Heather D. Rogers, MD, founder and CEO of Doctor Rogers Restore and co-founder of Modern Dermatology in Seattle, says that when talking about sunscreens, there are two types: chemical and mineral protection. Rogers says mineral sunscreens, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are natural and nontoxic. These sit on top of your skin and block the skin like reflectors. Chemical sunscreens—oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, and avobenzone—on the other hand, are absorbed into the skin before they can protect from the sun’s radiation. She says that the ingredients absorb the sun’s rays and convert them into heat that is released from the skin.
While Rogers says that chemical sunscreens provide good UVA and UVB protection and are better than not using anything, they do get absorbed into your body. “We can measure them in our blood and urine,” she explains. “Even though they are well-studied, labeled by the FDA as nontoxic, do not cause cancer (despite some reports out there), and have NOT been shown to cause hormone disruption in humans, they do accumulate in us. I would like to minimize the accumulation of any unneeded chemicals in my body, my patients’ body, and in our world, whenever possible. Further, avobenzone is a common cause of sunscreen allergy and oxybenzone is contributing to the death of coral reefs.”