Is zinc oxide sunscreen safe?

Non-irritating and easy on sensitive skin, zinc oxide has been used in skincare for 1000s of years. A skin protectant widely used in treating various forms of skin irritations, it’s used in diaper creams, calamine lotion, and toothpastes.

Zinc is a critical mineral nutrient that keeps us healthy. It’s also great for use around the eyes, as it won’t cause stinging.

Zinc oxide sunscreens use the mineral zinc oxide as the sole active ingredients. This mineral sits on top of the skin where it reflects and absorbs UV rays and they start working immediately and do not enter the body through skin cells, like petrochemical products. Additionally, zinc oxide is extremely good at protecting against both UVA and UVB rays. It is the only active sunscreen ingredient that’s FDA says is safe for use on babies less than 6 months old.

 

Safe Protection from the Sun

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 shorter and longer wave 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.

Non-nano zinc oxide is highly stable under most conditions, including when hit with UV rays. It absorbs UV energy via bandgap absorption (it reflects and scatters visible light, that’s why it looks white), preventing skin penetration and cell damage. Zinc oxide holds tight to its electrons when it absorbs UV energy, limiting the creation of free radicals that cause oxidative damage or increase the risk of skin cancer.

 

Occurs in Nature

ZnO occurs naturally in the mineral zincite, but most commercial 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 is insoluble in water. It has antimicrobial properties that help wounds heal more quickly, and it is non-comedogenic — i.e. it’s oil-free and won’t clog pores.

 

Marine-Safe

Zinc oxide is a powdered mineral that does not dissolve in seawater, and in its non-nano variety (meaning its particles are all large enough to not seep through skin pores or enter marine biosystems) it rapidly settles to the seafloor and becomes part of the sediment.

Non-nano zinc oxide is safe for reefs and marine life, but NANO(smaller than 100 nanometers) zinc oxide particles can be ingested by marine animals including coral, causing internal damage. Nano-sized particles can react with UV rays to generate hydrogen peroxide which can be toxic to phytoplankton as well.

 

Conclusion

The safest sunscreen active ingredient, for both human and marine environments, is non-nano zinc oxide.

Please read sunscreen labels and understand the ingredients used in your sunscreen and skincare products. Always check the ingredients, know what those ingredients do, and decide for yourself.