Choosing the right sunscreen is a key step for skin protection, because if you don’t like your sunscreen, you won’t use it. Start by deciding which type of sunscreen is right for you.
All sunscreens contain active ingredients to protect your skin from damaging rays of the sun, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. These sunscreens are all regulated as over-the-counter drugs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (1)
Sunscreens come in two basic types:
• Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UV rays from the sun. They contain active ingredients such as oxybenzone and avobenzone.
• Mineral sunscreens work by putting a physical barrier on the skin that blocks the sun’s UV rays from penetrating into the skin. Active ingredients in mineral sunscreens include zinc oxide and titanium oxide.
The thought of mineral sunscreens may bring to mind images of people with a streak of white cream left behind from older forms of zinc oxide. Current mineral sunscreens don’t leave that kind of residue on the skin.
According to a report in the Huffington Post, mineral sunscreens may be less likely to irritate your skin than chemical sunscreens.(3)
The AAD recommends mineral sunscreens as the most appropriate choice for toddlers and infants older than six months. Children younger than six months should be kept out of the sun rather than using sunscreen.
Mineral sunscreens are also considered by some to be safer than chemical sunscreens. Some studies suggest that vitamin A used in some sunscreens may cause skin tumors and lesions to grow faster when combined with sunlight.(3)
The AAD states that these, and other claims that chemical sunscreens may be hazardous, have not been proven. (1)
Whether you choose a chemical or mineral sunscreen, the AAD recommends using sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. SPF 30 blocks 97 percent of the sun’s ability to burn your skin.
No sunscreen is able to block 100 percent of the sun’s damaging rays. So choosing a higher SPF will not provide much additional protection.