June 27, 2017

Sunblock Versus Sunscreen: Why You Should Care About The Difference + How to Choose the Best One

Few products are more confusing than sunscreen.  We all know that we should be using it, but deciphering the labels and terminology is intimidating.  I have friends who feel like they need to have an advanced scientific degree to understand just what all of the ingredients mean.

Even worse, many sunscreen are goopy, create thick, white messes, feel greasy and uncomfortable on your skin or cause you to break out.

Never fear, I’m here to break down sunscreens for you as a mama who has worked closely with Healthy Child, Healthy World for almost five years (they merged with the Environmental Working Group known as EWG who has an amazing database of products ranked by ingredients from 1 to 5 or A to F).

Sunscreen Versus Sunblock

Let’s start at the beginning, the words we use to describe our sun protection.  Many people interchangeably use the words sunscreen and sunblock.  But they refer to different types of sun protection.

Sunblock – a physical blocker that sits on top of the skin hence the term “block.”  This is also known as a “physical sunscreen” and “mineral sunscreen.”

Sunscreen – sun protection that absorbs into the skin and absorbs UV rays to protect the skin from the sun.  These sunscreens are made with chemicals and are therefore known as “chemical sunscreen.”

Some sunscreens contain both physical and chemical sunscreens as well.

Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens use one or more chemicals including oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, octinoxate and homosalate.

Remember how I mentioned the EWG database of products? Well they also have a sunscreen database as well.  EWG tested 1,400+ sunscreens and only 5% met their safety standards. Even WORSE over 40% were listed as potentially contributing to skin cancer.  Yes that’s right, the very product you are using to PREVENT skin cancer might be CAUSING it to occur!

The latest findings by new the EWG reveal that many of the chemicals used in sunscreen are endocrine disruptors; these are chemicals that can interfere with endocrine (or hormone) systems at certain doses. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders..

Now I don’t know about you, but we are really trying to limit chemicals in our home and to keep our cleaning and personal care products as natural as possible. If a natural product is available, my inclination is to always choose it over a chemical one. When that product is going on my skin and the skin of my children, I am even more stringent on ingredients being as natural and nontoxic as possible.

My basic philosophy is if I wouldn’t eat or drink it, I am not putting it on my skin. Your skin is your largest organ in your body, and products you apply to your skin can be absorbed into your bloodstream.

Now get THIS: the most widely used sunscreen chemical is Oxybenzone and a recent study by the CDC found it in 96% of the population!  In case you were wondering, oxybenzone is an endocrine disrupter, which is pretty scary stuff

This is why the EWG warns against using oxybenzone, especially on children or pregnant and breastfeeding women.

But should ANYONE be using it?! Are there safer options available?

The Safer Option: Mineral Sunblocks

To avoid the risks associated with chemicals sunscreens, I strongly recommend only using sun protection made from natural minerals.  The only mineral sunblocks approved by the FDA for sun protection are Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide.

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sit on top of your skin, forming a barrier against the sun’s penetrating rays. Sunscreens with zinc start protecting you as soon as you put them on. You may have heard you should look for a “broad-spectrum” product that protects against UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreens that contain physical blockers protect you against both types of rays, do not contain chemicals, disrupt your hormones or endocrine system, and can prevent aging, sun spots, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.

Titanium Dioxide is a naturally occurring mineral with a distinct, very white pigment. Titanium Dioxide is in skincare and cosmetics used for its UV-reflective properties and for its ability to remain highly stable when exposed to UV rays. Unlike many chemical UV filters, Titanium Dioxide does not degrade in the sun.

Zinc Oxide is another mineral from the metal zinc that has been oxidized.  Like Titanium Dioxide, it scatters and reflects UV rays, preventing them from reaching the surface of the skin. It is the only ingredient approved by the FDA that effectively protects against both UVA and UVB rays.  And best, Zinc provides a physical barrier on your skin without a white, chalky layer that will make you run from any possible camera evidence (think the lifeguards at the beach!).

Why I Love Zinc Oxide

About ten years ago, I was hanging with my friends at a pool on top of a gorgeous building in Downtown LA.  We had a great day, but when I got in the elevator, I noticed weird marks on my face.  I immediately FREAKED OUT and went running to the bathroom to examine the evidence.

What happened to my face?

The answer was hyperpigmentation / melasma.  And with that, my life completely changed.

I grew up close to the beach, and spent most of my weekends on the beach or swimming in the pool.  I was a little “fish” and in advanced swim classes from an early age with kids much older than me.  I loved to swim and be near water.

And as a kid in the 80’s, no one knew anything about sunblock!  As I grew up, my affinity for water and the beach continued to grow.  I chose a college on a gorgeous, deserted and famous (infamous?) La Jolla beach in San Diego and spent many days on the sand instead of in class (don’t worry, I still mostly got A’s!).

We used to compare sun tans at the end of the day like something we wore as a badge of honor.  If ONLY I knew!

Melasma is caused by hormones, often from birth control, pregnancy or breastfeeding.  Basically the melanin in your skin that is responsible for your “tan” or skin coloring goes on hyperdrive and instead of turning just a few shades darky, creates what looks like dirty marks.  Think ugly, misshapen freckles that can emerge in places like your upper lip, cheek bones, nose, forehead and chin.

Fun stuff right?

After I learned about melasma and how to prevent it (by wearing sunblock every single day, shielding your face from the sun by a hat and sunglasses, and staying out of direct sunlight) I went on a trip to Mexico with my family.  I did everything right (or so I thought).  I slathered myself in sunblock.  I wore a hat and glasses.  And STILL my melasma came roaring to the surface.

I was so frustrated.  That’s when I learned the critical mistake I had made: I was not using a physical sunblock!  Chemical sunscreens allow rays to be absorbed by the skin remember?  Physical sunblocks completely block the rays from penetrating.  I had spent hours laying on pool rafts reading, and the light reflected from the water all around me and caused rays to hit me from every single direction.  My hat and glasses were no use with only a chemical sunblock on.

Since learning about physical sunblocks, I have completely gotten my melasma under control.  Since I live in Southern California, and we only have two seasons (spring and summer), I carry Zinc Sunblock in my purse, keep some in my car (remember zinc doesn’t degrade from heat like chemical sunscreens do) and apply it every morning.

It has always been a challenge to find a really good sunblock that absorbs and doesn’t make me feel greasy, white-faced, and that I can apply makeup over well (as if I was not wearing any sunblock).

Well I have finally found the answer: Maelove.  It comes in a simple white tube that I can easily throw into any bag.  it takes seconds to apply and easily smooths onto my skin.  It doesn’t burn when you put it on, it shields extremely well from the sun (yes, even as I laid next to the pool reading at Terranea!) and my kids don’t mind me applying it (the REAL test!).

It is FINALLY available to the public, be one of the first to scoop it up!  They are the sister company to Mavericks, a simple grooming company for men that my husband not only will actually use, but he proudly displays on our vanity next to my expensive lotions and potions!

Check it out and let me know your thoughts below!

*Note: I was given complimentary sunblock to test and try out for this sponsored post.  I only partner and share companies who products I love and believe in, and Maelove is one of the best!

Please note this post is sponsored by Maelove.  As always, all opinions are mine alone based on my own experiences and research!

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