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Protect Yourself in the Sun this Summer

Now that summer is upon us, more people will be spending time outside. The importance of skin protection is talked about a lot, but are you actually protecting yourself and your family? According to the SEER Stat Fact List, “rates for new melanoma cases have been rising on average 2.6% each year over the last 10 years”(1). That is a scary prospect to think about! When you think of skin protection, you probably think of sunscreen, but you may not know how to pick the best sunscreen for you and your family. There are two types of sunscreen to evaluate and luckily, Skinacea has done the research for you. Examples of physical sunscreen include products from EltaMD, Skinceuticals, and NeoStrata. Chemical sunscreens are the typical store brand ones you see at grocery and pharmacy stores.

Physical vs. Chemical Sunscreens

Physical Chemical
How They Work Physical sunscreens protect your skin from the sun by deflecting or blocking the sun’s rays. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the sun’s rays. Some chemical filters can scatter sun rays, but still mostly just absorb them.
Other Names Sunblock; Inorganic sunscreen Organic sunscreen
UV Filters(UV filters are the active ingredient in sunscreens that protects you from the sun.)For more information about UV filters, their description, and other sunscreen active ingredients check here. ·        Titanium dioxide (TiO2)·        Zinc oxide (ZnO) ·        Octylcrylene·        Avobenzone·        Octinoxate

·        Octisalate

·        Oxybenzone

·        Homosalate

·        Helioplex

·        4-MBC

·        Mexoryl SX and XL

·        Tinosorb S and M

·        Uvinul T 150

·        Uvinul A Plus

Stability Generally stable Most are photostable, but some are not.Avobenzone is notoriouslyunstable. However, it can be stabilized when formulated in conjunction with other UV filters.
Comedogenicity Titanium dioxide can be problematic for some people. (If you break out from mineral make up and physical sunscreen, titanium dioxide could be the culprit.)Zinc oxide is generally safe. It can be used on delicate skin and is a main ingredient in diaper rash cream. Chemical filters tend to be more irritating to skin.If it gets in your eyes, it can make your eyes sting and water.Some can cause allergic reactions.
ProtectionHow much protection is offered depends on the amount of the active ingredient in the sunscreen, particle size of the UV filters,photostability, and overall product formulation. Titanium dioxide protects against UVB rays, but not the full spectrum of UVA rays.Zinc oxide protects against the entire spectrum of UVB and UVA rays.

Starts protecting immediately upon application.

Chemical filters offer more coverage against UVA and UVB rays than physical sunscreens, but the range of protection will depend on the particular active and its stability.Avobenzone, for example, protects against the full spectrum UVA rays.Must wait 20 minutes after application for effective sun protection.
Texture Thick and opaque, may be hard to apply.Tends to leave a white cast or tint.Rubs off more easily and must be frequently reapplied. Colorless, odorless, usually runny.Can sometimes double as a makeup primer, depending on the active and the formulation.
Safety Pretty safe, FDA approved.Don’t cause free radicals.Note: Nanoparticle zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are controversial at the moment. Generally safe, however some chemical filters generate free radicals which can cause skin damage, irritation, and aging.Many chemical UV filters have not been FDA approved in the States, but are in sunscreens sold in Europe and Asia.


While there are pros and cons to each, it is  important that you are using some protection against the sun. Another way to protect yourself is  to cover up in loose fitting clothing and a hat that covers your ears. Make sure you wear sunscreen even with overcast days as the sun rays can still slip through the clouds and cause damage. It is also important to use precautions when driving in the car where a portion of your skin may be in direct sunlight.

During my research,  I came across a comment about Titanium Dioxide covering the full spectrum. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, Titanium Dioxide covers UVB and UVA2 while Zinc Oxide covers UVB, UVA2, and UVA1. Sunblock containing either of these ingredients is considered broad spectrum (UVA/UVB), make sure it is SPF of 15 or higher for daily use and water resistant SPF 30 or higher for “extended outdoor activity” (2)

Have a happy summer and enjoy your time in the sun safely!

  1. National Cancer Institute. SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Melanoma of the Skin. Retrieved from
  2. Skin Cancer Foundation. Understanding UVA and UVB. Retrieved from
  3. Physical vs Chemical Sunscreen. Retrieved from

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