Schooled in Sunscreen: Chemical vs. Chemical-free (a.k.a Chem-free) Sunscreens
Chemical-free sunscreens have been the media's (and beauty bloggers') darling, as of late. But what makes them different from chemical sunscreens? Which one is right for your skin?
Check the back of your sunscreen bottle. Do any of the words "avobenzone" "oxybenzone" or "octinoxate" appear on the back? If you see those words (and probably some others!) then you have a chemical sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the energy from the sun's rays before they can reach your skin and cause damage. The sunscreen particles arrange themselves in a lattice-like formula, which takes time. This is why it is recommended to apply your chemical sunscreen at least half an hour before sun exposure.
Chemical- free Sunscreens
Chem-free sunscreens not only have the ingredients listed above, but also include titanium dioxide, zinc oxide or both. These sunscreens coat the skin; the sun is reflected off these ingredients and it protects the skin from being damaged. So, what are the advantages of these types of sunscreen? Because chem-free sunscreens reflect the light rather than absorb it, there is no need to wait before going out in the sun. In addition, chem-free sunscreens protect somewhat better against UVA rays, the rays that cause premature aging and skin cancer, than their chemical counterpart. Also, people with sensitive skin often find that chem-free sunscreens are less irritating.
So the choice is yours: if you have sensitive skin, chemical-free sunscreens are probably the choice for you. Otherwise, both formulas will protect your skin from the sun...as long as you remember to apply them daily!