A 2019 pilot study by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, an arm of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, confirms what many in the wellness world already suspected: Sunscreens with chemical sun-blocking ingredients like avobenzone, oxybenzone, ecamsule and octocrylene remain in the body for at least 24 hours after use.
And that’s not all: The study also found that it took just one day of use for these common sunscreen ingredients to enter the bloodstream at levels high enough to trigger a government safety investigation. This came after an FDA announcement in February 2019 that proposed new regulations on over-the-counter sunscreens to keep up with the latest scientific research on ingredient safety.
The FDA has asked the sunscreen industry to conduct further testing on the safety of sun blocking ingredients. But, because that will take an undetermined amount of time, and because you should definitely not skip applying sunscreen in the meantime, mineral sunscreens are a great alternative option.
What Are Mineral Sunscreens?
Mineral sunscreens protect with a physical sun shield, which means they sit on top of your skin to reflect rays away immediately. That also means you can venture out right after you apply them—there’s no waiting for them to soak in to be effective.
They’re different than chemical sunscreens (oxybenzone, avobenzone and octinoxate are a few examples), which absorb into skin and then absorb the sun’s rays, converting them to heat and releasing them from the body. That absorption is what’s now in question, as this new research seems to indicate that our bodies aren’t processing them out of our systems at normal rates, which could correlate to issues later. Mineral sun blockers like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide aren’t absorbed into your skin, so they don’t pose the same risk.
What to Look for In Mineral Sunscreens
The active ingredients (the sun-blocking ingredients) are the most important part of a sunscreen. When you’re looking for mineral sunscreens, that means finding products with the active ingredients of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Those two are the most common and the safest.
But it’s not just about the active ingredients. If you’re looking for the safest options, you’ll want to pay attention to the ingredients that make up the rest of the sunscreen too. If you’re new to mineral sunscreen, and safer personal care options, it can be tricky to decipher exactly what you should avoid. We recommend starting with our quick guide to greening your beauty routine, for a few easy ways to recognize potentially harmful ingredients. But if you need a bit of extra support, here are a few ingredients to avoid, bar none:
- Artificial fragrance or “parfum”: Often, seeing this on an ingredients label means that it’s a proprietary blend of potentially hazardous chemicals like phthalates. If you skip anything, avoid this.
- Petrochemicals like mineral oil, petrolatum, paraffin and petroleum: These ingredients are byproducts of gasoline production, meaning they actually come from petroleum. Skip them, as they’ve been shown to be hormone disruptors.
- Parabens (ethyl, methyl, propyl and butyl): You’ve likely heard about parabens because these synthetic preservatives have been tagged as potential hormone disruptors, as they can mimic estrogen.
- 1,4 dioxane: Also known as PEG, polyethylene, polyoxeythylene, ethylene oxide, or ingredients that end in “-eth” (Laureth, Myreth, etc.) or “-oxynol,” 1,4 dioxane has been linked to kidney issues, as well as birth defects.
5 Mineral Sunscreens to Try Now
For Everyday Use: Solara Skincare Time Traveler Face Sunscreen
For Outdoor Activities: ALL good Family-Size SPF 30
For Lips: Hurraw! Sun Balm SPF 15
For Ease: Goddess Garden Continuous Spray SPF 30