December 27, 2021

Mineral Vs Chemical Sunscreen

In a nutshell: 

Both Mineral and Chemical Sunscreens effectively protect from UV rays, but that’s about where the similarities end. Mineral sunscreens sit on top of the skin, creating a physical barrier to deflect sunlight whereas chemical sunscreens absorb into the skin and bloodstream, utilizing chemical reactions to convert sunlight into heat. These chemical UV filters pose threats to human and environmental health. While a pure mineral sunscreen is your safest bet, not all mineral sunscreens are created equal. 

In this article, we will take a deep dive into the differences between mineral and chemical sunscreens. How they work, pros and cons, as well as their effects on your skin, overall health, and that of our environment.Terminology can be tricky here - scroll to the bottom of this article for a glossary of terms and check out the links that we have built into the article for more information on specific subjects. 

What is Mineral Sunscreen

A mineral sunscreen is made with minerals exclusively as active ingredients. A mineral sunscreen works by creating a physical barrier between your skin and the sun's damaging UV rays. They are often called physical sunscreens because the barrier of minerals deflects the sun’s UV rays. 

Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are the only two mineral sunscreen active ingredients. Just because your sunscreen label says "Mineral" or “Mineral-Based”, it may still contain chemical ingredients. This recent study demonstrates the danger of chemical-mineral mixtures. Several sunscreen companies are facing lawsuits about misleading claims such as “mineral-based” and “reef safe” but government agencies do not yet regulate the use of these terms. That is why it is important to turn the bottle around and check the active ingredients list to determine whether or not you’re truly holding a mineral sunscreen.

Mineral Sunscreen Ingredients

Mineral sunscreen active ingredients are Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. These minerals are the only sunscreen active ingredients FDA recognizes as safe and effective (GRASE). 

Although mineral sunscreens protect your skin by creating a physical barrier between your skin and the sun, some lower quality formulas contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide nanoparticles. These nanoparticles are small enough to absorb into the skin and bloodstream and pose human health risks. TropicSport only uses the highest quality non-nano minerals. 

How Long does Mineral Sunscreen Last

The effective duration of a mineral sunscreen depends on the quality of its formula.We recommend that you reapply every chance you get, especially if you are swimming or sweating. You should pay attention to the water resistance level of the sunscreen. Water resistance is generally categorized into one of four sections: zero resistance, FDA approved 40-minute resistance, FDA approved 80-minute resistance, and Australia's 240-minute resistance. 

TropicSport has tested to the highest standard, passing the AU 240 minute test as well as the US 80 minute test. Even though our sunscreen lasts up to 4 hours, we recommend reapplying often to be as safe as possible.

Is Mineral Sunscreen Reef Safe

A reef-safe mineral sunscreen will use onlynon-nanoZinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide as its active ingredients. Again, make sure to check the ingredients section on your sunscreen bottle. 

The term "reef safe" is not regulated by government agencies, therefore anybody can legally make the claim without having to back it up. Customers, however, are responding - several sunscreen companies are currently facing class action lawsuits about misleading claims including “reef-safe” and “mineral based”. These companies label their sunscreens as "reef safe", but still have active chemical ingredients that harm coral reefs. 

To make sure you are getting a reef safe mineral sunscreen, pick that bottle up and read the ingredients list! 

Does Mineral Sunscreen Work

Yes, Mineral sunscreens provide protection from UV radiation as labeled. Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are two safe ingredients that protect your skin from the sun. You are able to get the same Sun Protection Factor (SPF) from a mineral sunscreen as you would a chemical sunscreen. 

What is Chemical Sunscreen

A chemical sunscreen contains organic chemical compounds such as Oxybenzone, Octocrylene, Octinoxate, and Avobenzone as active ingredients. These chemicals absorb into your skin and create a chemical reaction that converts the sun’s UV rays into heat. The heat is then released by the skin. 

A large body of evidence indicates that chemical UV filters pose human and environmental health risks. As the chemical compounds, many of which are carcinogens and or endocrine disruptors, absorb into your skin they enter your bloodstream. In addition, they damage both ocean and freshwater ecosystems. Certain chemical ingredients have been banned in several locations for their environmental impact.

Chemical Sunscreen Ingredients

  • Oxybenzone
  • Avobenzone
  • Octisalate
  • Octinoxate
  • Octocrylene
  • Ensulizole
  • Homosalate
  • Cinoxate
  • Dioxybenzone
  • Meradimate
  • Padimate O
  • Sulisobenzone

None of the ingredients above are generally recognized as safe and effective (GRASE) by the FDA. At this point FDA does not currently have sufficient data to grant this classification to chemical UV filters. It is important to note that the FDA has not banned them either. While we know that several of these ingredients are carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and environmental toxins, it's tough to present data to prove causal relationships in issues with as many variables as cancer or coral bleaching. 

Does Chemical Sunscreen Work

Chemical sunscreens provide protection from UV radiation as labeled. We, however, recommend that you don’t use chemical sunscreens due to human and environmental health risks.Absorption into the skin also allows these chemicals, many of which are carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, to enter your bloodstream.The bonding and absorption into the skin can also have adverse effects on sensitive skin, such as burning and redness. 

Is Chemical Sunscreen Reef Safe

Chemical sunscreens are not reef safe. Even if the packaging is labeled "Reef Safe", it could still contain environmentally damaging chemicals. Chemical UV filters, especially oxybenzone and octinoxate are notorious for damaging coral reefs. Places such as the Virgin Islands and others have banned the importation, sale, or possession of sunscreens containing the chemicals mentioned earlier. Environmental concerns, however, are not limited to coral reefs. Read about their impact on freshwater ecosystems. The best way to know if a sunscreen is reef safe and ecofriendly is to ensure Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are the only active ingredients. 

At TropicSport, we strive to protect your skin without harming our environment. Coral are keystone species, meaning they are essential in balancing our ecosystems. Serving as spawning grounds for roughly 25% of all marine life, a vast number of species are dependent on coral reefs for their survival. Read more about the importance of coral and the threat of Coral Bleaching here.

Is Chemical Sunscreen Reef Safe

What is a Mineral-Based sunscreen

When shopping for sunscreens, beware of sunscreens labeled “mineral-based”. “Mineral-based” sunscreens usually contain a mix of mineral active ingredients and chemical active ingredients. A recent study shows that chemical ingredients degrade within these mixtures and pose additional human and environmental health risks. Several sunscreen companies are facing class action lawsuits for misleading customers with this term. For this reason, we advise staying away from any sunscreen with chemical active ingredients. 

How to Tell if a Sunscreen is Mineral Or Chemical

To tell if a sunscreen is mineral or chemical is as simple as reading the active ingredients list and comparing it with our lists above. Chemical sunscreens contain any of the 12 chemical UV filters. Mineral sunscreens will only use Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, the only sunscreen active ingredients recognized by the FDA as safe and effective.

Benefits of Mineral Sunscreen - Non-Nano Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide

TropicSport:

  • Reef Safe and Eco-Friendly 
  • Non-Nano minerals will not absorb into your skin and bloodstream
  • Use the only two sunscreen ingredients the FDA recognizes as safe and effective
  • Broad Spectrum formulas protect from both UVB and UVA rays
  • Ideal for sensitive skin
  • Safe For Babies and children (ask doctor about use before 6 months old)
  • Reduced chance of clogging pores

Is Mineral Sunscreen Better - Why use Mineral Sunscreens?

A mineral sunscreen is better than a chemical sunscreen because mineral sunscreens are the safest option for both human and environmental health. They provide the same sun protection for your skin without damaging our environment or compromising your overall health. A win for you and our planet.

Best Mineral Sunscreen

If you are looking for a safe, highly water resistant, truly reef safe, and eco-friendly mineral sunscreen, then we have the best mineral sunscreen for you! All of our sunscreens at TropicSport are Broad Spectrum, protecting you from both UVA and UVB radiation. They are free of chemical active ingredients, utilizing the only two ingredients Generally Recognized as Safe and Effective (GRASE), minerals Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. While Most mineral sunscreens leave a greasy white residue, TropicSport goes on clear when you use the correct amount (a dime sized glob for your face, a shot glass worth for the entire body). TropicSport lasts longer and a little bit goes a long way so one recyclable aluminum tube will last you a while!

TropicSport is safe for you, safe for our environment, and lasts up to 4 hours. We’ll even back it up with a 30-day no hassle back return policy. If you don't like the product, you have 30 days to return, simply contactsupport@tropicsport.com!

Mineral Sunscreen Vs Chemical Sunscreen - FAQs

Is Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum

Mineral sunscreens can be broad spectrum. Just check for the "broad spectrum" label on the packaging. Unlike many sunscreen claims, the use of this term is regulated and requires testing. A broad spectrum sunscreen protects you from both UVA and UVB rays. TropicSport Mineral sunscreen achieves this level of protection with a proprietary formula of Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. 

Is Chemical Sunscreen Broad Spectrum

A chemical sunscreen can be broad spectrum, just check for a "broad spectrum" label on the packaging. Make sure to read this article and the associated links to understand the risks of chemical sunscreen. 

Does Mineral Sunscreen Clog Pores 

Mineral sunscreens are less likely to clog pores than chemical sunscreens because of their ingredients. Non-nano Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are both non-comedognic, unlike most chemical sunscreen ingredients. This is a huge bonus for mineral sunscreens if you are looking for a face sunscreen!

To ensure that your mineral sunscreen does not clog pores you need to look for a “non-comedogenic” label on the packaging. Even though Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are non-comedogenic, other ingredients in the formula could still clog pores.

Does Chemical Sunscreen Clog Pores

Certain active ingredients in chemical sunscreens clog pores. Since chemical sunscreens absorb into your skin, people can experience skin irritation. This irritation in turn makes it easier for them to break out.

Another reason chemical sunscreens clog pores stems from how they protect you from the sun. Since they turn UV rays into heat, wearing a chemical sunscreen can increase the amount you sweat. If you are wearing a sweat resistant chemical sunscreen, that sweat will be trapped on your skin thus increasing your chances of clogged pores.

Does Mineral Sunscreen Expire

Yes, mineral sunscreens expire. While the ingredients in a mineral sunscreen are more stable than those in a chemical sunscreen, once it has expired it will be less effective. It won't spread evenly, thus not creating the protective layer you need to get full sun protection. 

To check if your mineral sunscreen has expired, first look for an expiration date.The FDA requires all sunscreens that have a shelf life under 3 years to label their sunscreen with an expiration date. That being said, if your sunscreen was purchased more than three years ago and does not have an expiration date, consider it expired. Some other ways you can tell if your sunscreen has gone bad include a change in consistency, smell, or color. 

Another way to reduce the chances of your sunscreen expiring is proper storage. Store it out of direct sunlight or excessive heat - don't leave it in your car on a hot day, and keep it in the shade when you're on the pool deck.

Does Chemical Sunscreen Expire

Yes, chemical sunscreens expire. To find out if your chemical sunscreen has expired use the same tactics as a mineral sunscreen. You need to ask yourself:

  • Did the color change?
  • Did the consistency change?
  • Is it past the expiration date?
    • If there is no visible expiration date, has it been 3 years since purchase?
  • Does it smell different?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then chances are your sunscreen has expired! Certain chemical ingredients are known to break down into carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, so it is especially important to understand the dating on a chemical sunscreen. 

Difference between Mineral and Chemical Sunscreen

There are many differences between mineral and chemical sunscreens. Please refer to the table, for an easy to comprehend comparison:

Chemical Sunscreen

Mineral Sunscreen

How does it work?

Absorbs into your skin, turning UV rays into heat

Sits on top of your skin, deflecting UV rays

Possible Active Ingredients

Oxybenzone, Avobenzone, Octisalate, Octinoxate, Octocrylene, Ensulizole, Homosalate, Cinoxate, Dioxybenzone, Meradimate, Padimate O, Sulisobenzone

[not recognized as safe and effective by the FDA]

Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide

[both recognized as safe and effective by the FDA]

How does it feel on your skin?

Generally lightweight, but increased irritation for sensitive skin

Depends on the quality of the formula

Does it leave a white cast?

Possible with overapplication

Depending on the brand of sunscreen. TropicSport leaves no white cast when applied properly

Good For Sensitive Skin?

Can cause skin irritation, redness, burning

Generally better for sensitive skin than Chemical sunscreen

Is it Reef Safe?

No

In general, Pure mineral sunscreens are reef-safe

Are They Broad Spectrum?

Check the Label

Check the label

Do They Clog Pores?

Yes, due to skin irritation, heat production, and increased sweat production

Has the possibility to clog pores if other ingredients are comedogenic

 

Difference between Chemical and Mineral Sunscreen


If you want to continue learning about how sunscreen affects humans and our environment check out our other informational articles.

Glossary 

Mineral Sunscreen - Only contains active ingredients, Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide

Physical Sunscreen - Synonymous with Mineral Sunscreen

Pure Mineral Sunscreen - Synonymous with Mineral Sunscreen. We sometimes use this to clear up the confusion caused by "mineral-based" sunscreen.

Mineral Based Sunscreen - These often contain a mixture of mineral and chemical active ingredients

Chemical Sunscreen - Contains any of the following:Oxybenzone,Avobenzone,Octisalate,Octinoxate,Octocrylene,Ensulizole,Homosalate,Cinoxate,Dioxybenzone,Meradimate,Padimate O,Sulisobenzone

Chemical UV filter - A chemical active sunscreen ingredient

Nanoparticles - Microscopic particles capable of passing through the skin barrier

Non-Nano - Contains no nanoparticles

Reef-Safe - Meant to mean that a sunscreen does not damage coral reefs. This term is not regulated by government agencies, so sunscreen companies often make false claims in marketing.

Reef-Friendly - See reef-safe

Zinc Oxide - Safe and effective mineral UV filter

Titanium Dioxide - Safe and effective mineral UV filter

Avobenzone

Oxybenzone 

Octinoxate

Octocrylene 

Octisalate 

GRASE - FDA safety standard (Generally Recognized As Safe and Effective)

UVA Radiation - Less intense, more abundant form of solar radiation. Associated with skin aging - Check out the link for more info

UVB Radiation - More intense, less abundant for of solar radiation. Associated with skin burning - Check out the link for more info

UV Index - Check out this link

Broad Spectrum - A sunscreen with this label will protect from both UVA and UVB rays

SPF - Sun Protection Factor - Check out the link for details

Coral Bleaching - Check out this link

Jack Herrmann
Jack Herrmann


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