There are almost too many sunscreen products to try these days. While all of them ostensibly protect your skin from getting burned during a day at the beach, how can you tell which sunscreen creams and sprays are really worth your time?
The truth lies in the ingredients. Some lesser mineral sunscreens are composed of harmful or synthetic ingredients instead of all-natural compounds and elements. Natural sunscreens like our Solar Goo are made of all-natural primary and secondary ingredients that combine to produce a fantastic skin shield that works without harming you or the environment.
Let’s dive a little deeper into this topic and look at which ingredients make up the best mineral sunscreens on the market, but first--a quick review of the different types of sunscreen!
Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreen
There are two types of sunscreen products: mineral and chemical.
- Mineral sunscreen products contain active ingredients (minerals) that physically rest on your skin and either block or reflect the sun's rays. Companies combine these minerals with other ingredients to create a cream-like consistency that is easier to apply, instead of a dust or powder like the earliest sunscreens.
- Chemical sunscreen products are meant to be absorbed by the top layers of the skin. Once absorbed, the active ingredients in these sunscreen types can absorb UV radiation, then expel it as heat.
The Benefits of Mineral Sunscreens Over Chemical Sunscreens
Why use mineral sunscreen over chemical sunscreen?
- Many chemical sunscreen products are made with parabens – artificial preservatives known to cause negative health effects down the road – and other chemicals that can disrupt your hormone balance or cause long-term poisoning.
- Harmful chemical sunscreen ingredients like oxybenzone are also less effective overall compared to mineral sunscreen products. The mineral active ingredients in top sunscreen products can protect you from more UVB radiation than even the best chemical sunscreens.
- Mineral sunscreen products are better for those with sensitive skin because chemical sunscreen can often irritate the skin either with an allergic reaction or even a mild chemical burn. This is due to the plethora of irritants and allergens present in most chemical sunscreen products, such as oxybenzone, dibenzoylmethane, cinnamate, and benzophenone.
- Mineral sunscreen is also better for the environment. Oxybenzone and octinoxate, two of the most common ingredients in chemical sunscreens, were recently banned since they were discovered to be terrible for marine life. Since many of us only use sunscreen when we go to the beach, it just makes sense to use a sunscreen that won’t harm the natural environment.
- If you plan to use a lip balm that includes sunscreen elements, you’ll want mineral active ingredients instead of chemical ones. Green Goo’s Lip Balm uses zinc oxide, a well-known mineral that can protect the particularly vulnerable skin on our lips against sun damage and chemical damage!
- Finally, mineral sunscreen works a lot more quickly than its chemical counterparts. You can put mineral sunscreen on your skin up to 10 minutes before stepping into the sun and get excellent resistance. Chemical sunscreen products usually require a longer absorption period before they are really effective.
Top Ingredients that Make the Best Mineral Sunscreen
Mineral sunscreen products will make use of two main active ingredients in the majority of cases. Other minerals either don’t have the science to support them or are actively harmful.
Zinc oxide is a phenomenal active ingredient that comes with tons of benefits besides its ability to reflect harmful solar radiation. It's almost invisible to the naked eye, can help protect your skin, and it's non-comedogenic: a term that means the zinc oxide won’t clog up your pores.
Green Goo’s Solar Goo uses zinc oxide as its active ingredient alongside other nourishing all-natural ingredients like calendula oil and beeswax to protect your skin for up to 40 minutes at a time.
Titanium dioxide is also a common active mineral ingredient in many sunscreen products. It’s a powdered form of titanium and is a little thicker when mixed with certain carrier agents and creams. Still, it’s mostly invisible to the naked eye, non-comedogenic, and very gentle on the skin.
Other Ingredients in the Best Mineral Sunscreen
The active ingredients are only one part of what makes a good sunscreen product. Many top sunblocks will also use extra ingredients to change the product's texture, moisturizing properties, or water resistance.
Extracted flower oils are wonderful carrier oils, not only because they add a smooth texture to sunscreen, but also because they are complex, nutrient rich oils that feed, protect, and moisturize your skin. Top flower oils often used in sunscreen products include calendula oil and sunflower seed oil. These oils can help to moisturize the skin and prevent it from drying out once sunscreen is applied.
As the name implies, shea butter adds a creamy, buttery texture to any sunscreen product and makes it easy to rub small mineral particles into the skin.
Beeswax is a well-regarded natural ingredient for its moisturizing and revitalizing properties. Not only does it feel great to the touch, but it also helps the sunscreen ingredients stay on your skin over a longer period.
Finally, great sunscreen products will include plenty of vitamins to nourish the skin and keep it durable, even during a long day out in the sunshine. All-natural sunscreen ingredients like sunflower and rosehip seed oil will contain plenty of vitamins A and E, which are particularly important as they work as antioxidants that can protect your skin from free radical damage caused by too much sun exposure. Additionally, vitamins A and E can promote your skin’s collagen production, too, helping to rejuvenate your skin’s overall appearance.
How Sunscreen Works
While we need to spend a certain amount of time in the sun every day so our bodies can produce vitamin D, too much sun time can also cause our skin to burn and lead to a number of harmful side effects. The sun emits three types of solar radiation, two of which are blocked by conventional sunscreen products:
- Ultraviolet A or UVA radiation is the first type. These sun rays can penetrate all the way to the lowest and thickest layer of your skin, the dermis. These rays can make your skin appear to age faster and produce wrinkles more frequently.
- Ultraviolet B or UVB radiation is next. These rays are shorter in length, but they’re the ones primarily responsible for sunburns we’ve all received from time to time. They can also cause damage to your skin cells’ DNA, leading to certain types of skin cancer.
- Ultraviolet C or UVC radiation is last. This radiation is actually blocked by the earth’s atmosphere, so sunscreen products don’t bother protecting against it.
In order to prevent rays from the sun from reaching and harming your skin, sunscreen either absorbs those rays or physically blocks and reflects them. As it happens, physical sunscreen is usually a lot more effective and much healthier for you overall.
The SPF Scale
Before we move on, know that all sunscreen products are required to have an SPF rating. SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor”, which is a measure of how effective a given sunscreen product is at protecting you from UVB radiation. UVA radiation protection is a little more difficult to measure, but broad-spectrum sunscreen can protect you from both types of rays.
The SPF scale has diminishing returns, though higher numbers are almost always better. The higher the SPF rating, the more UVB radiation the sunscreen protects you from. Keep in mind that no sunscreen product can protect you from 100% of all solar radiation.
Most dermatologists recommend that you use a sunscreen product of at least SPF 15 or higher. This can block up to 93% of UVB rays. SPF 30 blocks 97%, and so on. After SPF 50 or so, higher numbers don’t produce any statistically meaningful change in protection, so you can ignore products that advertise crazy numbers like “SPF 100.”
Side Effects of Mineral Sunscreen
Mineral sunscreen side effects are almost always minor. Some folks experience mild allergies or rashes upon applying a mineral sunscreen to their skin. If you're worried, it's always best to apply a little bit at first to make sure you won't get an allergic reaction before spreading it all over your whole body.
More commonly, people experience a light sheen that covers their body upon applying the sunblock due to the zinc oxide found in a lot of mineral sunscreens. This is unavoidable for most people and it may make you appear sweaty, or like you have a translucent film covering your skin.
In the end, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are two of the best ingredients in top mineral sunscreen creams and sprays. We’ve used the former in our products and people love it – since both of these active ingredients are totally natural, you can rest assured that you aren’t putting anything harmful onto your skin or into the environment!