Why Switch to Physical Sunscreen + My Top Pick For Sensitive Skin

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Blue Lizard Sunscreen.  All opinions and text are mine.

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Summer is finally here and that means we’ll be spending lots of time outside – at the pool, beach, or perhaps even taking our workouts outdoors to enjoy nature.  No matter how you plan to spend your time, there is one thing you don’t want to forget before going out in the sun, and that’s a good sunscreen.

Stop into a drugstore nowadays, and you’ll find tons of sunscreen brands.  Many of us (myself included) will go for the one with the highest SPF, maybe even in a convenient spray form, and then be on our way.  However, the next time you shop for one, you may want to take a closer look at the ingredients list, especially if you have sensitive skin or other skin conditions.  You’d be surprised bottles contain chemical sunscreens which could upset your skin, or worse, affect your body’s natural processes…

Physical vs. Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens literally soak into your skin and absorb the sun’s rays after they’ve entered your body. They work using synthetic chemical UV filters like oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Physical (aka mineral) sunscreens, on the other hand, sit on top of the skin, forming a barrier against the sun’s rays.  The natural mineral compounds – like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide – act like millions of tiny mirrors on top of your skin and reflect most of the sun’s rays before they enter your body.

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The Concerns About Chemical Sunscreens

There are a number of chemicals found in sunscreens that can cause irritation or allergic reactions, especially for those of us with sensitive skin.  Some have even been found to disrupt hormones and, worse yet, produce free radicals that can damage cells and cause mutations (the one thing we’re aiming to prevent when we apply sunscreen!).  Here are a few to look out for, especially if they are found in higher qualities (above 10%):

  • Octinoxate – This is one of the most commonly-used ingredients in sunscreens with SPF.  It’s been found to potentially cause hormone disruption.  And though it’s meant to protect skin from sun-induced aging, octinoxate may actually be a culprit for premature aging, as it produces free radicals that can damage cells.
  • Oxybenzone – When absorbed into your skin and exposed to UV rays, oxybenzone undergoes a chemical reaction that has the potential to cause an eczema-like allergic reaction.  Some studies suggest it may even cause hormone disruption in children and adults.
  • Octocrylene –  This chemical has been linked with relatively high rates of skin allergy.  It is also readily absorbed into the body and may accumulate in measurable amounts.

Two other chemical filters to look out for include homosalate (another potential hormone disruptor) and octisalate (a potential allergen).

The Benefits of Physical Sunscreens

Meanwhile, mineral (aka physical) sunscreens like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide do not penetrate the skin, which according to EWG, makes them cleaner and safer when applied topically.

Plus, physical sunscreens have been found to provide better protection that chemical sunscreens, particularly zinc oxide, which is naturally broad spectrum meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.  (Titanium dioxide protects against UVB rays, though not the full spectrum of UVA rays, so you’ll want to make sure it’s paired up with zinc oxide).

Chemical sunscreens, however, are not all broad spectrum.  The label needs to clearly state ‘Broad Spectrum’ – if it only says ‘SPF’, that means you’re not getting protection from UVA rays.

Now, chemical sunscreens do have one advantage – unlike physical sunscreen, they are resistant to sweat and water.  However, since the sun can reduce their effectiveness within 1-2 hours, you actually need to re-apply them just as often as you would physical sunscreens on a beach day.

And speaking of the beach, did you know that the chemical filters can cause harm to ocean life?  It’s true – in fact, both oxybenzone and oxtinoxate were recently banned in Hawaii for posing a risk to the coral reefs that surround the islands.

All of the above was enough to convince me to toss my fancy ‘organic’ chemical sunscreen (I’m wondering now what was so organic about it!) and swap it out with a chemical-free one.  The one I’ve been using most recently (and loving!) is Blue Lizard’s Sensitive Formula.

Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Sensitive Formula on Amazon

Blue Lizard’s Sensitive Sunscreen

I’ve been sensitive to certain chemicals my whole life – from scented deodorants to harsh laundry detergents (even the fragrance-free kinds).  Occasionally I’ll get tiny bumps, or worse, break out in hives if I’m not careful about checking product labels.

So you could imagine my excitement when I discovered a sunscreen formula – something that I plan to slather all over my skin, day in and day out in the summertime – that’s free of chemical filters, and parabens and fragrances.

The two active ingredients in Blue Lizard’s Sensitive Sunscreen are zinc oxide (10%) and titanium dioxide (5%), which together provide broad-spectrum SPF 30+ protection.  

Another plus?  The bottle it’s packaged in is BPA-free.  It also turns from white to blue in the presence of harmful UV rays to remind you to apply it!  The deeper blue the bottle becomes, the more UV rays are present.  Check out the video below to see it in action…

A post shared by Jessoshii (@jessoshii) on

Best of all, unlike other all-mineral sunscreens I’ve tried in the past, Blue Lizard’s formula is incredibly quick and easy to apply.  Though the formula comes out of the bottle feeling a bit thicker than chemical-based sunscreens, it spreads out evenly and absorbs super fast without leaving behind any streaks or white casts.

Once absorbed, it feels amazingly lightweight on the skin, with zero greasy residue (so it works great on the face too!).  I also love how it leaves my skin hydrated with a healthy glow!

Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Sensitive Formula swatchBlue Lizard Sensitive Sunscreen review swatch and demoBlue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Sensitive Formula swatch 2

Overall, if you have sensitive skin and find it reacting to certain formulas (or if you simply want to reduce the amount of chemicals you put on your body), check the ingredients label on your sunscreen to see if it contains chemical filters.  If it does, consider switching to an all-mineral, physical sunscreen like Blue Lizard’s Sensitive Formula.  Bonus: It’s available on Amazon Prime, so you can have it ready to go in your beach bag in no time!

Available on Amazon

Have you made the switch from a chemical to a mineral sunscreen?


Sources:  EWG, Women’s Health


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