What are the differences between mineral and chemical sunscreens, and what can one expect from ingredients in each? The answers all lie in the fact that sunlight travels in waves with wavelengths carrying different amounts and kinds of energy. Sunlight has a combination of visible light wavelengths that give the ability to see. Several other ranges of wave lengths carry energy, but are not visible to the human eye such as Ultraviolet (UV), infrared, etc. The UV range is divided into UVA and UVB wavelengths. The two different types deliver energy that causes different kinds of damage to skin. Different protection mechanisms are needed for UVB and UVA rays
As energy cannot be created or destroyed, it is delivered to the skin and absorbed. Upon absorption, the energy causes a result of damage just as surely as hitting a board with a hammer causes a dent in the board from the energy released. We associate the energy in UVB with causing skin cancers as these wavelengths are absorbed completely in the outer skin layer of epidermis. They deliver energy that are absorbed by cells to cause alterations to DNA that result in abnormal cell replications that we identify as skin cancers.
UVA, with its different wavelengths passes completely through the epidermis and down into the deeper dermal tissue where structural proteins collagen and elastin are located. Damage to these proteins results in loss of elasticity or “stretched skin” laxity and wrinkles and thinning of the skin itself. With one exception UVA protection almost always depends on something that reflects or “bounces back” the UVA rays.
Sunscreen products are regulated by the FDA as OTC drugs. Thus, the ingredients that may be used are closely regulated. Ingredients that protect from UVB rays are almost all chemicals that absorb the UVB energy. The absorbed energy cannot be destroyed so it must go somewhere. The effect of absorption is to destroy the sunscreen protective chemical itself by splitting the absorbing particle which spares cells or other protein in the epidermis from damage. But the fragments after splitting may have the ability to cause harmful free radical formation to still cause damage to skin. Repeated application of the UVB product is necessary as the split fragments from before are no longer effective to capture UVB energy.
UVB sunscreens, must contain one or more of the 20 or so FDA allowed choices, and each of the ingredients have been given pre-determined “sun protection factor” values. A sunscreen producer can add several of the UVB ingredients into the formulation and simply add the spf value of each ingredient to get a total SPF value claim allowed by the FDA. Unfortunately, many of the UVB ingredients capture identical UV wavelength ranges and the energy cannot be captured twice. The result may then be a final product that can legally advertise an SPF value of 50 or more. The final product formulation may only have a true spf effect of 15 or 20.
UVA protection ingredients act like a million tiny mirrors to reflect UVA rays away from the skin. These ingredients are almost always zinc oxide “dust” particles. Years ago, the only particle sizes available were much larger than now and the ZnO reflected an un-natural whiteish effect we associate with the old lifeguard white nose effect. Now the particles can be milled into microfine sizes that do not reflect the white coloration and are very effective for UVA protection.
The benefits of mineral sunscreens are very significant. Any chemical ingredients in cosmetics and sunscreens that eventually wash off our bodies have an opportunity to harm our waters. Because minerals exist in nature, even though they wash off our skin easily, they cause no harm to the environment. This includes coral reef damage, and possible chemically induced changes in habitat for other animals. These negative results caused by use of sunscreens by humans are becoming more evident as problems for our planet earth home.
Mineral sun protective ingredients are not sensitizing for allergenic responses. They do NOT cause any irritation or stinging to eyes as nearly all chemical ingredients tend to do if used during outdoor sports or around the pool.
Titanium dioxide is a mineral sunscreen, but paradoxically only works as protector from UVB rays and is inactive for use with UVA ray protection. Mineral sunscreen ingredients are excellent for protection from UVA damage, but there is a great need for UVB protection, sunburn prevention and the prevention of skin cancers.
Chemical sunscreens are effective UVB protection ingredients, but they all have limitations. As many of the chemical ingredients duplicate the UV spectrum they absorb, formulators must consider getting the broadest spectrum protection rather than simply getting an extremely high “spf” claim.
Therapon Skin Health considered the scientific facts and skin needs in formulating its Platinum Protection sunscreen. They successfully accomplished getting the broadest protection coverage range of both UVA and UVB while using maximum FDA allowed concentrations of mineral and chemical ingredients. The formulation also brings no irritation for any skin in a base formula that truly moisturizes skin. Many women find that using Theraderm platinum Protection with spf of 43 under makeup also supplies all moisturization needs for skin during daytime hours. In the evening, Theraderm’s other great moisturizer choices continue restoration of the skin moisture barrier.
Optimum sun protection from cancer causing as well as skin aging rays will include ingredients that absorb UVB energy and ingredients that reflect away UVA energy. Formulations should also be non-irritating to skin and have ability to resist washing off while swimming or in water.
Theraderm Platinum Protection spf 43 brings all of the advantages of the ideal sunscreen with virtually no disadvantages for any skin type of any age!