Physical vs. Chemical: The Difference Between Inorganic & Organic Sunscreens

January 5, 2017

Why Kasnoff utilizes both scientifically proven organic substances in combination with natural inorganic minerals to create effective skin protection from UV rays.

It's winter (okay, almost spring).  The sun is hidden on most days and the sky is gray and dull for many of us in the Pacific Northwest.  So...why are we talking about sunscreen?  Because it's important.  Like, quality of life and survival important.  Every Dermatologist, aesthetician, beauty blogger, and anti-aging fanatic have a different philosophy on skincare, but 100% of them agree on one thing: you need a sunscreen.   It is so important to the Kasnoff philosophy of protecting the skin that we actually try to put sunscreen in as many products as possible to hinder the aging process.

Before we begin our discussion on why we use both inorganic and organic sunscreen in our products, let's address why we need sun protection in the first place. And for those of you already educated on the matter, or simply do not have the time nor patience to read through dense scientific justifications, simply scroll to the bottom of the page and learn how and when to apply the right product.

About those pesky UV rays…

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a major risk factor for most skin cancers as they damage the DNA of skin cells and cause skin pigmentation, wrinkles, uneven tone and texture, and general aging of the epidermis. Even though UV rays make up only a very small portion of the sun’s rays, they are the main cause of the sun’s damaging effects on the skin. There are 3 main types of UV rays:

UVA rays age skin cells and can damage their DNA. These rays are linked to long-term skin damage such as wrinkles, but they are also thought to play a role in some skin cancers.

UVB rays have slightly more energy than UVA rays. They can damage skin cells’ DNA directly, and are the main rays that cause sunburns. They are also thought to cause most skin cancers.

UVC rays have more energy than the other types of UV rays, but they don’t get through our atmosphere and are not in sunlight. They are not normally not a cause of skin cancer or aging, so we will not be discussing them here.

There are no safe UV rays.  For those of us living in the Bay Area or Pacific Northwest thinking “since there are always clouds about I don’t need sunscreen”, STOP RIGHT THERE.  You do.  You most certainly do.  Here’s why...

The effect of clouds can vary.  Sometimes cloud cover blocks some UV from the sun and lowers UV exposure, while some types of clouds can reflect UV and can increase UV exposure.  What is important to know is that UV rays can get through, even on a cloudy day.  UV rays can also bounce off surfaces like water, sand, snow, pavement, or grass, leading to an increase sun exposure when you least expect it.

The deal with physical vs. chemical sun protection...

There are two general types of sunscreens that protect your skin: physical and chemical ones. Physical sunscreens (like Titanium dioxide and Zinc oxide) use physical UV filters that bounce rays off the skin, while chemical sunscreens (like Avobenzone, Homosalate, octinoxate, and Octisalate) use chemical UV filters that absorb and sometimes scatter rays. There are also hybrid sunscreens, like all Kasnoff daily SPF moisturizers, that contain both physical and chemical sunscreen actives to provide a solid base of skin protection.

Here’s how it works...

Physical sunscreens, or inorganic minerals found in nature, protect your skin from the sun by deflecting or blocking the sun’s rays.  Most often referred to as sunblocks, these are products containing ingredients which physically block ultraviolet radiation (UVR) providing broad protection against both UVB and UVA light. The amount of sun protection these sunblocks provide, while potentially high, cannot be quantified in the same manner as sunscreen SPFs. Physical sunscreen is recommended for individuals who have a high sensitivity to UVR, as these compounds literally create a barrier between your skin and the environment (hence the name physical), which you can see from the white tint left on the skin surface.

Chemical sunscreens, or organic compounds, work by absorbing the sun’s rays, turning them into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin.  They contain special ingredients, like Avobenzone, Octinoxate and Octisalate, and act as filters to reduce ultraviolet radiation penetration to the skin. These sunscreens are often colorless and maintain a thin visible film on the skin, making it a great option for sun protection in makeup since it will have minimal interference with color application (yes!).  These sunscreens usually contain UVB absorbing chemicals and more recently, UVA absorbers.   It is important to note that there is some controversy about free radical damage inadvertently caused by this heat transference, but the American Academy Of Dermatology has yet to prove any of those conceptions.  Until they do, most beauty products will continue to make use of the skin protection benefits that chemical sunscreens have to offer.

SPF, sunblock, broad spectrum...what does it all mean?

The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) displayed on the sunscreen label ranges from 2 to as high as 50, and refers to the product's ability to screen or block out the sun's harmful UV rays. For example, if you use a sunscreen with a SPF of 15, you can be in the sun 15 times longer that you could without sunscreen before burning. This could be different for everyone depending on skin color (darker tones usually can stay out in the sun longer than fair tones), skin age (the younger are skin, the more sensitive it is to the sun), and of course, skin damage. Consumers need to be aware that SPF protection does not increase proportionally with an increased SPF number.  While a SPF of 2 will absorb 50% of ultraviolet radiation, a SPF of 15 absorbs 93%, a SPF of 30 protects against 97%, and a SPF of 50 protects against 98% of the UVB rays.

You can almost always bet that if something is called sunblock and/or has a whitish tint when applied to the skin, it is a physical sunscreen containing inorganic materials. If a sunscreen states that it has Broad Spectrum SPF it protects from both UVA and UVB rays

How does one select the right type of sunscreen?

Skin experts strongly recommend using a sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 every day of the year for each and every skin type out there. If you are fair-skinned and sunburn easily, you may want to select a sunscreen with a higher SPF to provide longer protection.  All sunscreens need to be reapplied (remember, the SPF number simply quantifies how long you can be outside before burning) so follow the guidelines written on the sunscreen bottle and most importantly, understand your skin type.

We recommend applying a SPF moisturizer every single morning.  Depending on the season of your skin, Kasnoff offers three choices: Brightening Day Protection SPF 50, Peptide Protection SPF 30, and a lighter oil free option with Oil Defense SPF 15.  It is best to apply your sunblock after a thorough cleansing, or a gentle water wash during the winter.  You will want to use about the size of a dime to cover your entire face and neck, and a bit more for your décolletage and shoulders (if showing).  Make sure it is completely absorbed before adding your any primer, foundation, or concealer as the extra hydration could interfere with color application.

Gel sunscreens, such as the Retexturizing Primer, tend to sweat off and, therefore, need to be reapplied more frequently, but this could be a good option for reapplying sunscreen throughout the day as the primer can be simply reapplied over makeup by pressing it directly on top. As always, wear a broad spectrum SPF under any makeup with sunscreen as you will not apply enough foundation or powder to ensure total coverage.

So...when should I use a sunscreen?

In one word: DAILY.  Sunscreens should be applied if you are going to be in the sun for more than 20 minutes (which is pretty much every day of your life at some point).  Even if you are going to be sitting inside where windows are open and there is minimal direct sunlight, you should still use a sunscreen.

You should apply sunscreen to your dry skin 30 minutes before going outdoors. Pay particular attention to your face, ears, neck and decollatage, as this skin is just as sensitive to sun damage and very unforgiving with age. . Sunscreens should be applied in the morning and reapplied after swimming or perspiring heavily. Our Retexturizing Face Primer can easily be reapplied over makeup by simply patting it on top.

Kasnoff cosmetics is committed to providing optimal protection because sun protection is the principal means of preventing premature aging and skin cancer.  Sunscreen used on a regular basis actually allows some repair of damaged skin because it is physically protected and allowed to heal. Because the sun's reflective powers are great (17 percent on sand and 80 percent on snow ) we strongly discourage the belief that sun protection is only for use on sunny summer days.  Even on a cloudy day, 80% of the sun's ultraviolet rays can pass through the clouds. Seriously...

So, in a nutshell? Wear sunscreen everyday for the rest of your life.  If not for health reasons, for pure vanity reasons. Because, hey, we will always do everything possible to keep those tall tale signs of aging from showing, right? #unearththescienceofbeauty

A look at what Kasnoff Cosmetics contains:

Brightening Protection SPF 50  Avobenzone 3.0%, Homosalate 15%, Octinoxate 7.5%, Octisalate 5.0%.

Peptide Protection SPF 30  Avobenzone 3.0%, Octinoxate 7.5%, Octisalate 5.0%.

Oil Defense Protection SPF 20  Avobenzone 2.0%, Octinoxate 5.0%.

Tinted Primer SPF 20  Octinoxate 7.5%, Titanium Dioxide 5.0 %.

Retexturizing Primer SPF 20  Avobenzone 2.00%, Octinoxate 7.50%, Octisalate 5.00%.

Liquid Mineral Powder Foundation SPF 20  Titanium Dioxide 5.0%, Zinc Oxide 5.0%

Mineral Sheer Tint SPF 20  Titanium Dioxide 5.0%, Zinc Oxide 5.0%

Mineral Pressed Powder SPF 20  Titanium Dioxide 5.0%, Zinc Oxide 5.0%


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