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Natural v Chemical Sunscreen. The Real Differences.

Natural v Chemical Sunscreen.  The Real Differences.

What's the big deal about the type of sunscreen we choose? 

There is a heap of debate over the type of sunscreen choice to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Natural, organic, physical.  There are a heap of phrases used when we refer to sunscreen. But is one really better, or safer than the other and what do these terms really mean?

For many it's as simple as slapping something on when you are heading to the beach and hoping for the best.  But for other's, there is real thought as to whether they choose a "natural" sunscreen, a "physical" sunscreen or a "chemical" sunscreen. That's where things can start to get lost in translation.

Let's start with talking terminology...

Firstly, "natural" sunscreen is a term that many use when talking about zinc or mineral based sunscreen when ACTUALLY they should be using the term "physical" sunscreen.   So what about organic, another common term applied to sunscreen?  The reality is any sunscreen can claim to be organic because they all contain "organic compounds", which pretty much translates to containing carbon.  (Hint: plants contain carbon and all living things).  Organic is totally different terminology when it comes to chemistry than it is when we are referring to food and produce so it's a good thing to be aware of!

So what is, physical sunscreen? 

Basically, it is a reflector and partly acts by reflecting the suns rays from the skin, kind of like a mirror.  They form a physical barrier on the skin. To do this, physical sunscreens use ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide.  Often these are perceived to be a better choice because they are "natural" ingredients found in our environment.  The truth is, these products also have to go through a chemical process to be suitable for use in sunscreen.

Physical sunscreens also work by absorbing UV rays and converting to Infrared, (IR)  that is then transferred to deeper tissues and converted to heat . This, in turn, can cause skin ageing by collagen and elastin degradation, etc.
So zinc and titanium are great blockers but not all together perfect and whilst they partly act as a physical block they also absorb and convert too!

Pros:

  • Good option for acne prone skin as it less likely to be pore clogging.
  • Can often be tinted in skin tones to give an even complexion.

Cons:

  • Can be thick and leave a white film on the skin.
  • Can rub off easily so needs more frequent application.
  • If not applied properly with good coverage can be less protective as the rays can get between "gaps" in the sunscreen molecules.
  • Can not achieve an SPF greater than 30 with zinc or mineral alone products.

What is a chemical sunscreen?

Well these guys contain chemical ingredients and work by absorbing the UV rays as they enter the skin.  They also can offer more coverage against UV rays which equates to greater protection. There are a vast array of common chemical filters used in sunscreens.

Chemical filters are in fact organic chemicals which is important to understand.  (Often a sunscreen will be labelled organic and the perception is it is chemical free.)

Pros: 

  • Higher SPF rating = better protection.
  • Long lasting.
  • Easily absorbed = easy to wear.
  • Spreads further and easier to apply.

Cons:

  • Potentially can irritate or sting the skin (depending on the type of ingredients). *
  • Must apply at least 20 mins prior to sun exposure.

Do sunscreens that contain both active and physical ingredients exist?

They sure do!  Our Sticky Zinc is an example of this.

Ok, so which one is better for me?

Well, it really comes down to personal choice and making informed decisions.  To gain the broadest protection we need more than one filter and multiple is best. Obviously we choose We Are Feel Good Inc. because we are preservative, paraben and paba free which helps reduce the likelihood of skin irritations. We also advocate choosing an oxybenzone and octinoxate free sunscreen so as to protect vulnerable reef systems.  (see our blog on oxybenzone)

Our goal is compliance , so it is a personal choice , but just make sure you wear sunscreen . Non compliance WILL lead to skin cancer and premature ageing.
The best sunscreen in the end is the one you love to wear!

* NB: Our range is free from a number of commonly used ingredients that cand potentially irritate the skin.  Our sunscreen range is subject to rigorous safety testing with the Therapeutic Goods Association and is therefore TGA approved.


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