Here is another post from May 2009- it’s a good little lexicon to help you understand sunscreen ingredients and everything below is still true today. You can always bring it to the drugstore if you need a primer or you can just remember that all you need is a high concentration of zinc oxide for a great sunscreen.
In an effort to make reading your sunscreen label really easy, I thought I would do a simple alphabetical lexicon of popular sunscreen ingredients, include ideal concentrations you should be looking for, state whether they are a UVB, UVA protector, and any other relevant things you should know. Here we go:
Avobenzone (Parsol 1789): 3% concentration. Long Wave UVA protector. Is not a stable ingredient and will break down when exposed to sunlight. Should not be used in formulas with Octinoxate. Can in theory be stabilized if combined with Oxybenzone and Octocrylene. Should be used in combination with another UVA protector as it offers marginal protection and does not span the full UVA spectrum.
Drometrizole Trisiloxane (Mexoryl XL): 3-4%. Short Wave UVA protector. A patented ingredient by L’Oreal. Has a synergistic effect when used with Mexoryl SX. Anthelios XL line in highest SPF’s offer the ideal combination of both.
Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX): 3-4% concentration. Short Wave UVA protector. A patented ingredient by L’Oreal. Offers medium protection but is better if combined with a 3-4% concentration of Mexoryl XL.
Homosalate: 5-15%. UVB protector. Provides margninal UVB protection, even in highest concentrations and should be used with other UVB protectors to provide an adequate SPF.
Octinoxate: 7.5%. UVB protector. A good UVB protector. Can be mildly irritating if not in an encapsulated version (unfortunately labels cannot distinguish between encapsulated and non-encapsualted).
Octisalate: 2-10%. UVB protector. Should be used in conjunction with other UVB protectors to get an adequate SPF.
Octocrylene: 2-10%. Primarily UVB, some UVA if in 10% concentration. Should be used in combination with other UVB protectors to get an adequate SPF. Is reported to stabilize avobenzone when used together.
Oxybenzone: 6%. Primarily UVB, some short wave UVA. Oxybenzone is a photo-allergen and many especially those with sensitive skin may find it to be irritating. Is reported to stabilize Avobenzone and makes up one third of Neutrogena’s patented Helioplex ingredient.
Tinosorb S/M: 5-10%. Both UVA and UVB. Not approved for us in the US. A good UVA protector (*to be noted: I have never used any products with Tinosorb and cannot speak to consistency/ texture issues).
Titanium Dioxide: 2-15%. If micronzied both some short wave UVA and UVB, if not micronized mostly UVB. Titanium Dioxide is considered a physical sun blocker. Should be used with Zinc Oxide or some other UVA protector. Excellent in mineral based make-up but can look pasty in some sunscreens if used in too high a concentration.
|Learning About What Best Protects Us
Zinc Oxide: 10+-25%: The only single ingredient that provides full spectrum protection (short wave and long wave UVA and UVB). High percentages of Zinc Oxide make for an excellent, truly broad spectrum sunscreen. Micronized versions can look white if used in a percentage higher than 7%. Also provides a nice anti-inflammatory (zinc used in diaper rash creams).
I’ve only included the most popular ingredients but feel free to write in with any that you may have found that are not on the list. I’ve also tried to list them by their most common names but some ingredients actually are known by several different ones.
Basically, when reviewing your bottle, check to make sure that 1. You do have some UVA protector included (most brands will load up on the UVB protectors). 2. Make sure that if you have Avobenzone on your label, you do not have Octinoxate. 3. If you do have Avobenzone, look for another UVA protector to get optimal UVA protection. 4. If your brand includes Oxybenzone, skip it
We formulated our sunscreen with Invisible Zinc Oxide and Encapsulated Octinoxate because we think they work the best but now you have some tools to decide for yourself!
All the Beauty Best!
Sara A. Dudley