What is the best sunscreen to use?

Updated: Jan 10

The quest for a good sunscreen can be a huge challenge, especially when you have sensitive skin or when you want to avoid certain ingredients. All the noise around sunscreens and what damage they can do to our health made me want to write a blog about this topic and shed some light onto which ingredients to look for and which ones to avoid.

First things first, always wear sunscreen! If you want to keep your skin youthful looking as long as possible, avoiding getting deep wrinkles and minimizing the risk on skin cancer, then you should apply sunscreen every time you go outside. The sun is responsible for at least 80% of skin aging signs like wrinkles, pigmentation, and lack of firmness [1]. According to a recent study done in 2018, The Netherlands had one of the highest rates of melanoma being number 5 of the world list of skin cancer [2]. That is why you should be really carefully when going out into the sun. Do not only wear sunscreen when you are outdoors, but I also recommend wearing it indoors when you are sitting behind glass windows. You still can get UV exposure when you are inside your house or office. That is why wearing sunscreen every single day is the best gift you can give your skin. Make it a regular step of your daily skincare routine.

Physical or chemical sunscreen? First of all, let me explain what the two different types are. Physical sunscreens are considered natural sunscreens and are the minerals zinc oxide and titanium oxide. They sit on top of your skin, reflect the sun rays, and absorb UV and convert it into heat [3]. Chemical sunscreen is everything else. They also absorb UV radiation and turn it into heat. 

Physical sunscreens offer really good protection against UVA and UVB radiation and form a film on top of the skin. The particle sizes are big enough that they aren’t able to penetrate the skin and therefore are less likely to irritate the skin, making it perfect also for those with sensitive skin. As it stays on top of the skin, it is also safe for use on babies and during pregnancy. The downside of physical sunscreens it that it often leaves a white cast on the skin. It is also thicker and can feel heavy under makeup and can increase perspiration for some.   

Chemical sunscreens are thinner and spread over the skin like a lotion, making it ideal for daily use and under makeup. One of the biggest downsides for me personally is that it comes with an increased risk of irritation and stinging, especially in the eyes. Another big downside is that it can get absorbed by the skin and can end up in the bloodstream.  What ingredients to look for or to avoid If you want to use a natural or physical sunscreen, you will have to look for a sunscreen that has the ingredients zinc oxide and- / or titanium oxide, preferably the non-nano version which are particles that are big enough so they can’t penetrate the skin. Both filters are considered broad-spectrum, which means they offer protection against both UVA and UVB.  For chemical sunscreens there are a couple of ingredients you really want to avoid. Here is a list of the most commonly used:

  • Oxybenzone (INCI: Benzophenone-3): This is a potential hormone disrupter [4], is easily absorbed by the skin, and there is a high risk on skin irritation.

  • Octinoxate (INCI: Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate or Octyl Methoxycinnamate): This one is easily absorbed by the body and is also a potential hormone disruptor [5].

  • Homosalate (INCI: Homomenthyl Salicylate): Research has shown that it can be absorbed by the body and can act as a hormone disrupter [6]. There is also a risk for (allergic) skin reactions.

A newbie There is a new sunscreen on the market with the name Tinosorb S and M. This newer filter sits in between a chemical and a physical filter. It barely / doesn’t penetrate the skin, doesn’t leave a white mask, allergies are rare, and they have no hormonal effect. The combination of Tinosorb S and M protects really well against UVA as well as UVB radiation. You can find them on the ingredient list under the names bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine and methylene bis-benzotriazolyl tetramethylbutylphenol. Tinosorb is quite expensive so it is often used in combination with other filters [7].  Now, what to choose? Depending on if you want to use a more natural sunscreen or a chemical one, you may also want to consider your skin type. If you have sensitive skin, you would want to avoid the more irritating ingredients like fragrances and use filters such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide.

If you don’t like to wear a white ‘mask’, you may look for a chemical sunscreen. Also, you may want to consider what impact the sunscreen has on the environment, but that is another topic that I will discuss in another blog. Regardless of the sunscreen you are choosing, I recommend to always wear SPF 30 or higher and regularly apply a generous amount. 

For me personally, I’m still on a mission to the find the perfect sunscreen. Because I have sensitive skin, I want a physical sunscreen, but because I want to use SPF 50 it is very difficult to find one that doesn’t leave me looking like a geisha. That is why I alternate between chemical and physical sunscreens at this moment. I use the physical for when I’m working in my office behind glass and the chemical for when I go outside. This is far from ideal and I will continue my search until I find the ‘one’. or create the perfect formula myself. And when I do, I will of course share this with you as soon as I possibly can.

To be continued...

Clean sunscreen. Best sunscreen. Clean zonnebrand. Beste zonnebrand.

  1. Flament F, Bazin R, Laquieze S, Rubert V, Simonpietri E, Piot B. Effect of the sun on visible clinical signs of aging in Caucasian skin. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2013;6:221-232. Published 2013 Sep 27. doi:10.2147/CCID.S44686

  2. Ferlay J, Colombet M, Soerjomataram I, et al. Estimating the global cancer incidence and mortality in 2018: GLOBOCAN sources and methods. Int J Cancer. 2019;144(8):1941-1953. doi:10.1002/ijc.31937

  3. Cole C, Shyr T, Ou-Yang H. Metal oxide sunscreens protect skin by absorption, not by reflection or scattering.Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2016;32(1):5-10. doi:10.1111/phpp.12214

  4. Ghazipura, Marya & McGowan, Richard & Arslan, Alan & Hossain, Tanzib. (2017). Exposure to Benzophenone-3 and Reproductive Toxicity: A Systematic Review of Human and Animal Studies. Reproductive Toxicology. 73. 10.1016/j.reprotox.2017.08.015.

  5. Jiaying, Wang & Pan, Liumeng & WU, Shenggan & Lu, Liping & Xu, Yiwen & Zhu, Yanye & Guo, Ming & Zhuang, Shulin. (2016). Recent Advances on Endocrine Disrupting Effects of UV Filters. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 13. 782. 10.3390/ijerph13080782.

  6. Yazar, Selma & Bilgin, Merve & Halli, B.. (2013). Toxicological Profile of Homosalate as Cosmetic Ingredients. Global Journal Pathology and Microbiology. 11. 10.14205/2310-8703.2013.01.01.2.

  7. Dr. Jetske Ultee. (2018, April 3). Information about Ultee sunscreen. Retrieved from Webiste of Dr. Jetske Ultee: ultee/suncover-spf30-250ml.html