What’s the difference between chemical & mineral sunscreens?

Debunking Sunscreen Myths

By Hanna Oltmanns - June 25, 2021

There are a lot of rumors out there about chemical and mineral sunscreens. Here at Suntribe we swear by producing and using mineral only sunscreen for several reasons. So we thought we would fill you in on what we know about their differences and why we always choose mineral sunscreens above chemical sunscreens!

First of all, chemical sunscreens have been shown to harm human health and the environment. There is plenty of research showing chemical sunscreens are linked to the bleaching of corals and hormonal disruptions in animals and humans. Which can easily be avoided by simply choosing a mineral and natural sunscreen instead!

What is the difference between chemical & mineral sunscreens?

Mineral sunscreens are safe for your skin and health

Mineral and chemical sunscreens work in very different ways. Chemical sunscreens (relying on chemical UV-filters such as Oxybenzone or Avobenzone) penetrate your skin and bloodstream. This has been linked to negative health effects ranging from allergies, skin irritations and hormonal disruptions to an increased risk of infertility and cancer. Mineral sunscreens on the other side (containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) sit on top of your skin and scatter UV rays like a mirror. In addition to the UV-filters it’s often also the additional ingredient such as perfume, parabens and phthalates (double-check that your mineral sunscreen doesn’t contain any of these!) that irritate sensitive skin when using conventional sunscreen. 

Mineral sunscreens tend to rely on less ingredients and more natural alternatives that make them suitable for sensitive skin, allergies and babies. 

Natural oils and butters used in natural sunscreens moisturize and soothe sun irritated skin.

Mineral sunscreens protect you better from both UVA and UVB rays

You don’t need to be an expert to pick good sunscreens. Once knowing a few crucial things it’s fairly easy: for a start, your sunscreen should protect you from all dangerous UV rays. Whereas the SPF rating tells you only about the percentage of UVB blocked, protection from UVA ist just as important. UVA rays penetrate your skin even deeper and can damage your skin as well as causing wrinkles and sun spots. However, there is no indication of damage in the form of a visible sunburn. 

The beauty of mineral sunscreens is that they usually contain zinc oxide which is one of the most effective blockers of both UVB and UVA rays. This means that they provide the “broad spectrum” protection you’re after.

The mineral UV-filter Zinc Oxide also don’t break down in sunlight as some chemical UV-filters do. Zinc Oxide is highly photostable, which means it doesn’t loose its protective power under UV light exposure.

What is the difference between chemical & mineral sunscreens?

Mineral sunscreens protect you immediately

Did you know that you’re supposed to put on conventional chemical sunscreens before you go out in the sun? That’s because chemical sunscreens need to be absorbed into your skin before having any protective effect. 

Mineral sunscreens on the other hand are also called physical sunscreens because of the physical barrier they build on top of your skin. They protect you from the first moment of application so you (or your kids) don’t have to wait before running into the water!

What is the difference between chemical & mineral sunscreen

Mineral sunscreens are safe for the ocean and coral reefs

Research has shown that 10% of the world’s coral reefs are threatened by bleaching from a single chemical UV-filter called Oxybenzone. A single drop of sunscreen in what is the equivalent of an Olympic swimming pool can damage coral reefs! Over the past year it has been confirmed that conventionally used chemical UV-filters directly endanger reefs and marine wildlife. They can lead to hormonal disruptions in fish for example. Zinc Oxide is the only mineral UV-filter that we use at Suntribe. It is currently considered the safest option for the ocean according to the latest state of research. Choose a reef-safe sunscreen!

What is the difference between mineral & chemical sunscreens?

Mineral sunscreens don’t have to make you look white and stain your clothes

Probably the biggest rumor about mineral sunscreens is that they make you look like a ghost and stain your clothes forever once you spill some by accident. Well, while this might have been true at some point, there are plenty of ways to reduce the whitening effect and choose ingredients that can be washed out of fabric. At Suntribe we use organic cacao powder for our liquid Body & Face sunscreen for a natural tint. This makes the sunscreen blend in with your skin tone so that it’s barely visible anymore, depending on your skin type and how much you apply. If you should get some of our mineral sunscreen onto your clothes don’t worry! All our sunscreens can be washed out of your clothes, by simply using some hot water, a bit of soap and rubbing out the stains. Your shirts, pants, or swimwear will then look like new.