How does mineral sunscreen work?

26 Mar 2023

Whether you're strolling around the park or lying on a tropical beach, you're exposed to the sun’s harmful rays. While some sun exposure is good for us – it provides vitamin D and increases serotonin levels (the happy hormone) – too much can cause burning and lead to skin damage.

Of course, the easiest way to avoid over-exposure is to cover up and limit time spent in the sun; but let's face it, who wants to be without a golden glow all summer? So our next best option is limiting any damage that could be done by applying sun protection, as this shields you from both UVA and UVB rays.

How does sun protection work?

Normal sun protection works by absorbing the sun’s harmful rays to stop them penetrating skin. Sun protection needs to time to absorb into the skin, so you need to apply it 15 to 30 minutes before you go out in the sun. These sunscreens usually have different ingredients for both UVA and UVB rays.

What is mineral sunscreen?

Mineral sunscreens contain the minerals zinc oxide and titanium oxide and work by creating a physical barrier on your skin that reflects the sun’s rays. They have to be applied evenly over your skin to be effective. Mineral sun creams offer protection from both UVA and UVB rays, but often use fewer ingredients, which makes them more suitable as skin care for sensitive skin or people who want to use clean beauty.

How should I apply mineral protection?

Thanks to their reflective properties, traditional mineral sunscreens used to leave a white residue on the skin (think of those seen on the noses of cricket players or Aussie lifeguards in the ‘90s). However, with the advances in technology, zinc and titanium oxide particles can now be made much smaller, meaning they're no longer visible.

This means new mineral sunscreens are clear, but still offer effective protection against UVA and UVB rays. However, for peace of mind, once children’s mineral sunscreens have been applied, they leave a thin white layer so you can see where the sunscreen has been applied.

Which protection should I use?

Protecting your skin is the most important thing, whichever sunscreen you choose. Look out for a high SPF rating (which protects the skin from burning and skin-damaging UVB rays) and a UVA or Star rating (which protects the skin from skin-ageing UVA rays).

And remember, it’s important to cover up and stay out of the sun during its strongest hours, from 11am-3pm.

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