Solar constant – UV, IR and visible light
Remember there are essentially two main types of sun creams – chemical and mineral. The main difference is that chemical sun care products contain UV filtering ingredients that take time to be absorbed by the skin – hence people using the 20 minute rule before sun exposure. By contrast, mineral sunscreens contain inert UV protective ingredients such as zinc or titanium oxide and form a protective barrier on top of the skin – these have an immediate effect.
What is more, some people who suffer allergies or sensitivities to chemical UV filters find that mineral SPFs do not irritate their skin. Zinc is also anti-inflammatory and does not block the pores in the skin. The downside of mineral SPFs is that they used to be very thick and white but newer preparations are more ‘cosmetically elegant’ (micronized forms) and become transparent when applied – they are even available in spray format too!
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Good protection from both UVA and UVB rays (not all sunscreens offer this, so do check). The most popular UVA and UVB filters include benzophenone, avobezone, parsol and cinnamates.
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The chemical filters parsol and cinnamates may not be good for sensitive skins, but the main irritant – the UVB-filtering ingredient PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) – has been phased out of most sunscreens.
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Zinc or titanium. Excellent physical protection (they are not absorbed). Less sensitising than chemical. Some argue that in creating a barrier between skin and sun, they are more effective than chemical filters at blocking UVA and UVB. Zinc oxide also has anti-inflammatory healing properties.
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Thicker and more occlusive than chemical sunscreens. This has long been their biggest drawback, but the newest mineral sunscreens are much more refined (as mentioned above) and cosmetically elegant.