Which sunscreen ingredients are BEST?

There are currently 17 active sunscreen ingredients approved by the FDA for use in sunscreens and sunblocks in the United States.

These ingredients fall into two broad categories:

Chemical and Physical

Most sunscreens now contain a mixture of both chemical and physical ingredients.

1. Chemical absorbers: work by absorbing the energy of UV radiation before it affects or damages your skin. Most chemical sunscreen ingredients are colorless, odorless and feel light on the skin, but can also cause allergic reactions and irritation.

2. Physical Blockers: When the sun hits these physical blockers, like titanium oxide or zinc oxide, it is reflected and bounces away from the skin. These rarely cause allergic reactions or irritations because they are natural ingredients and don’t get absorbed into the skin. However, they are quite thick and often leave a white film on the skin.

Since both UVA and UVB rays are harmful, you need protection from both types of the suns rays.

The best sunscreens are classified as Broad Spectrum sunscreen.

- These protect against both UVA and UVB rays

- Are water-resistant (NOT waterproof)

- Have an SPF-15 or higher

Look for these common sunscreen ingredients on the label to be sure you are buying a Broad Spectrum Sunscreen:

•Avabenzone ( Parsol 1789) many newer products contain Parsol 1789 and are highly effective and appear less irritating.

• Benzophenones (Oxybenzone, Dioxybenzone ) have been used in sunscreens for 50 years and have been know to cause irritations.

• Cinnamates (cinoxate, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnamate, octocrylene, octyl methoxycinnamate) These are a frequently used UVB absorber. They are often found in liquid foundations that have an SPF factor.

• Ecamsule ( Mexoryl SX) an organic compound added to sunscreens to filter out UVA rays. Sunscreens containing ecamsule are exclusive to L'Oréal and its brands.

• PABA, (para-aminobenzoic acid) was mostly used in the early 1970s and was the first true sunscreen to be widely available. It is not commonly used now because it often caused allergic reactions. A number of chemicals related to PABA are still used today, including Padimate A and O. The promotion of PABA-free sunscreens is now common.

• Salicylates (ethylhexyl salicylate, homosalate, octyl salicylate) Salicylates are weak UVB absorbers and they are generally used in combination with other UV filters.

• Titanium Dioxide, titanium dioxide is found in almost every sunscreen. It is a blocker of UV light and has strong absorbing capabilities.

• Zinc Oxide, absorbs both UVA and UVB rays and can be used in ointments, creams, and lotions to protect against sunburn and other skin damage. It is the broadest spectrum UVA and UVB absorber that is approved for use in sunscreen by the FDA. Zinc Oxide is also a main ingredient in the new mineral make-up we see on the market.

Sunscreens designed for infants and children or those with sensitive skin are often based on titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide. These minerals are less likely to cause skin irritation than the chemical absorbers.

Learn more about sunscreen ingredients used most for children here:

Sunblock vs Sunscreen:

Sunscreens chemically absorb UV rays.

Sunblocks physically deflect them.

For years, sunscreens have blocked UVB rays effectively, but provided less protection from the harmful UVA rays.

Combinations of sunscreen ingredients such as octylcrylene and benzophenones have improved sunscreen's defenses against UVA rays. The revolutionary new chemical Avobenzone (Parsol 1789), approved by the FDA in 1998 for use in sunscreens, works against all UVA rays.

Because many sunscreens now are classified as "Broad-Spectrum" and contain a combination of chemical and physical properties, sunblock and sunscreen are interchangeable terms.

Remember - There is no sunscreen that will provide 100% protection from all harmful UV rays.

Another important factor that needs to be discussed is the Sun Protection Factor system, or SPF.

Applying sunscreen properly is just as important as the sunscreen ingredients used.

Simple and basic facts about sunscreen:

Sunscreen brands and sunscreen ratings:

The effectiveness of sunscreens and does sunscreen expire?

Find the best type of sunscreen for your activity and skin type:

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