Physical vs Chemical Actives in Sunscreens

May 02, 2017

Physical vs Chemical Actives in Sunscreens - Olavie

For those of you who know us, we have been advocating physical sunblock for a long time (as of writing this article, we do not sell any sunscreens yet). 

Mineral sunscreen ingredients like zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide sit on the skin to block to block out the harmful UV rays and offer broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Many people, however, do not like the pasty white appearance as a result of using physical block and turn to chemical sunscreens instead. However, just to ensure you look good in the sun may actually be bad for both you and the environment.

According to Environmental Working Group, many chemical sunscreens not only irritate skin, they can also cause hormone disruption. These chemicals are absorbed into the body and can wreak havoc later.   (see In addition, chemical sunscreens, which break down in UV light, ultimately lose their ability to protect your skin and generate more free radicals, which can cause premature aging.

What's really alarming is that there is now finding that one of these chemical sunscreen active ingredients, oxybenzone, is  destroying coral reefs, and has toxic effects on fish larvae and embryos (see ). So while we decide to look not so pasty at the beach, we are creating detrimental effect on our environment. 

We recently went to a talk given by John Warner, an American Chemist who is the Co-founder, President, and Chief Technology Officer for the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry. He pointed out the main issue lies with how chemists have been trained in schools. The curriculum focuses on how to create chemicals to solve certain problems and achieve certain goals, if you will, yet there is never much devotion of resources to see what impact the chemicals will have on our health and environment. And by the time we find out about the detrimental effects, it's often too late.

Natural ingredients on the other hand, have been around since the beginning of human history or longer, and the benefits and contraindications are already well known. That's why when it comes to skin care and healthy living, we advocate natural ingredients and products. And that applies to sunscreen as well.

So next time you go to the beach, will you put up with the pasty white look for a few hours to protect our environment and your skin for the long term?

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