In the world of sunscreens, there are two types of “active” ingredients (the ingredients that do the business of filtering the sun’s rays): mineral and chemical. What’s the difference and is one kind better than the other?
When the FDA first began evaluating sunscreen safety back in the 1970s, it grandfathered in active ingredients based on the assumption that these chemicals sat on top of the skin and didn’t impact health. After learning that many are actually absorbed into the bloodstream, the FDA started a re-evaluation process and in February 2019, the agency released its final draft sunscreens monograph that made the following conclusion based on the available safety data:
“Of the 16 currently marketed active ingredients, two ingredients – zinc oxide and titanium dioxide – are generally recognized as safe and effective (GRASE) for use in sunscreens; two ingredients – PABA and trolamine salicylate – are not GRASE for use in sunscreens due to safety issues. There are 12 ingredients for which there are insufficient safety data to make a positive GRASE determination at this time.”
You read that right: The new FDA monograph gave GRASE designation to just two active sunscreen ingredients: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide – the mineral sunscreens.