In preparation for a lot of sunscreen reviews, here’s a bit of information about the acitve ingredients in sunscreen. While not the most exciting post (been stuck at work, this is the only post I have completed right now…. Sorry… expect me to spend all day Saturday writing!), I’ll be referring to this post frequently in the near future!
There are two main types of Active Ingredients, which you should familiarize yourself with before you buy your next sunscreen.
Chemical sunscreens absorb the UV rays, preventing them from reaching your skin.
examples: PABA (paraminobenzoic acid), oxybenzone, cinnamates, and butyl methoxydibenzoyl methane.
These ingredients actually reflect the UV rays off of the skin.
examples: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
In addition to considering the type of sunscreen, you need to consider what UV Spectrum you will be covering. You want broad-spectrum UVA and UVB coverage, which generally will take at least 2, usually 3 active ingredients. Look on the back of the sunscreen, legally they need to be listed there.
Short Wave UVA
• Ecamsule (Mexoryl)
Long Wave UVA
• Avobenzone (Parsol 1789)
• Ecamsule (Mexoryl)
• p-Aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
– Padimate O: FDA approved as a photo-protectant, this ingredient has quite a bit of debate about it. There is some evidence that when it is activated by the sun it actually directly causes DNA damage to cells, making sun damage worse, it also protects somewhat into the short wave UVA spectrum.
– Octyl salicylate = Octisalate
– Trolamine salicylate
• Octylmethoxycinnamate = Octinoxate
• Ensulizole: This also protects into the short range UVA range
Broad Spectrum UVA and UVB
• Titanium dioxide
• Zinc oxide
See this cool new chart? It will show you more visually which parts of the UV spectrum each sunscreen covers! I spent a lot of time figuring this out, but really, those are all of the FDA approved sunscreen active ingredients, I’ll be customizing this graphic for each sunscreen review!
The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation
While I’ll be reviewing quite a few sunscreens soon (and referring to this post often), I doubt that you’ll bring a list of ingredients with you to Target. (I do hope you’ll read the reviews and do a bit a research before you buy your next tube of sunscreen.) But, one of the easiest thing to do is to look for the Seal. The Seal has some requirements, companies seek it out and they can’t buy it.
• A sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater (note that they don’t require broad spectrum UVA and UVB coverage, you’ll need to check that out on your own)
• Validation of the SPF number by testing on 20 people
• Acceptable test results for phototoxic reactions and contact irritation
• Substantiation for any claims that a sunscreen is water- or sweat-resistant
You can view a list of all the products that have this Seal at The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Site