How does sun cream work?

Sep 21 2020Louise

How does sun cream work?

By now, we should all know the importance of wearing sun cream. It prevents the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays from damaging skin – damage which can eventually cause skin cancer. But how exactly does sun cream do this?

"Natural suncreams contain less nasty chemical filters and more mineral filters"

Sun creams work by either reflecting harmful rays, or absorbing them and converting their energy into heat, or both. Most sun creams do this using either organic or inorganic compounds, or a combination of the two. In this context the terms organic and inorganic have nothing to do with the use of pesticides, but refer to the chemical composition of these compounds - organic chemicals are made from carbon atoms, inorganic chemicals are not.

Inorganic compounds, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide reflect the sun so it never reaches the skin. These compounds are naturally occurring minerals that are chalky white in appearance, which is why sun cream of earlier decades left thick white marks on the skin - think the white noses of lifeguards! These days, scientists have found ways to shrink these particles so they appear less obvious on the skin.

There are a wide variety of organic chemicals that are used in sun creams, some examples being oxybenzone, innamates, octyl methoxycinnamate, para-aminobenzoic acid, and benzophenones. These work by absorbing UVA and UVB rays and converting this harmful energy into heat. Think these chemicals sound scary? Well, there's a good chance they might be bad for you.

Not only can these chemicals irritate the skin, but because they are absorbed by the skin, they can enter the body and cause problems on the inside. There has been increasing research into the harmful effects of these kinds of chemicals, revealing that some can disrupt hormones, which has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues. Since we are advised to apply sun cream every two hours, over periods of good weather these toxins can build up in our bodies and organs, and can even be found in breast milk.

Natural sun creams can be hugely beneficial if you suffer from sensitive skin, skin problems or prickly heat!

Natural sun creams, which contain less nasty chemical filters and more mineral filters like zinc dioxide or titanium dioxide are therefore less harmful. These compounds sit on top of the skin and are rarely absorbed. They are less likely to irritate the skin, so they are better for people with skin problems, allergies or sensitivity; and because they are not absorbed by the skin, they are less likely to block sweat glands, which is great for people who suffer from heat rash or prickly heat. The natural ingredients found in natural sun creams can also soothe and repair irritated skin.