Sunblock and Sunscreen Facts

Sunblock. Eva Herziogova beauty. Photographer Mario Testino

SPF – Sunscreen Ingredients

Sun lounging on the beach. Fashion style. Protect your skin. Use sunscreen
Sun lounging on the beach. Fashion style

Why Question Your Sunscreen?

In the 1970’s tanning was all the rage and to help it along tanning sunbeds and oil was encouraged to get a nice deep tan. It is only in the past couple decades that sunscreens have become a must have in your makeup bag. However it is only now people are questioning what is in it and rightfully so.

These are the founding issues with current conventional sunscreens:

Chemical sunscreens are being absorbed into the blood which can then act like estrogen and disrupt hormones. Some can even be detected in a mother’s breast milk (but in a small percentage).

Both chemical and physical sunscreens can contain ingredients which irritate the skin.

Most importantly it is not as regulated with rigorous safety standards due to research into it having only just begun.

So what should we know? Here are the basics.

Sunblock. Eva Herziogova beauty. Photographer Mario Testino
Sunblock. Eva Herziogova beauty. Photographer Mario Testino

Physical Sunscreen and Chemical Sunscreen

There are two types of sun protections; Physical sunscreen (mineral) which deflects/blocks the sun and chemical sunscreen which absorbs it.

They both contain active ingredients to filter the UV rays. There is no single ingredient that protects against the full spectrum. Where chemical sunscreeen contain 2-6 ingredients, physical contain two kinds; titanium dioxide and zinc oxide which have no free radicals. For those with sensitive skin there are many ingredients that can cause skin irritation however zinc oxide tends to be known the safest.

Protect your face. SPF Sunscreen. Model with red lip and red nails
Protect your face. SPF Sunscreen.

Nanoparticle Form of Mineral Sunscreen

“Nanoparticle form — which means ultra-fine specs of material used in sunscreens to block or “scatter” the sun’s rays.” (Time magazine)

The larger the particles the better UVA protection but the smaller the better SPF. At the moment sunscreen producers are trying to create the right balance in the size of the particles. At the same time there has been discussion on whether the smaller particles can enter the bloodstream. No conclusive evidence as of yet has been made.

For more information see

Vogue Russia. Fashion editorial. On the beach
Vogue Russia. Fashion editorial. On the beach

Ingredients – what do they do?

Curtesy of  the dermatology website to understand what the different ingredients do see below:

Common active ingredients of sunblock and the type of UV light blocked:

Active Ingredient Type of UV radiation blocked
Aminobenzoic acid UV-B
*Avobenzone UV-A
Cinoxate UV-B
Dioxybenzone UV-B, UV-A
***Homosalate UV-B
Menthyl anthranilate UV-A
Octocrylene UV-B
***Octyl methoxycinnamate UV-B
Octisalate UV-B
***Oxybenzone UV-B, UV-A
Padimate O UV-B
Phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid UV-B
Sulisobenzone UV-B, UV-A
*Titanium dioxide UV-A/B, broad spectrum
Trolamine salicylate UV-B
*Zinc oxide*Mexoryl SX UV-A/B, broad spectrum


















* Avobenzone, zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, mexoryl sx: These ingredients are graded low on EWG hazard score.

*** Oxybenzone, Homosalate, Octyl methoxycinnamate, PABA: Synthetic hormones that can play with the horomone system and affect fertility and are linked to cancer. These ingredients are graded high on EWG hazard score.

Sun protection on the beach. Editorial. Model with freckles and sunglasses
Sun protection on the beach. Editorial

Recommended Sunscreens

For an organic specified sunscreen list:

For EWG recommended list:

For skin cancer foundation recommended list:


Sunscreen at all times when out in the sun. 1980s
Sunscreen at all times when out in the sun. Paulina. Photographer, Patrick Demarchelier. 1986

What to Avoid

Vit A

Sunscreens containing vitamin A which can be titled as retinyl palmitate and retinol. Government studies are showing it speeds up the process of developing skin cancer. Best eat food with vitamin A and not lather it on.

Doubling Up

Using sunscreen and mosquito spray at the same time. It would mean doubling up chemicals on skin. If necessary place mosquito spray on first.

Tanning Oils

Oils offer less protection than creams and lotions and can be toxic. On that note avoid sunscreen sprays as well for you would breathe in the chemicals.

Karlie Kloss. Editorial. Photographer, Mario Testino. Large hat
Karlie Kloss. Editorial. Photographer, Mario Testino

What To Take from This

– Mineral sunscreens are less hazardous to the skin and do not absorb into it either.

-Avoid tanning oils, vitamin A containing products, and using mosquito spray at the same time.

-There are hundreds of sunscreens on the market – Go for the one recommeneded by a dermatologist or from a skin cancer awareness website.

-The sun is not completely evil – Enjoy at least 10-20 mins a day of unprotected sun to get your full vitamin D.


Photographer, Helmut Newton editorial. Model with kangaroo
Photographer, Helmut Newton editorial.

Information resources:

75% of Sunscreens are Toxic: What to do Instead

You Asked: Is Sunscreen Safe — and Do I Really Need It Daily?


Image resources:









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