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. 

 

The difference between chemical and physical / mineral sunscreens

If you want to use the correct terminology, both Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are also chemicals. Sounds confusing? It is. 

How can Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide be chemicals too? 

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 active ingredients of many sunscreen products absorb UVB. The degree of protection from UVB rays is by the SPF rating a sunscreen product achieves. However, ingredients that efficiently absorb longwave UVA light are also required to provide broad spectrum protection. The issue: when using a high SPF sunscreen you could still damage your skin because of exposure to UVA, but without noticing it because whereas UVB rays cause sunburn, overexposure to UVA rays does not lead to any visual indication. As you can see in the table below, Zinc Oxide absorbs significantly more UV light than Titanium Dioxide. 

Comparing FDA approved UV-filters regarding their UVA and UVB protection

Ironic – a UV-filter that you’re not supposed to use in chlorinated pools or sunlight!

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. 

Conclusion: Zinc Oxide rules when it comes to photoreactivity and is stable in sunlight!

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 the only UV-filter we ever use in our natural sunscreens. 

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