When it comes to selecting a sunscreen, the options are seemingly endless. There are grocery store aisles devoted to this essential beauty product, but how many of those are made up of natural ingredients that deliver physical sun protection? Today I want to discuss the options you have in terms of physical UV protectants, and the benefits each has to offer!
What is the difference between chemical and physical sun protection?
Most of the sunscreens that line the aisles of your local grocery or drugstore are likely made with chemical sunscreen ingredients (either as a whole, or in combination with a physical UV protectant). These UVA/UVB fighting chemicals (of which there are many, many different options) work by absorbing the sun’s rays. While highly effective in the protection department, these chemical filters have been known to have higher irritation potential, and can even cause allergic reactions.
Physical sunscreens, on the other hand, work by physically deflecting or blocking the runs rays. It is like a physical layer of protection being placed onto your skin. The two ingredients that deliver this physical protection? Look for Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) and Zinc Oxide (ZnO) when browsing the sunscreen aisle. While both of these are known for being relatively skin friendly, experience shows that Zinc Oxide might be the better option for those who are prone to breakouts.
All About Titanium Dioxide.
One of the most beautiful benefits of Titanium Dioxide, aside from protecting your skin from harmful UVA/UVB rays, is how gentle it is on the skin. It is generally recognized as safe for use on sensitive or rosacea-prone skin, and is not a general culprit in the classic “sunscreen eye stinging” phenomena that occurs when you sweat or swim. One drawback? Titanium Dioxide can be heavy, hence: why it might not be the best option for acneic skin types.
All About Zinc Oxide.
Now, for the exciting part. While I love Titanium Dioxide for its ability to physically block UV rays while remaining friendly to the skin, I have always been in awe of the many things that Zinc Oxide can deliver. First, and foremost, it is one of the safest ingredients to use when it comes to protecting your skin from harmful UVA/UVB rays. But what else can this fantastic skin care ingredient deliver?
- It Helps to Heal Your Skin: Zinc Oxide as an ingredient has a long history of aiding in wound treatment. It has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that make it a wonderful asset to wound healing, and has been shown to help soothe diaper rash as well!
- It is Great for Sensitive Skin: The same anti-inflammatory properties that make this ingredient so wonderful for wound healing also make it wonderful for sensitive skin. That includes eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea prone skin types!
- It Can Benefit Acneic Skin: Multiple studies have actually linked the use of zinc (both topically and orally) to better skin. So if you have anceic skin, or are weary of sunscreen for fear of causing a breakout, simply reach for formulas that contain Zinc Oxide.
How to Use Physical Sunscreen vs. Chemical Sunscreen.
So you’ve decided to make the switch over to physical sunscreen. I am sure you are now wondering how you should use it in comparison to traditional chemical sunscreens. Luckily, these two should be used in exactly the same way. There is simply one distinct different: physical sunscreen starts providing protection immediately upon application, whereas chemical typically takes 15-30 to become effective.
Now, for reapplication.
No matter what type of sunscreen you choose, it is absolutely essential that you are diligent about reapplication. Believe me, as a skin care professional I have heard the gamut of excuses in the “why I cannot reapply” department – but the health and appearance of your skin really depends on this. Yes, sun damage is not only a leading cause of skin cancer, but also a leading cause of aging (wrinkles, sun spots, you name it!).
I recommend reapplication every two hours or more (depending on your activity level when out in the sun). If you are going to be spending your day indoors, save for those of you who work in windowless spaces, you still need to do your part to reapply 1-3 times throughout the day. You can find body formulas that are nourishing (like applying a lotion) and facial formulas that are quick, easy, and wont disturb your makeup (like a powered, brush-on formula).
More important than what type of sunscreen you choose is simply choosing to wear sunscreen on a daily basis. Whether you choose to go chemical, or decide to use physical, sun protection is essential to your appearance and your health. My closing note, as a skin care professional? If at first you don’t find a formula you love, try try again! Remember, there are so many different types of sunscreens out there – don’t be afraid to play around with the options!