Dr Ian Webster
Dr Ian Webster

Demystifying Natural Mineral Sunscreens

There appears to be a lot of confusion about the naming and classification of sunscreens. People talk about natural, physical, mineral, chemical-free sunscreens. Often these terms are used for marketing purposes and the true science behind the names becomes blurred.

There are essentially two types of sunscreens: mineral and chemical sunscreens. The two most commonly used, naturally occurring minerals are Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. The original sunscreen was Zinc Oxide which was formulated as a thick white ointment that reflected ultra violet radiation. In recent years, to make these minerals more cosmetically acceptable so that they do not leave white streaks or residue, the minerals have been ground finer into micronized particles.

“Often these terms are used for marketing purposes and the true science behind the names becomes blurred”

Titanium Dioxide is more effective in reflecting UVB while Zinc Oxide is more effective in reflecting UVA. This is the reason why these two minerals are often used together in sunscreens. As they are inert metals it is virtually impossible to develop an allergic reaction to them.

In the past, using these two minerals, the manufacturers of sunscreens had difficulty reaching the higher SPF factors namely SPF50. However, in more recent times they have been able to achieve the higher factors to make the sunscreens more protective and more cosmetically acceptable. They often contain a natural tint that does not leave a white residue. Therefore, these sunscreens are what we can call chemical-free (or natural, mineral, physical) sunscreens and we do have a number of these excellent products available on Dermastore®

Most very effective and safe sunscreens do in fact contain a combination of chemical filters which absorb ultra violet radiation and physical or mineral sunscreens that reflect ultra violet radiation. There is a very small risk of allergic contact dermatitis due to the chemical filters, so if one has a more sensitive, allergic skin, it is best to use the mineral-only sunscreens. To achieve the higher SPF50 factor, these sunscreens are a bit more expensive.

In summary, the terms natural, physical, mineral or chemical-free, with reference to sunscreens, all mean the same thing i.e. sunscreens that contain Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Dioxide but no chemical sun-filters.

Posted in LEARN / SUN PROTECTION on November 16th, 2017.

Natural Mineral Sunscreens

NeoStrata® Sheer Physical Protection SPF 50

Sheer Physical Protection SPF 50


Sheer Physical Protection SPF 50

Physical Sunscreen

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