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Read The Label: The Most Common Ingredients In Sunscreens And What They Mean

Read The Label: The Most Common Ingredients In Sunscreens And What They Mean

You are already familiar with the fundamentals: Sunscreen is a preventative measure that shields the skin from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. But do you know what goes into a sunscreen to make it the magic shield that protects you from all your skin’s nemeses? First things first, not all sun-protecting ingredients have the same uses and benefits. For instance, some ingredients potentially help prevent ageing but not sunburns, while others are generally thought to be safe for humans but not for the environment.

Fret not, we’re here to help you decode sunscreen ingredients. Consider this your beginner’s guide to sunscreen labels. Scroll down to learn everything there is to know about the ingredients you should be cautious of and the ones that are safe to use.

All The Deets On The Ingredients You Need To Know About

Several researchers have highlighted concerns about a strong correlation between sunscreen ingredients and growth retardation. While there isn’t any solid evidence, it’s advisable to avoid certain SPF ingredients whenever possible, notably because there are safer alternatives.

Not only that, but in some cases, the SPF you apply before swimming in the ocean has an impact on the fragile marine ecosystem as it melts away. .

Zinc Oxide

Found in physical sunscreens and considered safe

Zinc oxide, a mineral filter, efficiently protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. It forms a protective layer over the skin’s surface, similar to titanium dioxide, to provide rapid UV protection. Zinc oxide, like other mineral filters, is soft on the skin and lasts a long time, but it can leave a white cast on the surface. It’s also been proven to have anti-inflammatory and calming properties, which is why it’s a common ingredient in nappy rash lotions and anti-blemish treatments.

Titanium Dioxide

Found in physical sunscreens and considered safe

This naturally produced mineral is one of the best skin-protecting ingredients. It is classified as a physical filter, which means it forms a barrier across the skin’s surface, preventing UV rays from accessing the epidermal layer. It is indeed mild and non-irritating, so it’s suitable for delicate skin and even kids. It doesn’t disintegrate in the sun either, but it can leave a white cast on the skin, which isn’t ideal for people with a darker skin tone.


Found in chemical sunscreens and known to cause allergies

Most UV filters perform better when used in conjunction with others of the same type. Because oxybenzone is a very weak UVA and UVB absorber on its own, it is almost always coupled with other chemical filters. It can also help protect other UV filters in the same formula from deterioration, however it has been known to trigger allergic reactions in certain people’s skin, resulting in eczema-like symptoms on the surface. While some experts advise eliminating this ingredient, it should only be removed from your routine if it irritates your skin.


Found in chemical sunscreens and best paired with avobenzone

This chemical filter is a lesser-known sunscreen ingredient, but it’s used in more products than you may think. Octisalate is an active ingredient in many topical creams and lotions that works to absorb UVB rays when they penetrate the skin. It is frequently coupled with avobenzone to keep it stable for longer. Its texture is often oily, and it has minor water resistance, which is why it’s found in many long-lasting and body-focused sunscreens. 


Found in chemical sunscreens and can be limited to 3 percent in sunscreens

Avobenzone, which was first identified in the 1970s, is one of the most effective ingredients for providing protection against UVA rays, which cause collagen breakdown and accelerated ageing. Avobenzone, unlike titanium dioxide, is a chemical filter that absorbs UV rays as they reach the skin before transforming them into less damaging energy for the cells. This chemical must be paired with some other UV filters to ensure that it remains effective, as it can break down when exposed to sunlight for longer time frames. This ingredient is deemed to be safe if the concentration amounts to 3 percent in sunscreen formulations.


Found in chemical sunscreens and considered to disrupt endocrine function

Homosalate is a common sunscreen ingredient that can irritate or trigger allergic responses in those with sensitive skin. Concerns have also been raised concerning homosalate’s possible link to endocrine disruption. However, these investigations were carried out in vitro, and there is no conclusive evidence. However, more research is needed. If you’re concerned about homosalate in sunscreens, you can select sunscreens minus this ingredient or mineral sunscreens.

Artificial Fragrances

Found in both, chemical and physical sunscreens

Artificial fragrances in skin care products, on the other hand, aren’t completely safe. They’re the most prevalent allergen in beauty products, and if you have sensitive skin, they can irritate you even further. As a result, it’s best to take precautions and use fragrance-free sunscreens.

Now that you’re aware of the ingredients in sunscreen, you can make an informed selection before buying one.

Featured Image: Instagram

17 Jun 2022

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