Let's get physical sunscreen

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

Top 5 Physical Sunscreens for Face and Body

Recently, I observed a woman critically looking at the sunscreen end cap at Target. She would pick up a bottle, read the ingredients on the back, put it back on the shelf, and do the same thing all over again with another brand. Together, we probably stood there for a good 10 minutes reading ingredients and trying to make a decision. I don't know about her, but I was definitely overwhelmed and trying to figure out the best brand to buy. Sunscreen. Its a must for anyone that wants to protect their skin from cancer and ward off wrinkles, but its a crapshoot as to which is the best option. Without doing research on the subject, you're probably left with the same questions I have, what are these ingredients? which one has the best protection? Which has the highest SPF? How long before I have to reapply? If you have similar questions and buy whatever is the cheapest option, you may want to read this article.


The clean beauty movement and BeautyCounter’s relentless pursuit to literally clean up our cosmetic and beach bags, has me doing my research and let me tell you, what I’ve found, in a word, is scary.


According to the Environmental Working Group, sunscreen isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. If you're concerned about your health and the environment, read on. In February the FDA published results from a new study on the absorption of chemical sunscreen ingredients into our bloodstream that could potentially remain there for days if not longer. Should we be thanking BeautyCounter for pushing the FDA to investigate these potentially hazardous ingredients? Maybe.


We’ve been told that the best way to combat sun damage is to stay in the shade, wear a hat, and wear a ton of sunscreen. We’ve been conditioned to apply sunscreen to our face, 365, rain or shine, to keep our skin youthful. The same holds true when the warm weather rolls around and we expose more of our bodies to the sun, but if this stuff is getting into our bloodstream, is it really that safe?


If you want to make a more informed decision, here’s what you might want to consider when grabbing your next sunscreen for your face or your body.


Physical v. Chemical? Choose Physical.

There are 2 types of sunscreen: physical and chemical. Physical ones create a barrier on your skin whereas chemical ones are absorbed into the skin. Physical sunscreens are made with the active ingredients of zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. They have typically been thick, white, and hard to spread on your skin. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, absorb quickly into the skin and into the bloodstream. These are the ones that the FDA has been researching and although they issued a proposed ruling in 2019 which looked at active ingredient safety, dosage forms and SPFs among other things, no final, approved rules have been issued to date. The problem is that as sunscreen formulations have evolved, the safety profiles, which don’t require FDA approval, haven’t kept up with modern science and could potentially be hazardous to our health. If you want to err on the side of caution, here are some things to consider when it comes to picking up your next sunscreen.


Percentage of Zinc Oxide + Titanium Dioxide Matters

Physical sunscreen requires a certain amount of zinc and/or titanium dioxide for it to achieve an SPF of 30 or 32. That percentage is 20% zinc plus some percentage of titanium dioxide or encapsulated octinoxate. Every 1% of titanium dioxide equals 2.6 SPF units. However, zinc gives you the greatest coverage from both UVA and UVB rays. If you want to protect against UVA, which ages the skin, go with a product that has the higher zinc percentage. Anything less is, well less. The problem with zinc is that it's still difficult to spread, casts a white hue and is a bit drying. You have to weigh the pros and cons and decide what works for you.


Suspect Ingredients to Look Out For

There’s a laundry list of ingredients with limited data on absorption that the FDA is looking into including some of the most common active ingredients in sunscreen that you see on the shelves: oxybenzone, non-encapsulated octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and avobenzone. These ingredients are believed to be absorbed into the bloodstream where they stay for days and may potentially have an adverse effect on hormones. Seriously? Yes, seriously. As if we don't have enough issues with our hormones right now.


Sunscreen can Effect the Environment

Oxybenzone, a key ingredient in chemical sunscreens, is believed to not only be toxic to you but its also toxic to coral reefs, which negatively impacts the environment overall. If you’re concerned about the environment, choose a product that is reef safe.


If physical is the way you want to go, I’ve found the following that are worth trying out. These are the cleanest and most blendable. I've tried these and countless others, but what I have listed below is what you might want to consider. What you use on your face is most likely not what you're using on your body so below are my top picks in each category.


Face - Everyday


Tizo3 Age Defying Fusion Tinted SPF 40

Pros:

  • Available in tinted and non-tinted formulations

  • Blends well; doesn’t sit in your wrinkles

  • Slightly sticky at first but dries quickly

  • Good under make-up

Cons:

  • Sub-optimal zinc percentage (3.8%); contains 8% titanium dioxide

  • Not reef safe

  • $$

Coola Organic Matte Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

Pros:

  • Blends well; doesn’t sit in wrinkles

  • Good under make-up

  • Water-resistant up to 80 minutes

Cons:

  • Sub-optimal zinc percentage (1.8%) titanium dioxide (3.2%)

  • Not reef safe

  • $$

Face - Beach + Sport

BeautyCounter Countersun Daily Sheer Defense SPF25*

  • High non-nano zinc oxide percentage (14.96%)

  • Contains antioxidants to protect skin from pollution and keep it hydrated

  • Lightweight and blends well; doesn't sit in wrinkles

  • Reef safe

Cons:

  • Sticky when first applied

  • Reapply every 2 hours

  • Not water-resistant

  • $$


Body - Beach + Sport

BeautyCounter Countersun Mineral Sunscreen SPF30*

Pros:

  • High percentage of non-nano zinc oxide (19%)

  • Contains antioxidants to protect skin from pollution and keep it hydrated

  • Slightly sticky at first but dries quickly

Cons:

  • Requires work to blend into your skin

  • Water-resistant to 40 minutes

  • When sweating slight white residue

  • $$


All Good Mineral Sport - SPF 30

Pros:

  • High percentage of non-nano zinc (16%)

  • Blends well

  • Quick-drying

  • Reef safe

  • Water-resistant to 80 minutes

  • $

Cons

  • Has a slight metallic smell

  • Sticky when first applied

  • Leaves skin feeling dry

  • When sweating limited white residue

Solara Suncare Clean Freak

Pros:

  • 20% non-nano zinc

  • Contains 10 antioxidants so skin isn't left feeling dry

  • Blends well

  • Quick-drying

  • Reef safe

Cons

  • Sticky when first applied

  • When sweating limited white residue

  • Water-resistant to 40 minutes

  • $$

*I don't represent BeautyCounter or any of the brands listed above. My opinions and recommendations are based on my experiences using these products.


If you have a physical sunscreen that you think is fabulous, please share what you think is the best. We are looking for the best of the best for this community.

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