Is Organic Sunscreen Better Than Traditional SPF?

by Emily McClure

As we all know, sunscreen is essential for protecting our skin against the sun's harsh rays. However, is "organic" sunscreen better for the skin than traditional SPF? Honestly, the debate between dermatologists is still ongoing. However, before diving into the specifics, let's talk about the different types of sunscreens that are on the market. The two most popular types of sunscreen are chemical sunscreens and physical sunblocks. Think of chemical sunscreens as the new, modern-day sunscreens that skink easily into the skin. Physical sunblocks are the opposite. They are the thick, pasty white formulas that tend to lay on the skin.

Now, one of the main differences between the two are the key ingredients used to block out the sun's rays. Organic sunscreens use ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octinoxate to absorb UV rays, whereas physical sunscreens use zinc oxide and/or titanium to reflect and block out the rays. So, which is better for you? Honestly, it's all about personal preference.

According to Dr. Sarah Villafranco, founder of Osmia Organics, in an email interview with Bustle, an organic sunscreen is one that uses carbon-based chemicals to diminish the effects of UV radiation. So, chemical sunscreens are technically considered organic. As chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the UV rays, that means that the sun has to touch your skin first for it to work. However, where the argument gets confusing is that the average consumer or marketing expert often refers to "physical sunblocks" as "organic" as they have fewer ingredients on the label.

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Physical sunscreens use natural, mineral-based ingredients like zinc to reflect the UV rays, stated to Dr. Gary Goldfaden, creator of Goldfaden MD Skincare, in an email to Bustle. Personally, Dr. Goldfaden recommends physical sunscreens as they can't be absorbed into the skin. The zinc particles are simply too big.

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Something that both skincare professionals recommend is to check your sunscreen's ingredient list before using it. Both types can actually contain some pretty nasty chemicals. Remember oxybenzone? Yeah, that ingredient is known to disrupt our normal hormone cycles. Another unsafe chemical that can be found in sunscreens is retinyl palmitate. The chemical has been found to accelerate the rate of certain skin cancers. Yikes!


Like with any sort of skincare product, be sure to chat with your own doctor or dermatologist to find out which type of sunscreen is best for your own skin's needs. Either can work wonders at blocking out UV radiation, however, both contain different ingredients that might not be suitable for you skin type.

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If you're going to be spending time in the sun, be sure to cover up appropriately. Wear clothing that can protect you from UV rays as well as wearing protective sunglasses and hats while outdoors. It's the best thing you can do for skin this summer.