Mineral Sunscreen Buying Guide
Mineral sunscreens are one of the most effective forms of UV protection that are available to the public. Today, there are many options available at drugstores and even in supermarkets. But did you know that not all natural sunscreens are safe? It’s true, just because a product contains mineral sunscreen ingredients does not mean it is free from harsh chemicals, including chemical sunscreens. So, what features should you look for in a safe, mineral sunscreen?
What are Mineral Sunscreens?
Mineral Sunscreens are made with mineral sunscreen ingredients, which are para-aminobenzoic (PABA), zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Both ingredients create a physical barrier on the skin that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Unlike chemical sunscreens that take around 30 minutes to become effective, mineral sunscreens are effective right after applied.
Many brands have been adding mineral sunscreen ingredients to their sun protection products for years. The issue is that they are just adding the ingredients to old formulas, instead of formulating a natural mineral sunscreen. Most of these sunscreens still have the chemical sunscreen ingredients, preservatives and other harsh chemicals in them.
Issues with Chemical Sunscreens
Like other chemicals in body care products, the ingredients in chemical sunscreens accumulate in breast milk and body fat. These chemicals have also been linked to hormonal disruptions, low sperm counts, and allergic reactions.
The major issue of using chemical sunscreens is that they are less effective at protecting you against harmful UV damage. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UV rays, which allows UVA rays to penetrate deep into the skin. UVA rays are the ones that cause wrinkles and skin cancer. There has also been research completed that shows that some chemical sunscreens oxidize under the sun’s rays, which increases the potential of free radial formation and this increases a person’s risk for wrinkles and skin cancer.
Chemical sunscreen ingredients include Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octocrylene, Octisalate, Octinoxate, and Oxybenzone.
Should I Buy Natural or Organic Sunscreen?
Natural has become a popular marketing word, even though many products labeled with ‘natural’ still have harsh chemicals in them. The best option is to buy a mineral sunscreen that is made with organic ingredients.
There are three levels of organic labeling. “100% Organic” means that a product is made only using certified organic ingredients. The “Organic” label is for products that are made with at least 95% organic ingredients. “Made with organic ingredients” are products made with at least 70% organic ingredients.
“100% Organic” and “Organic” products may have the USDA Organic seal, but “made with organic ingredients” may not carry a seal and can have up to three certified organic ingredients printed on the front label. However, products made with less than 70% organic ingredients can only list the organic ingredients on the back label.
How to find the Right Sunscreen for You and Your Family?
Depending on where you are shopping, there could be dozens of options of sunscreens for you to pick from. Even if you decide that you are going to buy a mineral sunscreen, you will still have many options to pick from. Many times, deciding which sunscreen is right for you can be overwhelming. Here is a list of features you should be looking for.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is a measurement of how long a sunscreen will protect you from UVB rays. The amount of time that a sunscreen can be calculated using this equation:
Minutes to burn without sunscreen x SPF number = maximum sun exposure time
However, this equation is not always accurate because most of us do not use the amount of sunscreen we really need. Researchers say that the amount of time calculated using the above should be halved in order to better protect your skin.
Above we mentioned that SPF only is how much a sunscreen protects you from UVB rays. Sunscreens that protect from UVA rays are labeled as Board Spectrum. Some sunscreens will also say that they protect against UVA, but this is not required.
- Sweat and Water Resistant
Products are not allowed to claim to be sweat-proof or waterproof anymore. They are only sweat and water resistant for a specific amount of time, which can be either 40 or 80 minutes. The sunscreen may have list the amount of time that they are sweat and water resistant on their label. Just keep in mind that you should also reapply the sunscreen after sweating or swimming and drying off with a towel.
The reality is that natural and healthier skin care products have become more popular in the last decade, and many brands are starting to market their products as ‘green’ or ‘natural’. However, many ‘natural’ sunscreens use a combination of chemical and mineral sunscreen ingredients.
If you are wondering what is in a sunscreen, you can check the back label of the product. The ingredients that provide UV protection are listed as ‘active ingredients’ and are listed above the other ingredients. Mineral sunscreen ingredients are para-aminobenzoic (PABA), zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
Along with the active ingredients, you should also check the non-active ingredients. These ingredients could hide harsh chemicals or the sunscreen could have allergens. If you are looking for an organic sunscreen, the organic ingredients should be listed as organic at the top of the ingredient list.
All sunscreens are required to have an expiration date somewhere on the packaging. This could be stamped into the tube’s closure or be printed on the bottle. Sunscreen is similar to medicine because it starts losing its effectiveness after the expiration date has passed. It is recommended that you do not use sunscreens that are expired as it may not be effective.
When you are shopping for a sunscreen, you may find some products that are labeled as “facial sunscreen” or for “kids”. Facial sunscreens often contain moisturisers, are lightweight, non-greasy and are better for sensitive and delicate areas. Nearly all sunscreens can be used on the face, so facial sunscreens are only really helpful if your body sunscreen breaks you out.
Kids and Baby formulated sunscreens are developed with kids in mind. They often come in bright-colored packaging but are often times the same product as the adult version. The kid’s formula may have a different fragrance and may not contain chemicals that could cause tearing or stinging. The reality is that you can use the same sunscreen on you and your kids. However, keep in mind that children under six months should never have sunscreen applied to them. Instead, you should use a hat and long-sleeve clothing to keep their skin covered.
The cost of a sunscreen is often based on the brand and the store that you are shopping at. Mineral organic sunscreens are often more expensive than other options. However, you can find safe, effective mineral sunscreens at all price points. You need to keep in mind that just because a sunscreen costs more, does not mean that it is more effective.
Sun protection is important all year round because the sun produces UV rays every day. The amount of sun that you get per day changes depending on the time of year you are outdoors. You should apply sunscreen before spending any amount of time outside, no matter what type of sunscreen that you pick.
This is an article from Mercola.com. I found it interesting because I never use sunscreen or put it on my kids. I never believed the hype about it. When I told people I don’t use sunscreen or use it on my kids I was told I was crazy. Well this story proves my point.
How Supermodel Gisele Bundchen “Infuriated Cancer Experts”…
Researchers at the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based nonprofit, released their annual report claiming nearly half of the 500 most popular sunscreen products may actually increase the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer because they contain vitamin A and its derivatives, retinol and retinyl palmitate.
Furthermore, the FDA has known about the dangers of vitamin A in sunscreens since ordering a study 10 years ago, but has done nothing to alert the public of the dangers.
“Retinyl palmitate was selected by (FDA’s) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition for photo-toxicity and photocarcinogenicity testing based on the increasingly widespread use of this compound in cosmetic retail products for use on sun-exposed skin,” said an October 2000 report by the National Toxicology Program.
According to AOL news, other problems with sunscreens include:
The use of the hormone-disrupting chemical oxybenzone, which penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream.
Overstated claims about performance.
The lack of needed regulations and oversight by the Food and Drug Administration.
Also, be careful where you discuss the danger involved with sunscreens. Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen has reportedly “infuriated cancer experts” by describing sunscreen as “poison”.
Bundchen refuses to use it on herself or her family because of the chemicals they contain. According to the Daily Mail:
“[Bundchen] made the comments at the launch of her own organic skin care range, which presumably doesn’t include sun care lotions.”
Bundchen, incidentally, is currently the highest paid supermodel in the world. She also has said that it should be against the law for healthy mothers to give their baby infant formula full of sugar, and often soy.
Daily Mail February 4, 2011
AOL News May 24, 2010
Environmental Working Group’s 2010 Sunscreen Guide
Dr. Mercola’s Comments:
The FDA is once again on the wrong side of consumer safety, just as they have been time and time again when they allow dangerous drugs onto the market that end up killing people and are later recalled.
Failing to alert consumers of the dangers of vitamin A and its derivatives in sunscreens falls in line with the FDA’s seemingly endless ability to protect their big business “clients” at the expense of public safety. In this case the manufacturers of sunscreens are the beneficiaries of the FDA’s inability or unwillingness to publish their own vitamin A safety research that they conducted over 10 years ago in 2000.
For a long list of other FDA debacles through the years, just put “FDA” into my search box at the very top of this, or any page at mercola.com.
Is Sunscreen Really a Necessity?
Let’s consider a question that naturally arises out of this latest failure by the FDA – do you even need to use sunscreen in the first place?
The answer is “maybe”, and only when you can’t control how much sun you are exposed to. For instance, if you work outdoors all day as part of your job, or if you need to protect sensitive areas of your face, like around your eyes, that are particularly susceptible to photoaging and not that large a surface area to impact vitamin D levels if blocked with sunscreen.
But you certainly don’t want to use most of the commercially available sunscreens under any condition as they not only block your body’s ability to produce vitamin D, they’re also loaded with toxic chemicals. More about that in a minute.
However, sunscreens available in most health food stores, and the one we sell on our site, are safe to use when the need arises.
The fact is, getting safe sun exposure every day is actually one of the best things you can do for your health. Sun exposure allows your body to naturally produce your own supply of vitamin D, and experts agree that this is the best form of vitamin D available.
The point to remember is that once your skin turns the lightest shade of pink (if you’re Caucasian), it’s time to get out of the sun. Past this point of exposure your body will not produce any more vitamin D and you’ll begin to have sun damage. And sunburn anywhere on your body is never good for your health.
The Benefits of Vitamin D
First of all, vitamin D plays a crucial role in your overall health and well-being. If you’ve spent any time on my site at all, you know that I’m a firm advocate for optimizing your vitamin D levels.
For example, this superb nutrient is known to:
Support your cardiovascular health
Support healthy kidney function
Enhance your muscle strength
Promote healthy teeth
Help produce optimal blood pressure levels
Help keep your bones strong and healthy
Help maintain a healthy immune system
Please understand — this list of important benefits represents a fraction of the many ways vitamin D helps optimize your health. And, although you can obtain vitamin D from natural food sources, experts agree on one thing:
Sunlight is by far the best way to get your vitamin D. The so-called experts who advise you to avoid all sunlight and religiously apply sunscreen are actually encouraging you to increase your risk of cancer, not lower it…
The key is to find a healthy balance between getting enough natural sunlight to maximize your vitamin D production and maintain your optimal health, while at the same time protecting yourself from damage that occurs from overexposure to the sun.
Sun Exposure Can Protect You Against Cancer
Over the years, several studies have already confirmed that appropriate sun exposure actually helps prevent skin cancer. In fact, melanoma occurrence has been found to decrease with greater sun exposure, and can be increased by sunscreens.
One such study revealed that melanoma patients who had higher levels of sun exposure were less likely to die than other melanoma patients, and patients who already had melanoma and got a lot of sun exposure were prone to a less aggressive tumor type.
Another Italian study, published in the European Journal of Cancer in June 2008, also confirms and supports earlier studies showing improved survival rates in melanoma patients who were exposed to sunlight more frequently in the time before their melanoma was diagnosed.
Also, Melanoma is actually more common in indoor workers than in outdoor workers, and is more common on regions of your body that are not exposed to the sun at all. Additionally, UVB radiation has been found to delay the appearance of melanoma if you are genetically predisposed or prone to skin cancer.
To Prevent Skin Damage You Have to Protect Against the Most Damaging Rays
Ultraviolet light from the sun comes in two main wavelengths – UVA and UVB. It’s important for you to understand the difference between them, and your risk factors from each.
Consider UVB the ‘good form’ that helps your skin produce vitamin D.
UVA is considered the ‘bad form’ because it penetrates your skin more deeply and causes more free radical damage. Not only that, but UVA rays are quite constant during ALL hours of daylight, throughout the entire year — unlike UVB, which are low in morning and evening, and high at midday.
If you’ve ever gotten a scorching sunburn on a cloudy day, you now understand why; it’s from the deeply penetrating UVA!
Since UVA’s are inherently more damaging AND persistently high during all daylight hours, wearing a sunscreen that doesn’t protect you from UVA is going to give you virtually no benefit, and be detrimental to your overall health. So the first thing to understand about using sunscreen, when applicable, is to make certain you are actually getting UVA protection.
A Better Alternative to Sunscreen
One of the best strategies to protect yourself from the sun is actually not a sunscreen at all, it’s wearing clothing or getting into the shade.
Because most sunscreens are loaded with toxic chemicals that can actually accelerate skin cancer, or get into your bloodstream where they can disrupt your hormones. Also, the protection sunscreen manufacturers claim is often misleading due to improper application.
So you don’t always need to apply sunscreen, and you definitely do want to get some safe sunlight exposure every day, which has also been shown to help protect against as many as 16 different types of cancer, including; breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal, ovarian, bladder, gallbladder, gastric, pancreatic, prostate, rectal, and renal cancers, as well as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Cotton clothing provides about SPF 15, in other words, you will get about 15-times your skin’s normal protection from the sun wherever you cover your body with clothing. Just remember that even with protective clothing on your body, it’s still important to monitor your skin for the telltale signs of burning.
Remember, sunburn provides no benefit, and is never good for your skin.
So is Gisele Bundchen Right?
Until very recently all sunscreens did NOT filter out the UVA radiation. They filtered out UVB, ensuring that your body could not make any vitamin D, while letting the UVA through. So there was a strong recommendation from the medical community to use sunscreen, but this advice was actually increasing your risk of cancer while eliminating your body’s ability to manufacture vitamin D!
The other issue is what type of chemicals does the sunscreen use to create the barrier against the UVA waves?
The synthetic chemicals often used in sunscreen preparations can get into your bloodstream and can cause all sorts of unwanted toxic side effects, including hormone disruption.
Some of these chemicals include:
OMC (Octyl methoxycinnamate)
So if Gisele was referring to sunscreens containing these hormone-disrupting synthetic chemicals that do not even protect against UVA rays, then she was absolutely right!
Safer Sunscreen Alternatives
However, options do exist to provide safe protection from the sun during times when you may not be able to control the amount of sun exposure you are likely to receive. For instance, if you take your kids to an amusement park or the beach, you might just be in direct sunlight all day.
To get natural sun protection from both UVA and UVB rays, you will want to use a sunscreen product that contains the active ingredients of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. My research team has put together what we think is superior sun protection and you can find more about it here.
You want to be cautious not to include any vitamin A in your sunscreen, or its derivatives retinol and retinyl palmitate.
Other safe ingredients that will nourish your skin include:
Vitamins D and E
Vitamin A—A Dangerous Sunscreen Additive
The sunscreen industry uses vitamin A in its formulations because it is an anti-oxidant that is thought to slow skin aging. But according to the AOL story cited above, the FDA’s study of vitamin A’s photocarcinogenic properties revealed that:
“tumors and lesions developed up to 21 percent faster in lab animals coated in a vitamin A-laced cream than animals treated with a vitamin-free cream.”
This conclusion came from Environmental Working Group’s analysis of the findings released the FDA and the National Toxicology Program.
Why hasn’t the FDA released these findings and alerted the public to the possible dangers of using a sunscreen that includes vitamin A or its derivatives?
No one is really certain why the FDA again refuses to listen to its scientists and doctors. But this type of behavior has become standard operating procedure for the FDA, an agency that routinely protects the business interests of corporations instead of following their stated mandate to protect the public health.
Our sunscreen used to have vitamin A in it until I discovered its potential health problems. We immediately removed it, however many other brands still include it in their formulas, so beware, and always check the labels when shopping for sunscreen.
How to Research Your Sunscreen
Thanks to the Environmental Working Group, you are now able to see exactly how your sunscreen rates for safe ingredients and efficacy. Check out EWG’s Sunscreen Guide here.
Their website also lists the titanium and zinc containing sunscreens receiving the highest ratings, as well as provides you with some non-mineral options that rank lowest on the toxicity scale.
The site is also a great reference for surprising facts about sunscreen, and also contains a sunscreen hall of shame, showing the absolute worst offenders on the toxicity scale. And lastly, according to their website, 1 in 8 sunscreens sold on the market today still offer no protection against UVA rays!
Astaxanthin as the Hottest New Internal Sunscreen
Yes, a specific nutrient has been identified as being profoundly useful in protecting against sun damage!
Astaxanthin has recently jumped to the front of the line in terms of its status as a “supernutrient,” becoming the focus of a large and growing number of peer-reviewed scientific studies. It’s produced from marine algae in response to exposure to UV light. This is the way the algae protects itself, so it makes perfect sense that this deeply pigmented substance would have the capacity to “shield” you when it is taken in large enough quantities for a long enough time to saturate your body’s tissues. Typically this is several weeks.
One of the benefits of astaxanthin that has piqued the interest of researchers is its ability to reduce signs of aging, by helping protect your skin from sun damage.
Cyanotech Corporation funded a study through an independent consumer research laboratory to measure the skin’s resistance to both UVA and UVB light, before and after astaxanthin supplementation. After taking 4mg per day for two weeks, subjects showed a significant increase in the amount of time necessary for UV radiation to redden their skin.
Animal studies lend further evidence to astaxanthin’s effects as an internal sunscreen. Consider the following:
In 1995, hairless mice were fed various combinations of astaxanthin, beta-carotene and retinol for four months. After irradiation, astaxanthin alone or in combination with retinol was substantially effective in preventing photoaging of the skin (as measured by markers for skin damage).
In a 1998 study with rats, astaxanthin was found to be 100 times stronger than beta-carotene and 1000 times stronger than lutein in preventing UVA light-induced oxidative stress.
The Journal of Dermatological Science published a study in 2002 finding astaxanthin is able to protect against alterations in human DNA induced by UVA light exposure.
Some Other Tips to Decrease Your Risk of a Burn
Controlling your exposure to the sun is not always possible, and sometimes even the most vigilant of us forget to bring along the proper natural sunscreen when we face overexposure.
So what’s the best way to ensure your body is primed to have the best defense against overexposure to the sun’s harmful UVA rays?
Consuming a healthy diet full of natural antioxidants has always been a useful strategy in not only staying healthy but also providing your body with the resources to counter damage from exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Fresh, raw, unprocessed foods deliver the nutrients that your body needs to maintain a healthy balance of omega 6 and omega 3 oils in your skin, which is your first line of defense against sunburn.
If you are regularly consuming processed foods and your cells are loaded up mostly with damaged, oxidized fats, you simply aren’t giving your skin the proper fat protection it needs at a cellular level.
Fresh, raw vegetables also provide your body with an abundance of powerful anti-oxidants that will help you fight the free radicals caused by sun damage that can lead to burns and cancer.
You can also make sure to wear a cap with a visor to protect your face and eyes from direct sunlight, along with enough clothing to protect your skin from direct sun contact. Most cotton clothing will provide you with about 15 SPF.
Also, I avoid using sunglasses, because I believe your eyes need to receive the full spectrum of light to function optimally, and sunglasses block out some essential waves of the light spectrum. So as you’re getting your healthy and necessary daily exposure to direct sunlight to optimize your vitamin D levels, you want to be sure to leave the sunglasses behind.