It’s time to get smart about filters—and not just the flattering kind you choose for your selfies. We’re talking about the sunscreen ingredients that shield you from UV rays and fall into two categories: mineral and non-mineral.
Using SPF regularly is not only crucial for protecting yourself from skin cancer, it’s also important for warding off the cumulative damage that brings on signs of aging, including wrinkles, dark spots and sagging. But how to choose the right SPF for you? Here’s everything you need to know about how sunscreen filters work differently, and why it’s so much easier to find feel-good sunscreen textures today.
WHAT ARE MINERAL FILTERS?
Check the back of your sunscreen label. If you see titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide listed, you’re looking at mineral filters. These ingredients are natural, and sometimes they’re also called physical filters because they literally sit on top of the skin and bounce the UV light off, like a shield.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF MINERAL FILTERS?
Dermatologists typically recommend sunscreens with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide for kids, and for people with sensitive or reactive skin, or conditions like rosacea, since they are less likely to irritate.
ARE THERE DRAWBACKS TO MINERAL FILTERS?
In the past, sunscreens based on minerals sometimes left a chalky white cast or felt thick and heavy. Fortunately, formulas have advanced a long way since the olden days: titanium dioxide and zinc oxide can be made much finer, so they pack serious protection while looking virtually undetectable.
Try: Clinique Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Mineral Sunscreen Lotion for Body.
WHAT ARE NON-MINERAL FILTERS?
In Canada, there are 17 non-mineral sunscreen ingredients (also called “chemical” or “organic”—we know, it can be a bit confusing at first) on the market. Common ones you might see on the label include homosalate, octocrylene, octinoxate, avobenzone (a.k.a. Parsol 1789) and ecamsule (a.k.a. Mexoryl SX). All chemical filters work by absorbing UV rays and then releasing the energy as heat. Because the sun’s radiation comes in a whole spectrum, multiple ingredients are typically combined in one product, so you’re protected against a broader range of rays.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF NON-MINERAL FILTERS?
Generally, these sunscreens tend to be thinner in texture, easier to spread on the skin, and more transparent when applied—especially on darker skin tones. You can also find non-mineral sunscreens in a wider variety of formats beyond creams, including milky liquids and sprays.
Try: Vichy Idéal Soleil Invisible Mist SPF 50.
ARE THERE DRAWBACKS TO NON-MINERAL FILTERS?
Some chemical filters will gradually break down with exposure to the sun, so you have to be careful to reapply every few hours to ensure you’re fully protected. If the word “chemical” makes you wonder if these ingredients are healthy, know that all sunscreen filters on the market must be deemed safe by Health Canada, which reviews the science on them before giving its stamp of approval.
Try: IDC SPF 50 Facial Sunscreen – All Ages