"Natural" "Mineral" "Chemical Free":: What does it all mean?
Let's break it down.
There are two types of sunscreen, PHYSICAL and CHEMICAL.
PHYSICAL SUNSCREEN is often referred to as "mineral" or "natural" and are the zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide UV blockers. They are called physical because they sit on top of the skin and reflect the suns rays like a mirror. These blockers are referred to as natural because they occur in nature and aren't made in a laboratory. They do not penetrate the skin, giving broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection and have the lowest toxicity concern of any of the UV blockers known today (EWG). Physical sunscreen is the best choice for sensitive skin as it is less likely to cause irritation. Also, as soon as it is applied it is acting to protect your skin from the sun, so there’s no need to wait before you can expose yourself... to the sunshine.
CHEMICAL SUNSCREEN uses synthetic chemicals created in laboratories such as oxybenzone and octinoxate as their UV blockers. These get absorbed into the skin, hence the usual advice to apply 20 minutes before sun exposure. They absorb UV light like a sponge. This process may produce heat and free radicals. Each chemical works in a narrow UV spectrum, that's why multiple chemicals are needed to protect the skin properly and you end up with an ingredients list as long as your forearm of words you can hardly pronounce. What most people don’t know is that chemical sunscreen may cause the eyes to sting, clog the pores, increase redness, brown spots or discolouration of your skin. Furthermore, published research has shown chemical sunscreen to disrupt hormones, cause hormone-related cancer or generate free radicals inside the skin.
If you found this information juicy, head over to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) for more on UV blockers in sunscreen and their effects on human health.
Take care and enjoy the Sunshine !
Sash & Tom