Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreen: Which Is Safe for Sun Safety?

Practice sun safety...safely. Not all sunscreens are made equal. So, which is better: chemical or mineral sunscreen? Let's take a look!

Soak up the sun in a safe manner by using sunscreen before heading outdoors.

Applying sunscreen is a vital step in protecting your skin from harmful UV rays and significantly reducing the risk of skin cancer. When it comes to choosing the right sun safety products, it's essential to understand the two main types: mineral and chemical sunscreens. Mineral sunscreens feature ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They often stand out as the superior choice due to their eco-friendly and hormone-safe properties. On the other hand, chemical sunscreens are more common, due to how easy they are to use. However, many chemicals in these sunscreens can disrupt hormonal balance and damage marine ecosystems. Let’s take a closer look at chemical vs. mineral sunscreen so you can make informed decisions that benefit both your health and our planet.

What Is Chemical Sunscreen and Why Is It Bad?

Don’t scorch your skin while working on your tan. Sunscreen plays an essential role in protecting our skin from the harmful effects of UV rays, significantly lowering the risk of skin cancer and premature aging [1]. However, not all sunscreens are created equal. When choosing a sunscreen, it's crucial to understand the differences between mineral and chemical formulations. 

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UV radiation through ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate, and avobenzone, among others [2]. These chemicals can provide effective protection but come with their own set of concerns.

Oxybenzone is a common ingredient in many chemical sunscreens. It has been linked to hormone disruption, which can lead to various health issues, such as reproductive problems and developmental delays [3]. 

Octinoxate is another troubling chemical. It can cause allergic reactions in some individuals and is also known to contribute to coral reef bleaching, posing a significant environmental threat [4]. 

Avobenzone is commonly used in sunscreens because it’s effective at absorbing the full spectrum of UVA rays. However, avobenzone can break down when exposed to sunlight, leading to the formation of potentially harmful free radicals [5]. These potential risks make it important to consider what we are putting on our skin and releasing into the environment.

In contrast, mineral sunscreens use natural active ingredients that are generally considered safe and effective, providing broad-spectrum protection without the hormonal disruptions associated with their chemical counterparts. Let’s take a closer look at why mineral sunscreens are safer than chemical sunscreens.

What is Mineral Sunscreen, and Why Is It Preferred Over Chemical Sunscreen?

Soak up Vitamin D while using sun protection, not oxybezone and other harmful chemicals. Opt for mineral sunscreens for your sun safety routine.

Mineral sunscreens, also known as physical sunscreens, often use ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These key ingredients are often seen as superior for their earth-friendly and hormone-safe properties. Unlike chemical sunscreens, which can disrupt hormones and harm marine life, mineral sunscreens provide a protective barrier without these risks. 

Mineral sunscreens work by sitting on top of the skin and reflecting UV rays away, thanks to active ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide [6]. These ingredients are generally safer for both human health and the environment. 

Concerns Over Nano-Particles in Mineral Sunscreens

Shopping wisely doesn’t end with just choosing mineral sunscreen over chemical sunscreen. You must read labels carefully to make sure you are buying the highest quality sunscreen whenever possible. 

Nanoparticles in mineral sunscreens, such as those made from zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are a cause of concern because they are small enough to potentially penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream, posing unknown health risks. Studies have shown that these nanoparticles can generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) when exposed to UV light, which may lead to cellular damage [7]. 

To avoid these risks, consumers should look for labels that specify "non-nano" or "micro-sized" particles, indicating that the ingredients are not in nanoparticle form and are less likely to penetrate the skin. Always check product labels and choose sunscreens that explicitly state their particle size to ensure safer use.

Despite these potential concerns, mineral sunscreens are widely preferred over chemical sunscreens due to their effective UV protection and lower risk profile. They are less likely to cause allergic reactions or skin irritation, making them suitable for people with sensitive skin. 

Furthermore, mineral sunscreens do not break down in the sun as quickly as chemical sunscreens, providing more stable and long-lasting protection. Their environmental impact is also significantly lower, as they do not contribute to coral reef bleaching or water pollution.

Other Harmful Ingredients in Sunscreens

When choosing a sunscreen, it's important to look beyond whether it's labeled as chemical or mineral and consider the full list of ingredients. Many sunscreens include fragrances that often contain phthalates, a group of chemicals used to make scents last longer. Products labeled “unscented” can sometimes contain phthalates, so make sure to opt for “fragrance-free” products.

Phthalates have been linked to various health concerns, including endocrine disruption, which can interfere with hormone function and potentially lead to reproductive issues and developmental problems in children [8].

In addition to phthalates, many sunscreens contain preservatives like parabens. These are used to extend the product's shelf life by preventing the growth of bacteria and mold. 

However, parabens can also mimic estrogen in the body, potentially disrupting hormonal balance and increasing the risk of breast cancer [9]. We suggest looking for sunscreens labeled "paraben-free" to minimize potential health impacts.

Of course, you can always shop Million Marker Approved Sunscreens. We make sure there are no harmful ingredients in any of our recommendations. 

Stay Away from Spray Sunscreens

Practice sun safety for yourself…and the others around you. We highly recommend you don’t use spray-on sunscreens.

They can release benzene, a known carcinogen, due to the propellants used in their formulations. Inhalation of benzene can cause respiratory issues and increase the risk of leukemia [10]. 

Also, spray sunscreens often miss the body, leading to inadequate protection and pollution of the environment as the particles disperse into the air. For these reasons, it's generally safer to opt for mineral sunscreens, which provide more reliable coverage and don't carry the same health and environmental risks.

Tips for Using Mineral Sunscreens

It's true that mineral sunscreens often don't go on as easily as chemical sunscreens and can leave your skin looking a bit frosty white. This can be frustrating, especially when you're eager to get out and enjoy the sun. However, it's important to remember that these minor inconveniences are worth the trade-off for avoiding the potential harm caused by chemical sunscreens, which can include endocrine disruption and other health risks.

To make applying mineral sunscreen more manageable, consider these tips. First, apply your sunscreen before heading out into the sun to ensure you have enough time to cover all exposed areas thoroughly. 

Reapply as needed, especially after swimming or sweating. It's helpful to start with small amounts and gently rub it into your skin. Unlike chemical sunscreens, which can be globbed on and smeared, mineral sunscreens can become pasty if applied too heavily at once. Use circular motions to work it in gradually.

Reapplying sunscreen doesn't have to be a chore. Take your time and think of it as an opportunity to give your limbs a nice massage. 

There's no need to rush! Enjoy the process and make it part of your relaxation routine whether you're at the beach, park, or your backyard. By slowing things down, you not only ensure better coverage but also enhance your overall enjoyment of your time outdoors.

In addition, sun-protective clothing is an effective way to prevent sunburn by providing a physical barrier against harmful UV rays. 

These garments are specifically designed with tightly woven fabrics to enhance their protective capabilities. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants while in the sun. In addition, consider donning a wide-brimmed hat or using an umbrella. 

This proactive approach is especially beneficial for those who spend extended periods outdoors, offering reliable protection without the need for constant reapplication like sunscreen.

Test Your Body for Oxybenzone and Other Harmful Sunscreen Chemicals

It's essential to avoid harmful chemicals like oxybenzone, phthalates, and parabens. These toxic chemicals are commonly found in many personal care products, including sunscreens. These substances can pose significant health risks, disrupting hormones and potentially leading to various health issues. Understanding your exposure to these chemicals is a crucial step toward protecting your health.

Using Million Marker's Detect & Detox Test Kit offers a practical solution for those concerned about their exposure to harmful chemicals. We test your urine to identify common toxic substances in your body, such as oxybenzone, phthalates, parabens, and bisphenols. Your personalized report details the levels of these substances in your body and highlights potential sources of exposure in your daily life.

Alongside your report, we provide specific recommendations on how to reduce your chemical exposure. Whether it's swapping out certain products, making dietary changes, or adopting new lifestyle habits, our tips are designed to help you effectively lower your levels of these harmful chemicals. This proactive approach can significantly decrease your risk of health issues associated with these toxicants, empowering you to make safer decisions for yourself and your family.


[1] https://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/0128071-200910001-00004 
[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022202X15463419 
[3] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0890623819300127 
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9652235/ 
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8537076/ 
[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3781714/ 
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3781714/   
[8] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15287394.2018.1543231 
[9] https://analyticalsciencejournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jat.978 
[10] https://www.cancer.org/cancer/risk-prevention/chemicals/benzene.html