WHY ZINC OXIDE IS THE BEST CHOICE FOR NATURAL SUNSCREENS
By Toni Tetzner - January 12, 2019
We all love the sun and we are sure that the sun loves us right back, sometimes even a little too much. So, we have to make sure to protect ourselves from the harmful effects of worshipping the sun.
Unfortunately some chemical ingredients in sunscreens can be more harmful than protective, defying their original purpose of protecting your skin. Luckily there’s two safe alternatives out there: the physical (also called mineral) UV-filters Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. They build a protective layer on top of your skin instead of penetrating your skin as chemical UV-filters do.
If you want to use the correct terminology, both Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are also chemicals. Sounds confusing? It is.
The term “chemical” is widely used to refer to dangerous chemicals, while it would be more accurate to differentiate between organic and inorganic chemicals. A chemical substance is defined as “a form of matter having constant chemical composition and characteristic properties”, which includes for example water. The difference between organic and inorganic chemicals is that organic chemicals are carbon-based molecules, like Avobenzone and Oxybenzone. Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are inorganic chemicals.
Which One is Better, Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide?
The only other FDA approved ingredient that protects against a similarly broad UVA spectrum as Titanium Dioxide is the chemical Avobenzone. Although Avobenzone by itself is considered to be safe it is photolabile. This means that it breaks down when it comes in contact with sunlight or chlorine and disintegrates into various organic compounds, including aromatic acids, aldehydes, phenols, and acetophenones which may have adverse health effects. Ironically, this means sunscreens containing Avobenzone are not safe for use in sunlight or chlorinated pools for example.
Zinc Oxide has a very low photoreactivity which means it is stable in sunlight. Titanium dioxide on the other hand not only doesn’t provide adequate protection from UVA rays, it also shows some photoreactivity which means it breaks down in sunlight similar to Avobenzone and could attack other chemicals in the sunscreen formula or the skin itself.
As a second case in point, there is research showing that Titanium Dioxide can affect your lungs when inhaled. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) Committee recently concluded that: “the available scientific evidence meets the criteria in the CLP Regulation to classify titanium dioxide as a substance suspected of causing cancer through the inhalation route”.
This is particularly problematic since Titanium Dioxide often is used in its nano-form which makes it easier to inhale it.
All in all, a double win for Zinx Oxide! And therefore it’s the only UV-filter we ever use in our mineral sunscreens.