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Mineral Sunscreen: What It Is

by Will / October, 2 2013 01:00

A smile made of sunscreen / sunblock written on a hand

Whether you call it sunblock or sunscreen, you might not know what "mineral" means. Well, I'm here to shed some light on the subject.

What Is a Mineral Sunscreen

At its most basic it means a sunscreen where the active ingredients are zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide - ingredients found on mother earth.

What is an active ingredient? It's the thing that stops the sun's rays from doing their harm (it protects you from UVA and, ideally, UVB rays). So the quick question that brings up is, how do I tell if my sunblock is mineral?

How Can You Tell If Your Sunscreen Is Mineral

That's pretty easy - sunscreens are required by law to list their ingredients. So to figure it out simply flip the bottle over and look at the section titled "Active Ingredients". Here you'll see whether the sunscreen is mineral, chemical or a mix of mineral and chemical.

For example, all of our sunscreens are mineral only. These are considered the safest sunblock ingredients.

(Note: Confused about sunscreen vs sunblock - legally they are the same thing but commonly folks see them as different - check out our article "Sunscreen vs. Sunblock: There's a Difference".)

What Is a Non-Mineral Sunscreen

That's one that uses chemicals in their active sunscreen ingredients. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) three to six of the following ingredients are used in most chemical sunblocks. FYI - Oxbenzone is the most troubling and the EWG says it is found in 80% of sunscreens.

Also, while we'll leave the full discussion on the issues with chemical sunscreens for another post, just know they can range from increased skin irritation to allergies to potential hormone disruption to skin damage. If you're really antsy for more info, check out the link above or here's my promised list of six common active ingredients in chemical sunscreens (each links to the EWG's overview):

So a mineral sunblock is one that doesn't use any of these chemicals (or any other chemicals) in its active ingredients. In the interest of full disclosure, check out what the EWG has to say about the active ingredients in mineral sunscreens - zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.

(Note: Check out our article "How Sunscreens Work: Mineral Vs. Chemical" for a more in depth discussion.)

Always Check Your Labels

Last point I'd like to make. There can still be many chemicals in a mineral sunscreen. You need to look at the inactive ingredients too. Now there are too many possible ingredients to list here but you can get a sense by looking at a sunscreen's label. Turn it over, look at the inactive ingredients and see how many you recognize.

I fully admit though, that the technical name of many non-chemical ingredients sounds crazy. For example our sunscreen contains shea butter and the technical name for it is Butyrospermum Parkii Butter. So the method of merely looking is not foolproof. Rest assured that we research every ingredient we use to create a safe formula and if you want to know more about what's in our products visit each individual product page and our ingredients page that explains what each ingredient is, how it's used and what its EWG safety rating is.

More on Suncare

Check out our Suncare Smarts and Skin Care blog post series for more on these ever evolving issues. We bring it to you once a week, every week.

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