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Active Sunscreen Ingredients

Sunscreen Ingredients - Physical UV Blockers to Chemical UV Absorbers


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When you look at your sunscreen ingredient list, do you find yourself wondering what exactly the active ingredients are and why they are used? Let's break down the physical sunscreen ingredients from the chemical sunscreen ingredients, and see why they are typically 3 to 5 (or more!) active ingredients in your sunscreen.

Chemical Sunscreen Ingredients Absorb the Suns UV Rays

Some chemical sunscreen ingredients actually absorb the suns UV rays before they penetrate into your skin. Many people like using them because they don’t leave a white coating on their skin.

Most times they are used in combination with each other because they all have their strong points. Some, like Menthyl Anthranilate block only UVA rays. Others, like Octisalate block only UVB rays. And some, like Oxtocrylene are used simply to up the SPF rating.

Here is a short a list of some of the many chemical UV blockers you might find on your sunscreen’s ingredient list.

  • Avobenzone
  • Homosalate
  • Octisalate
  • Octocrylene
  • Oxybenzone
  • Oxtinoxate
  • Menthyl Anthranilate
  • Oxtocrylene

Chemical sunscreen ingredients are usually more aesthetically pleasing to consumers. They can be made into gels, sprays and creams, and typically rub into the skin easily without a residue left behind.

But they’re not all without concern. Some chemical ingredients are known to cause hormonal disruption, nervous system concerns and allergy triggers. In fact, they estimate that 97% of Americans have Oxybenzone in their blood, which, according to EWC.org is a high hazard ingredient.

Physical Sunscreens Physically Block or Repel the Sun’s UV Rays.

Physical sunscreen ingredients sit on your skin and repel the suns rays. They do not penetrate into your bloodstream like chemical sunscreen ingredients do. The list of physical sunscreens is small.

  • Zinc
  • Titanium Dioxide

If you’ve ever put on a sunscreen that has turned your skin white, you were likely using a product that contains either zinc or titanium dioxide or a combination of both. These sunscreen ingredients are usually deemed safe and a good choice for sensitive skin. In fact, Zinc is a mainstream ingredient in baby diaper rash creams, so you can see that it would be a safe choice.

Of course, they’re not as aesthetically pleasing as the chemical sunscreen ingredients, given the potential for white skin, but they are effective - and they don't soak into your blood stream. But they aren’t all created equal, and they will vary in the degree of whiteness. Different percentages of active ingredients along with combination ratios will show that one sunscreen with zinc will be very white and another, not so much.

Chemical and Physical Ingredients Mixed

Many times, skin care lines will mix chemical ingredients with physical ones. If you want to know more about the sunscreen ingredients in your favorite sunscreen, check out SkinDeep.org's website where you can search for your exact sunscreen as well as each ingredient to see what the concerns might be.

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