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8 Sunscreen Ingredients That Can Damage Your Skin

As any skincare expert would rightfully attest, sunscreen is your first line of defence against the sun's harmful UV rays. It can help prevent  skin damage, premature ageing, and sunburn. But not all sunscreens are created equal. Some contain ingredients that might do more harm than good. Which is why understanding sunscreen labels is crucial, as it can help you choose a safer, more effective product to holistically protect your skin.

 In This Article:

Understanding Sunscreen Labels

What Sunscreen Ingredients Should You Avoid?

Understanding Sunscreen Labels  

Reading a sunscreen label can feel like decoding a complex scientific formula. Here’s a breakdown of what to look for:

  • SPF (Sun Protection Factor): This number indicates the amount of time you may be able to spend in the sun without getting sunburnt from UVB rays. The higher the number that follows it, the better. An SPF range of 30-50 is recommended.
  • Broad Spectrum: This indicates that the sunscreen protects against both UVB and UVA rays, the latter of which can penetrate the skin more deeply and also cause skin cancer and ageing.
  • PA (Protection Grade Of UVA): Usually accompanied by multiple ‘+’ signs, it indicates the level of protection the sunscreen offers against UVA rays, with PA+ offering the least and PA++++ offering extremely high levels of protection.

What Sunscreen Ingredients Should You Avoid?

While a sunscreen does the greater good of protecting your skin, these are some ingredients that can trigger skin irritation or are harmful for the planet.

  • Oxybenzone: This common ingredient in chemical sunscreens is a concern because it can cause skin allergies and hormonal disruptions. It is also harmful to coral reefs. It should also be avoided by pregnant women as it very quickly enters the bloodstream and can potentially damage the DNA, lead to the production of free radicals and increase the likelihood of cancer cell formation.
  • Octinoxate (Octylmethoxycinnamate): Another chemical sunscreen ingredient, octinoxate is easily absorbed into the skin and has been linked to reproductive and endocrine disruption. It, too, is damaging to marine life.
  • Homosalate: This ingredient helps sunscreen penetrate the skin and can disrupt estrogen, androgen, and progesterone hormones.
  • Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A palmitate): Some studies suggest that this form of Vitamin A can speed up the development of skin tumours and lesions when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight.
  • Titanium Dioxide: Found in several beauty products, this ingredient is being identified as carcinogenic. So, instead of reducing the risk of UV rays, it contributes to the development of cancer cells induced by UV rays.
  • Parabens: Used as preservatives, Parabens can mimic estrogen and disrupt hormones in the body. They’re also linked to potential reproductive and developmental disorders.
  • Fragrances and Phthalates: Fragrances in sunscreens can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation. Phthalates, often part of synthetic fragrances, can disrupt endocrine function.
  • Avobenzone: It’s not a sun stable ingredient, hence when exposed to sunlight it begins to degrade and results in free radical damage and premature ageing of your skin. It is also linked to hormone disruptions.

Chemical VS Mineral Sunscreen: What’s The Difference? 

Understanding the difference between chemical and mineral sunscreens can help you make a more informed choice.

1. Chemical Sunscreens 

These sunscreens blend into the skin and then absorb UV rays, convert the rays into heat, and release them from the body. They often contain one or more of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate. While effective at protecting against UV radiation, they increase the risk of skin irritation or other adverse effects and are often less favoured for sensitive skin.

2. Mineral Sunscreens 

Also known as physical sunscreens, these sit on top of the skin and physically block UV rays by reflecting and scattering the light away from the skin. They contain active mineral ingredients, such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Mineral sunscreens are less likely to cause skin irritation, making them a preferred choice for sensitive skin. They also offer broad-spectrum protection without the risk of absorption into the skin.

Mineral sunscreens are generally recognised as safer and more environmentally friendly when compared to their chemical counterpart. They start working immediately upon application, whereas chemical sunscreens need about 20 minutes to become effective after application.

The Best Sunscreen For All Skin Types 

Our Simple Kind to Skin Gel Sunscreen SPF 50 PA++++ will tick all your boxes. Here’s how. First things first, it is a lightweight, broad-spectrum, no-white cast sunscreen. The gel texture quickly blends into the skin and leaves behind a comfortable matte finish. It is free of 2000+ harmful chemicals and also non-comedogenic, which makes it suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin. Along with preventing sunburns, it also protects your skin barrier and prevents premature signs of ageing. Plus, it is packed with a plethora of skin-loving ingredients—Niacinamide, Vitamin E, plant-based Glycerin, Vitamin C—that promotes softer, healthier skin.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:1 Which chemical should not be in sunscreen?

A. Harmful chemicals like Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Homosalate, Retinyl Palmitate,  Titanium Dioxide, Avobenzone, Parabens, Fragrances and Phthalates, etc should be avoided.

Q:2 Chemical or mineral sunscreen, which is better?

A. Between the two, mineral sunscreen is a better and healthier option. This is because they work by reflecting the UV rays instead of absorbing them like in the case of chemical sunscreens.

Rhea Shah
Written by Rhea Shah on May 18, 2024
Rhea has banked on her passion for writing and beauty to be where she is today. When she isn't looking up fancy synonyms for simple words aka working, she is either traveling, making travel plans, or exploring a new restaurant.
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