Woman applying sunscreen on shoulder, at the beach

For many, summertime is already here, which means plenty of time spent outside under the sun. 

It is common knowledge that sun protection is extremely important, but, with so many different sunscreens out there, how do you know which ones to choose? 

The answer is…

Look out for some of these 10 ingredients, and make sure that they are near the top of the sunscreen’s ingredient list. 

Zinc Oxide

While there may be hundreds of different sunscreens for you to choose from, these can all be split into two categories: 

  • Chemical Sunscreens – these are sunscreens that make use of specific chemicals that absorb the sun’s UV rays. A chemical reaction then takes place, after which the sunscreen emits the UV rays from the body in the form of heat
  • Physical Sunscreens – these are made with certain minerals that reflect the sun’s UV rays away from the skin, preventing any absorption at all 
Chemical versus physical sunscreen infographic

Which type of sunscreen is better? 

Physical sunscreen is considered to be safer, especially in light of the recent research that has emerged relating to the chemicals used in chemical sunscreens. Not only are these so harmful to marine life and coral reefs, but they have also been found to enter the bloodstream after just one use, and stick around in the body for at least 24 hours.

This is where zinc oxide comes in…

This is one of two minerals most commonly used in physical sunscreens. It is able to provide extensive protection against both UVA and UVB rays, which is exactly what your skin needs. 

Of course, the strength of a sunscreen with zinc oxide does depend on the concentration of zinc oxide used in its formula…

When it comes to sun protection, 1% of zinc oxide contains an SPF of around 1.6. This means that you need at least 20% zinc oxide to provide you with SPF 30, which is what most people out there need. 

Make sure that you check the ingredients list of your sunscreen to see how much zinc oxide it actually contains. 

Don’t forget, zinc oxide offers up several other skin benefits too, such as: 

  • Supports skin healing and repair
  • Works as an astringent, meaning that it prevents excess oil from forming on the skin by shrinking enlarged pore openings 
  • Helps to treat acne, not only by preventing excess oil production but also due to its anti-inflammatory effects 
  • Prevents inflammation in the skin 
  • Protects against bacterial infections 

What makes it even better is that zinc oxide is an extremely gentle ingredient. It can be used on all skin types, even by those who have highly sensitive skin.  

Titanium Oxide

Wondering what the second mineral used in physical sunscreens is? 

It’s titanium dioxide, which is usually formulated along with zinc oxide. 

Why isn’t titanium dioxide used on its own? 

It sometimes is, but titanium dioxide only provides partial protection against the sun’s UVA rays, meaning that it does leave your skin vulnerable to the wrinkles and dark spots that UVA rays cause. 

Do you have any dark spots or discoloration on your skin? 

You will be happy to know that titanium dioxide can help to minimize these for a while. This ingredient is known for its temporary brightening and whitening effect, due to the way in which it reflects the light. This is why it is often used in whitening skin care products.

Vitamin E + Vitamin C

Vitamins E and C are both potent antioxidants that work so well together.

They are both included in so many different skin care products, because they bring the skin a variety of different benefits. From healing and moisturizing to brightening and firming, these are ingredients that you definitely want around. 

But why do they need to be in your sunscreen? 

Because, when combined, vitamin C and vitamin E provide the skin with a sun protecting effect. The vitamin E works to prevent the cell mutation that the sun’s UV rays cause, while the vitamin C provides protection from UVB damage.

Unfortunately, there is still plenty of research that needs to be carried out when it comes to using these two ingredients on their own as a sunscreen. This is why you are unlikely to find any sunscreens containing vitamins C and E as their main, active ingredients. 

However, when added into another sunscreen formula, these vitamins enhance their effect, giving your skin added protection from the sun. 

Propolis

Ok, so propolis isn’t an ingredient that you are going to find in the average sunscreen. It is likely to only be available in higher end products, but it is still an ingredient well worth considering. 

Wondering what propolis actually is?

It is made by bees – if you thought that bees only made honey, this is where you would be wrong! 

When bees mix their beeswax and saliva in with the sap or resin from tree buds and other plants, this creates a resinous mixture known as propolis. They use this mixture to seal up gaps in their hive, giving themselves more insulation.

What does this have to do with sun protection? 

Well, when applied on the skin, propolis offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

Just like with the vitamins mentioned earlier, there is still so much research needed on this new potential sunscreen, which is why you won’t find propolis as a main, active sunscreen ingredient. However, looking for a sunscreen that contains propolis is a good idea if you want your skin to enjoy some extra protection. 

As a bonus, propolis is able to treat a number of other skin concerns too, including: 

Vitamin D

Research shows that around one billion people around the world are not getting enough vitamin D.

This is a shocking statistic, as vitamin D is key when it comes to so many different aspects of a person’s health, including: 

  • Calcium absorption 
  • Bone growth and health 
  • Reducing your risk of disease, including cancer and depression 
  • Regulates the immune system and the neuromuscular system 

Vitamin D is a unique vitamin, in that your body only produces it when it has been exposed to a certain amount of sunlight. 

With vitamin D deficiencies becoming increasingly common, this has led many people to wonder whether sunscreens actually prevent the body from creating enough of this important vitamin. 

Well, rest assured, sunscreen doesn’t actually have an effect on this. A number of recent studies have now emerged to prove this, but, if you are still concerned, look for a sunscreen that contains vitamin D.

Shea Butter

Shea butter is likely to be an ingredient that you have heard of before. In fact, you likely even already own skin care products that contain this botanical. 

Why is shea butter so popular? 

It is highly moisturizing, meaning that it can quickly hydrate dry and dehydrated skin.

It also treats acne and skin blemishes, while containing antioxidant properties to prevent and reverse skin aging. 

Of course, it also helps with sun protection too…

Shea butter has a natural SPF of between 6 and 10 – the exact figure varies depending on the specific shea butter that is used. 

You are probably thinking…

That’s quite a high SPF figure for a natural ingredient! 

It really is, and it all comes down to the cinnamic acid esters contained within shea butter. These compounds, which, as you can guess from its name, are also found in cinnamon, prevent both UVA and UVB rays from damaging the skin. 

Wondering if you can use shea butter on its own as a sunscreen? 

If you naturally have quite dark skin, and usually use a sunscreen of around SPF 10, then you may find shea butter to be a more natural alternative. However, SPF 10 is still extremely low, and will not provide the majority of people out there with the sun protection that they need. 

Plus, while shea butter can offer protection against sunburns, it doesn’t provide your skin with enough protection from aging and skin cancer. 

Therefore, it is best to look for a sunscreen that contains shea butter, rather than using this ingredient on its own as a sunscreen. 

Raspberry Seed Oil

Many people are surprised when they learn about the many botanicals out there that offer sun protection benefits, with one of these being raspberry seed oil. 

Research shows that raspberry seed oil offers both UVA and UVB protection benefits.

However, don’t get too excited just yet…

While the UVA and UVB protection benefits may be there, these aren’t complete. When it comes to UVB rays, raspberry seed oil offers an SPF of around 28, with some forms of the oil going as high as SPF 50. 

However, raspberry seed oil falls short when it comes to UVA rays, only offering a minimal amount of protection. 

Still, this is a great ingredient to look for in a sunscreen, especially since raspberry seed oil helps the skin in so many other ways too, such as: 

  • Has anti-inflammatory properties 
  • Contains elegiac acid, a powerful antioxidant that protects against skin aging 
  • High in vitamin E 
  • Prevents transepidermal water loss, meaning that it keeps the skin moisturized and hydrated 
  • Promotes skin repair 

Green Tea

The sun protection benefits of green tea have been known about for quite a while now. 

Several studies have pointed to how green tea is able to prevent sunburns.

However, it doesn’t do this by blocking UV rays…

Instead, the sun protection effects of green tea come down to the catechins within it. Around 25% of a green tea leaf consists of catechins, which are a powerful group of antioxidants that protect the skin from the sun. 

Even just a small concentration of green tea offers up these photoprotective benefits, which is why many sunscreen formulas now contain this ingredient. 

Can’t find a sunscreen formulated with green tea? 

There’s no reason why you can’t use this ingredient in a separate product, applying this underneath your sunscreen. Ideally, this would be a serum or a moisturizer, as these will easily allow the green tea extract to mix in with your sunscreen. 

Carrot Seed Oil

Carrot seed oil has a surprisingly high natural SPF…

Although the exact figure is still unknown, research suggests that it could exceed the recommended amount of SPF 30. 

Unfortunately, more research into this ingredient is still needed, which is why you may find it difficult to find a sunscreen containing carrot seed oil. 

However, if you do manage to bag one, your skin will be able to benefit from this botanical’s other properties too. From being an antioxidant and an antiseptic to having antifungal properties, this is an ingredient that you definitely want to be slathering over your skin! 

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is commonly used to treat sunburns, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and hydrating properties. 

However, there is some research out there that suggests that aloe vera could be an effective ingredient when it comes to sun protection too. 

The tricky part is…

It needs to be applied 24 hours before sun exposure. 

Don’t worry if you aren’t able to do that, because aloe vera is still a fantastic ingredient to look for in a regular sunscreen. 

There isn’t any sunscreen out there that is able to block 100% of the sun’s UV rays, meaning that some skin damage is still to be expected. 

This is why it makes sense to include a powerful skin healer, such as aloe vera, in a sunscreen. It will help to heal any damage that is caused, preventing this from having a long-term effect on your skin. 

While many of these ingredients are definitely appealing, keep in mind that many more studies are still needed on the botanical extracts listed above. For this reason, any sunscreen you choose should always have zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide, with the other ingredients being an added bonus. 

Looking for an SPF-infused moisturizer? The Opal Sheer Shield is a great way to promote moisture retention while deflecting harmful UV rays, helping to keep the skin dewy and hydrated while preventing the effects of overexposure to the sun.