Ingredient Feature Zinc Oxide

Sunscreen 101: The Differences Between Chemical & Physical Sunscreens

True or false: The UVA and UVB blocking compounds in all sunscreens are the same.

If you answered false, you are correct.

Recently, we shared information from an interview with top dermatologist, Dr. Debra Jaliman, in which she discussed the differences between UVA and UVB rays, the two primary types of sunscreens, which type you should be using and answered other common questions about sun damage.

As Dr. Jaliman explained, there are essentially two primary types of sunscreens—physical and chemical. Physical sunscreens sit on top of the skin and deflect the sun’s rays, while a chemical block protects your skin by actually absorbing its rays.

Here, we’ll take a more in-depth look into the benefits of the superstar ingredient found in physical sunscreens, zinc oxide, and explore why it may be better for your skin than a chemical sunscreen.

Have you ever noticed the lifeguards who sport white, paste-like lotion on their nose and cheeks? That’s a heavy dose of zinc oxide. This powerful mineral is known for its sun-deflecting ability as well as its nonirritating and nonallergenic properties.1 Used in physical sunscreen, zinc oxide is the preferred active ingredient because it sits on top of the skin and deflects the sun’s harmful rays, providing full UVA and UVB protection—also known as broad spectrum protection. Obagi uses zinc oxide as the active sun-deflecting ingredient in our Obagi Sun Shield Matte Broad Spectrum SPF 50 sunscreen. While it may not contain as much zinc oxide as that white-paste you are familiar with, it does provide agentle, yet effective physical protection from the sun with an elegant, matte finish perfect for all skin types.

So why choose a physical zinc oxide-containing sunscreen? Many doctors and consumers prefer it because zinc oxide is often less irritating than a chemical sunscreen and is recommended for those with sensitive skin, acne or rosacea. In fact, in addition to its sun-fighting abilities, zinc oxide is sometimes used to treat diaper rash, minor burns, chapped skin, and other skin irritations.2

We seem to be so aware of the ingredients we should avoid—MSG, PABA and propylene to name a few—it’s time we spent some energy learning about the ingredients we should seek out, like zinc oxide. Check out this post for smart sunscreen tips and other ways to prepare your skin for the hot summer sun.

Do you have more questions about physical sunscreens or zinc oxide? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll do our best to answer them for you.

References:
1. What to Look for in a Sunscreen. New York Times Website.
http://consults.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/10/what-to-look-for-in-a-sunscreen/ Accessed June 26th, 2013.
2. Zinc Oxide Topical. Drugs.com Website.
http://www.drugs.com/mtm/zinc-oxide-topical.html Accessed June 26th, 2013.

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