Many of us love spending the day in the sun. Unfortunately, sunshine can wreak havoc on your skin in the form of burns, blisters, and even skin cancer.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and nearly 20 Americans die from melanoma — the most dangerous form of skin cancer — every day, per the Skin Cancer Foundation. The No. 1 cause of melanoma? Exposure to natural and artificial ultraviolet (UV) light; the same light you get from tanning beds and the sun’s rays.
Fortunately, you may be able to curb the negative effects of sun exposure by making sunscreen a regular part of your daily skin-care regimen. A study published in September 2018 in JAMA Dermatology reveals that regular sunscreen use in young adults is strongly associated with a reduced risk of melanoma. Similarly, a long-term study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that regular sunscreen use may prevent melanoma in adults.
That said, not all sunscreens are created equal. There are two main types — chemical and mineral — and each type has its pros and cons. Here’s what you need to know.
How Do Chemical and Mineral Sunscreens Work?
Chemical and mineral sunscreens shield your skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays in very different ways.
“Mineral sunscreen [ingredients], zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are small particles that sit on the skin’s surface and physically prevent UV rays from penetrating the skin,” says Jennifer L. MacGregor, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City. You can also apply mineral sunscreens on top of other skin-care products.
Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, allow UV light into the skin. Once the light is absorbed into the skin, the chemicals in the sunscreen (the AAD lists oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate) create a chemical reaction in which UV light is converted to heat, and the heat dissipates from the skin, says Lauren Ploch, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Augusta, Georgia.