Sunscreen has come a long way since the days thick, white zinc was the go-to protection. What made zinc the standard in UV protection then was its ability to act as a barrier between our skin and the radiation that causes premature aging and some skin cancers. This same idea of blocking sun’s damaging rays from getting into our skin is what makes zinc an ideal ingredient today. So, what is different between zinc then and now? Technology! If you have been avoiding sunscreen because it is white, chalky, smelly, irritating, clogging, etc. it may help to know how many options are out there now. There is a very good chance you will find something that works for you while providing great physical protection.
Physical vs Chemical Sun Protection
There has been a lot of buzz about the chemical ingredients that protect from sun exposure. Some examples of these chemicals are avobenzone, octinoxate, oxybenzone, homoslate, and octocrylene. They all work in a similar way to absorb the UV radiation and disperse it so that it cannot get deeper into our skin. Think of a sponge that soaks up the rays.
Physical ingredients - such as zinc, titanium dioxide, and iron oxide – shield our skin by bouncing that UV radiation from our skin. Much like a mirror, these minerals reflect that damage away from our skin. Ideally, a physical sunscreen keeps the sun from touching our skin in the first place.
Take a Second Look at Zinc
If you are climbing Mt. Everest or contemplating a sea voyage through the Caribbean, old-fashioned pure zinc may be the way to go! You can see where you missed a spot and how much you have used. Both are application must-haves, regardless of the sunscreen you choose. Applying sunscreen every 90 minutes (or sooner, if you are in or near water) and using enough product are important in order to maximize sun protection.
For the rest of us, today’s zinc is a more pleasing option. These minerals can now be micronized. The smaller the particle, the less heavy and opaque it is on skin. The addition of iron oxides allows manufactures to add more natural-colored pigments to the formula. Another plus to iron oxides is their ability to keep sun protection level throughout the 90 minutes before reapplication when combined with zinc.
Modern sunscreens are more luxurious too. Quality sunscreens are an extension of skin care for many people. They can include hyaluronic acid for additional boosts of hydration, antioxidants for an added layer of free radical protection, or skin soothing ingredients to calm irritation. There are hybrid formulas that use both zinc and chemical ingredients to lighten the formula even more. We carry a variety of sunscreens at clara for this very reason – there is a sunscreen for everyone out there, it is a matter of finding one that meets your needs.
Shopping for Sunscreen: Our Tips
Finding a favorite sunscreen is possible. Here is a simple must-have list to consider:
- SPF of 30 or higher
- Zinc-based sunscreen
- Reapply every 90 minutes
- Use a half a teaspoon for your face and neck and 1 ounce for your body
When in doubt on what is safe for your individual situation, ask your healthcare or dermatology provider for advice.
Finally, get your hands on samples of different sunscreens. You won’t know what you like until you feel it on your own skin.