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We’ve been talking about mineral sunscreens being the safest, cleanest option now for years. Why? Because the natural minerals providing the sun protection are not absorbed. That’s right. They have been tested for systemic absorption, and they are not absorbed. Mineral sunscreens which contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, sit on the skin and act like a shield, providing a physical barrier and deflecting the sun’s rays. Yep, low tech and very safe. We’ve been talking about this for years, but now, a lot more people are listening, because a lot more people are concerned.
When the FDA’s first study on chemical sunscreens hit the news last spring in May 2019, it made people sit up and take notice. FDA reported that the chemicals in most sunscreens are absorbed at levels that raise significant safety concerns. FDA researchers reported on a study of four active ingredients in widely used sunscreen lotions and sprays. That study found that all four were absorbed into volunteers’ bloodstreams, at concentrations that far surpassed their safety threshold of 0.5 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL).
Their follow up study published in January 2020 tested two additional chemicals with similar results. Not only that, but some of these chemicals lingered in the body for weeks: In more than half of volunteers, levels of avobenzone, octisalate and octinoxate remained elevated for up to seven days, while homosalate and oxybenzone remained above-threshold for as long as 21 days. Animal research has raised questions about whether some of these chemicals — oxybenzone, in particular — can disrupt hormone activity.
So, last spring, FDA published proposed sunscreen rules which indicated that most ingredients were inadequately tested for safety and implied that these ingredients would be removed from the market unless appropriate safety testing was conducted. As written, the new rules would bring significant advances in both effectiveness and safety. The proposed rules were to be finalized by the end of 2019 but (surprise!) they were never adopted. Now, they must be re-proposed by FDA. Given the delay, it remains unclear when consumers will see a change in chemical sun protection products but new regulations will likely not come for at least two more years.
Based on existing test data, the FDA’s proposal recognized as safe and effective just two ingredients, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. So, we’ve been right all along. Sunscreen products made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide meet our standards for effectiveness and safety.
But what about esthetics and ease of use? Aren’t most mineral sunscreens thick white pastes that are hard to spread and make you look like Casper the Friendly Ghost? Well, we can’t lie. Some are like that, but most adults have no objection and prefer safety over vanity.
However, the good news is there are a lot of miraculous new mineral options that are lightweight, sheer and work well under makeup or on their own to provide full sun protection, even for the fairest of complexions! Newer facial products are tinted for that sun-kissed look!
Check out our Suncare Essentials protocol in Wellevate®, which includes all of our favorite suncare products!
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