemical sunscreens are made from, yep you guessed it, chemicals. They’re hard to pronounce but in case you’d like to know EXACTLY what you’re putting on your skin, they include:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Avobenzone
  • Octisalate
  • Octocrylene
  • Homosalate
  • Octinoxate

The Federal Food and Drug Administration has called for more testing on the potential toxicity of all the ingredients in chemical sunscreens. But until such studies are completed, we don’t know what long-term effects may be caused by applying copious amounts of these creams to large areas of our bodies.

We do know this for sure: if a sunscreen you’re using contains PABA or Tolamine salicylate, stop using it. The FDA does not believe those two ingredients are safe for use and should not be in sunscreen that’s legally sold in the U.S.


How Chemical sunscreens work

Chemical sunscreens stave off sunburns by acting like a sponge. They allow UV light to penetrate your skin. After your skin absorbs the light, the above-mentioned ingredients generate a chemical reaction that converts UV light to heat and the heat disappears.

This kind of sunscreen is very easy to rub into your skin and is often formulated to leave very little residue.

All About Mineral Sunscreen

Ever worn a sunscreen that left a white film on you even after you showered? You used mineral sunscreen.

Mineral sunscreens contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, both of which are considered safe and effective by the FDA, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.


How Mineral Sunscreens Work

Mineral sunscreens work like a shield. They prevent the sun’s rays from causing a burn by deflecting them away from your skin. These sunscreens don’t contain harsh chemicals, so they’re especially helpful to those with skin sensitivities.

While chemical sunscreens absorb into the skin to work, few if any zinc or titanium particles penetrate the skin at all. That means those ingredients won’t likely reach any living tissue and you can feel pretty confident when applying mineral sunscreen before heading out into the sun.

Always Protect Yourself

The most common form of cancer for Americans is skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, nearly 20 people die from melanoma every day in this country. The leading cause of melanoma? Exposure to ultraviolet light.

I’ve never met anyone who enjoyed putting on sunscreen. I doubt you have either. But sunscreen is part of our best defense against the sun’s harmful rays, so please, remember to protect yourself this summer.

To your health,

Dr. Laura

The content on is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.