“Ouch! Why do all sunscreens sting SO much?”
Summer’s tough when you have sensitive skin. You can’t skip the sunscreen, but every single one you try breaks you out in a nasty rash or makes your skin burn like you’ve been stung by a hundred bees.
Like, wasn’t this thing supposed to save your skin? Instead, it’s ruining it. Your holidays, too. While all your friends are playing beach volley clad in tiny bikinis, you stay under the shade, your body hidden by layers of protective clothing and huge sunglasses. *sighs*
Are all your summers going to be like this?
Nope. Sunscreen doesn’t have to be another enemy that makes your skin freak out. It can be your BFF. You just have to pick the right one. Not all sunscreens are created equal…
Mineral Sunscreen VS Chemical Sunscreen
Let me jump on my soapbox for a moment, ok? Thanks!
ALL sunscreens are technically chemical. Anything that’s made of matter is a chemical, including water. You just can’t make a sunscreen without chemicals.
But, in recent years, chemical has become synonym with “made in a lab” or “synthetic” as opposed to “derived from nature (even if it’s then so heavily processed in a lab it’s not natural anymore)” so that’s how I’ll use the term here, ok?
Good. Now we’ve sorted that out, let’s move on. There are two types of sunscreens:
- Chemical sunscreens: they use synthetic UV filters, like Avobenzone, Octocrylene and Mexoryl
- Mineral sunscreens: they only use mineral-based UV filters, such as Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide.
If you have sensitive skin, mineral sunscreen is the kind you want. Here’s why:
1. Mineral Sunscreen Is Gentler On The Skin
Chemical UV filters, such as Avobenzone and Octocrylene, are known to cause allergies and irritations. If you’ve reacted badly to sunscreens in the past, chances are one of these guys were to blame (click here for the full list of irritating chemical UV filters).
Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, on the other hand, are pretty inert, so there’s less chance they’ll react with your skin to trigger a negative reaction.
2. Mineral Sunscreen Provides Stable, Broad Spectrum Protection
Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are multitaskers. Zinc Oxide protects, on its own, against the entire UV range. Titanium Dioxide defends you from ALL UVB and MOST UVA rays. Pretty impressive, huh?
Chemical UV filters, on the other hand, are (with the exceptions of Mexoryl and Tinosorb, which aren’t available in the US, anyway) one trick ponies. They either protect from UVA or UVB rays.
Avobenzone, for example, protects only from UVA rays. But, it’s very unstable and degrades quickly when exposed to sunlight. So, it needs something to keep it hard at work. And provide protection from UVB rays, since it’s useless against those.
Enter Octocrylene. It stabilizes Abovenzone and provides protection against UVB rays. But its UV fighting capabilities are weak. It needs a helping hand to keep all those rays away.
Enter Octinoxate, a more powerful UVB filter.
You see where I’m going with this?
You can use only Zinc Oxide. But, you can’t use only one chemical UV filter. You need 5 or 6 of them to do the same job. That’s 5 or 6 opportunities for your skin to break out in a rash…
3. Mineral Sunscreen Is A Skin Protectant
What does that mean? A skin protect protects injured skin from harmful stimuli, and provides relief to it.
Or, put simply, it protects skin from irritations. If your skin is already irritated, it’ll soothe it.
Compare that with chemical UV filters. They can irritate your skin and soothe nothing.
What Are The Best Mineral Sunscreens?
Titanium dioxide is a good nice-to-have in sunscreens, but it’s zinc oxide the one you want. Here’s where to find it:
- Badger Balm ($42.00): 18.75% zinc oxide + natural extracts. Available at iHerb.
- EltaMD UV Pure BroadSpectrum SPF 47 ($24.50): 10% zinc oxide + 5.5% titanium dioxide + water-resistant technology + dry finish for oily skin. Available at SkincareRX.
- Replenix Sheer Physical Sunscreen Cream SPF 50 ($32.00): 13.75% zinc oxide + antioxidants. Available at Skinstore.
The Bottom Line
Just because you have sensitive skin, it doesn’t mean you have to hide under layers of clothing or be tucked away indoors. Get yourself a mineral sunscreen and enjoy the sun safely!
Do you have sensitive skin? If so, have you already done the switch to a mineral sunscreen? Recommend your fave one in the comments below.
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