Sunscreens can be broken down into two types: physical and chemical.
Physical sunscreens contain extremely fine particles of minerals such as zinc oxide, titanium dioxide and iron oxide that stay on the skin’s surface, creating a barrier that reflects the sun’s rays.
Pros of physical sunscreen include its ability to keep skin cool, the protection is natural, and it’s unlikely to cause skin irritation because it doesn’t get absorbed. The con: potentially heavy residue it can leave behind. However, modern refining techniques are helping to prevent this.
Chemical sunscreens contain synthetic compounds like parsol, benzophenones and paba as active ingredients, and they absorb ultraviolet radiation that causes sunburn, damages DNA and can lead to skin cancer.
Pros include its ability to defend the deeper layers of skin-including collagen fibers and other tissue-against the aging effects of UVA rays; and it prevents penetration by the UVB rays responsible for tanning and sunburn. Cons include irritation and allergic reactions in some people, as well as the tendency to break down quickly and generate free radicals.
Some people are reluctant to use chemical sunscreens because of the purported effect the ingredients have on hormones. However, even if you don’t want to use a sunscreen in the chemical category, that doesn’t mean you should go without sunscreen altogether. You can still get sufficient protection from physical sunscreens with natural ingredients.
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