Choosing Your Sun Protection Wisely - Part I

8/11/2011 Osmosis Skincare 1 Comments

Everyone knows you’re supposed to wear sunscreen.  Right?  It seems like a pretty logical conclusion.  It reduces sunburns and pre-cancerous lesions, such as actinic keratosis.  But with the proliferation of products on the shelves today, how do you choose?  There are a few things to consider in addition to just the SPF number on the label.

When it comes to topical sun protection products, you have two choices – sunscreen or sunblock.  Sunscreens are chemical agents that actually absorb the sun’s rays; sunblocks are minerals that reflect the rays. 


Sunscreens reduce sunburns and pre-cancerous lesions.  However, many of the ingredients in chemical sunscreens have been proven to have detrimental effects on the skin and body.  Some sunscreen chemicals – particularly avobenzone – can create free radicals when they are exposed to UV light.  Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that tear down DNA, cell walls, and much more.  In addition, sunscreens can cause estrogenic side effects in the body as well as inflammatory changes in the skin that could actually increase skin cancer occurrences and aging. 


There are only two sunblocks currently being used:  titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.  Both of these naturally-occurring minerals provide good, broad spectrum coverage of both UVA and UVB rays.  Because sunscreens are designed to absorb the sun’s rays, they are much more likely to break down into damaging byproducts than sunblocks.  However, zinc and titanium can also become free radicals in the skin.  Since zinc oxide has only one oxygen molecule, it will create half as much damage as titanium dioxide with its two oxygen molecules if and when it is broken down.  Both of these molecules have less of a tendency to become free radicals in the skin because of their reduced absorption.

The amount of inflammation from zinc and titanium is much lower than what is created by the breakdown of sunscreens.  In some sunblocks, the minerals are coated with silica, which is an element that softens the skin and strengthens its connective tissue.  But when it coats zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, it serves another purpose:  to prevent the minerals from becoming free radicals in the skin.  For this reason, we prefer silica-coated zinc as the safest broad-spectrum protection currently on the market. 

In part II, we will explore some of the chemicals found in sunscreens and why you should take that into consideration when making your sun protection choice.

You Might Also Like

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.