Why Zinc Oxide?
We talk about Zinc Oxide a lot, and for a good reason: we’re big fans! Zinc Oxide is not only currently considered to be the safest UV-filter for the environment and human health, it is also one of the most effective UV-filters! It combines superior UVB and UVA blockage in a single mineral. The main difference between Zinc Oxide and other UV-filters: Zinc Oxide is a mineral UV-filter which builds a protective shield on top of your skin meaning that it protects you from the second you apply it. Compared to chemical UV-filters which protects you by temporarily changing the properties of your cells meaning that it takes 20 minutes before you are fully protected. In the following, we explain why we only use Non-Nano Zinc Oxide in our sunscreens in more detail.
1. Zinc Oxide is safe for coral reefs and marine life
The hottest debate about UV-filters at the moment is related to how safe they are for marine life, especially coral reefs. Bans on sunscreen chemicals have already been applied by Hawaii, Palau, Bonaire, Key West, and more regions and countries are following. The only UV-filter recommended as safe by for example the scientist behind the ban of the most reef-toxic UV-filters (Oxybenzone and Octinoxate) on Hawaii, Craig Down, specifically recommends Non-Nano Zinc Oxide as a reef-safe UV-filter. When used in its Non-Nano form, there is a broad consensus that Zinc Oxide (together with Titanium Dioxide which however comes with some other downsides as you can see below) is currently the safest UV-filter available to enjoy the sun while protecting our coral reefs from damage.
2. Zinc Oxide is safe for human health
The evidence is accumulating that chemical sunscreen filters can have negative side effects such as hormonal disturbances and infertility. A recent study by the FDA confirmed that the chemical UV-filters Avobenzone, Oxybenzone, and Octocrylene can be detected in the human bloodstream within one day after application. No similar evidence has been found for Non-Nano Zinc Oxide, meaning that it is currently considered to be the safest UV-filter for human health, and especially more sensitive parts of the population such as pregnant women. The other mineral UV-filter, Titanium Dioxide, is not considered as safe since it has been shown to affect the lungs when inhaled (which can happen easily with spray sunscreens) or getting into your mouth.
3. Zinc Oxide provides superior UVB and UVA protection
As a final point in case, Zinc Oxide truly ticks all boxes – it is not only safe for the environment and us humans, it is also incredibly effective! In the table below you can see a comparison between currently approved UV-filters in terms of their effectiveness. As you can see above, Zinc Oxide not only provides highly effective protection from UVB, it is also the most effective UVA and UVB blocker – which means it provides superior broad spectrum protection.
4. Zinc Oxide is photostable
Photostability refers to how stable an ingredient is when exposed to sunlight – so quite important for a sunscreen ingredient as anyone would agree! The beauty of Zinc Oxide is that it has a very high photostability, meaning that it doesn’t break down into free radicals when in contact with sunlight. Titanium Dioxide and Avobezone on the other hand for example have been shown to be “phototoxic”, meaning that they disintegrate into aromatic acids, aldehydes, phenols, and acetophenones and attack other ingredients in the sunscreen – or your cells. This means that ironically these ingredients are not safe to use in contact with sunlight or chlorine (think of chlorinated pools), and therefore absolutely don’t fulfil our criteria of how safe a sunscreen ingredient needs to be to make sense.
At Suntribe we always strive to make our products represent the latest state of science. In this case, the current scientific evidence clearly points at Non-Nano Zinc Oxide as the safest UV-filter currently available and approved for use in sunscreens. We will of course continue following the available research as closely as possible and revise our verdict as we go, for now it is pretty clear to us that Non-Nano Zinc Oxide is the only possible option for our worry-free natural sunscreens!