Mineral or chemical? UConn dermatology chair weighs in on sunscreen choices

Health

FARMINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — Sunscreens come in two forms: chemical and natural mineral. Dr. Philip Kerr, Chairman of UConn Health‘s department of dermatology has a clear preference.

“The best sunscreens are the mineral sunscreens. They’re the most effective at blocking UVA and UVB,” says Dr. Kerr.

Mineral sunscreens are becoming very popular because they are natural.

In one FDA study of people after using chemical sunscreens, the ingredient oxybenzone – along with some other sunscreen active ingredients including octocrylene – were detected in human breast milk, amniotic fluid, urine, and blood. It was determined that further studies are needed on levels of safety.

Places including Hawaii, Key West, and Aruba have banned the use of the chemical sunscreen due to its destruction of coral reefs.

Dr. Kerr says mineral sunscreens last longer, so less reapplying.

“It tends not to rub off, wipe off, or wash off as easily and it doesn’t get degraded in the sun as quickly as the chemical-based sunscreens,” says Dr. Kerr.

Because of that their SPFs measure up differently.

“A 30 sunscreen as a mineral sunscreen will be the same roughly as a 50 or 70 as a chemical sunscreen.”

He says seek both UVA and UVB protection.

Mineral sunscreens are a natural, physical barrier containing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. And the once thick formulas are quickly improving.

“I anticipate that in five years or so we’ll be using the chemical based sunscreens much much less.”

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