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Is Zinc Oxide Safe?

Zinc oxide has been used in skincare for 1000s of years to treat many forms of skin irritations as well as offers as a skin protection. It’s still used today in sunscreens, diaper creams, calamine lotion, and toothpastes.

If you’re wondering if zinc oxide is safe, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we’ll answer:

• What is zinc oxide?
• Is zinc oxide safe for humans?
• Is zinc oxide reef safe?

Let’s start.


What is Zinc Oxide?

Zinc oxide occurs in nature as the mineral zincite, but most commercial zinc oxide products are made by the high-temperature oxidation of zinc ore, which is melted then vaporized into a gas where it reacts with oxygen to form solid ZnO.

Zinc oxide is an inorganic compound and not soluble in water. It has antimicrobial properties to help wounds heal faster, and it is non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog pores).

EWG Rating: 2 (1 best, 10 worst)


Is Zinc Oxide Safe for Humans?

Yes, zinc is a critical mineral nutrient that keeps us healthy. Zinc oxide is the ONLY sunscreen active ingredient that’s been tested and FDA approved for use on babies less than 6 months old. It’s also great for use around the eyes, as it won’t cause stinging.

Zinc oxide is simply the safest and best active sunscreen ingredient. It covers the entire UVA and UVB spectrum by itself, it has the most consistently effective absorption capabilities, which never degrade.

Zinc oxide absorbs UV rays and converts the energy to infrared heat, which radiates safely away from the skin surface. It’s the most effective sun protector available, blocking out both UVA rays as well as all UVB rays. Zinc oxide is the only active sunscreen ingredient that covers the entire UVA/UVB spectrum by itself (it does not need a second active ingredient when you used in sunscreen formulations).


Is Zinc Oxide Reef Safe?

Non-nano zinc oxide does not damage or adversely affect marine life or water habitats. Yes, it is marine and reef safe.

Zinc oxide is a powdered mineral that does not dissolve in seawater. Non-nano zinc oxide (meaning it’s particles are all large enough to not seep through skin pores or enter marine bio-systems) settles to the seafloor and becomes part of the sediment.

NON-NANO (larger than 100 nano-meters) zinc oxide is safe for reefs and marine life, but NANO zinc oxide particles (smaller than 100 nano-meters) can be ingested by marine animals including coral, causing internal damage, and when washed off into ocean, they can react with UV rays to generate hydrogen peroxide which can be toxic to phytoplankton—a vital nutrient to many reef and coral species.

Kenneth Howe, a dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology says, "Mineral sunscreen nano particles larger than 30 nano-meters are not absorbed into our bodies through the skin. Particles smaller than 30 nano-meters, on the other hand, can be absorbed through the skin and then enter our bloodstream. The effects these internally absorbed nano particles might have on our health is not yet known."


The Answer: Non-nano Zinc Oxide Sunscreen

The best sunscreen active ingredient, for both human and marine bio-systems, is non-nano zinc oxide. Non-nano titanium dioxide is a distant second best choice, though it is less expensive than high grade non-nano zinc oxide, and it is better than all petrochemicals.

It’s vital to read sunscreen labels (not just the marketing messages) and understand the ingredients used in sunscreen and skincare products.


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1. Know your ingredients — Flip over your sunscreen and read the ingredients. We want everyone to know what good ingredients are, regardless of whether they use our products or not. Your health is worth it.

2. Buy safe sunscreen — Waxhead is dedicated to using only the healthiest, safest, most effective ingredients in our sunscreens. Shop Safe Sunscreen here.

3. Teach a friend — If you know someone who might still be buying sunscreen with questionable ingredients, please share this post with him/her.



Is Zinc Oxide Safe?

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