Zinc Oxide in Sunscreen: Is It Safe?

Zinc has the chemical formula ZnO where one atom of Zinc is ionically bonded to one atom of Oxygen. Its natural occurring form is Zincite. Noticeably Zinc Oxide is used as a component in manufacturing lotions, make-up and more popularly on sunscreens.

Sunscreen on the face

Bring out the beach towels, tanning chairs and sport those tight toned abs, arms, legs in your trunks and bikini. Come and take a dip in the cool waters, summertime is just right around the corner. Don’t forget to wear your sunglasses and bring those cute parasols as well! I know you didn’t just buy them because it might rain. Oh, before I forget, put on some of that much-needed sunscreen. Hmmm, what’s that? Do you say there is a little problem? You don’t know if some of the ingredients for sunscreen are safe. Worried about the Zinc Oxide used in some sunscreens?

Well worry no more, we’ll talk about Zinc Oxide a little more especially if it’s safe to use particularly as a sunscreen component.

Chemical or Physical

In looking for the perfect way to protect our bodies from cancer-causing long wave ultraviolet A (UVA) rays and the skin-damaging/burning short wave ultraviolet B (UVB) rays we need to consider whether we go Chemical or Physical Sunscreen. Most commercially available sunscreens are able to protect us from UVB because if they didn’t then most of us would already be suffering from sunburns however the same cannot be said for UVA since the two are different.

Chemical Sunscreens

Have you ever wondered why in some labels of sunscreen lotions they instruct people to apply it 20 minutes before you actually expose yourself to the rays of the sun? It’s because for most Chemical Sunscreens or Organic Sunscreens need about that amount of time for their components to sink into the top layer of the skin and be able to protect us from those harmful rays.

It’s chemical, but why is it called organic? Don’t get confused, as the name suggests, these kinds of sunscreens have chemical filters as components. Chemical filters penetrate deep into the body even to the bloodstream and might cause cancer and disrupt the natural function of hormones. Some of those chemical filters are as follows: Avobenzone, Cinoxate, Dioxybenzone, Ensulizole, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Padimate O, Sulisobenzone and Triethanolamine salicylate.

Physical Sunscreens

On the other end of the bat, we have the Physical Sunscreens which are sometimes called Mineral, Natural and or Inorganic. These sunscreens don’t seep into the body but just sit on top of the skin and merely reflect sunlight away. It only means that you don’t have to wait 20 minutes before you strut your stuff on the beach or walk in the park because they immediately take effect a few minutes after you apply it unto your skin. That is why relatively speaking Physical sunscreens are safer than Chemical Sunscreens.

Physical Sunscreens only have two main minerals as their components which are:

  1. Zinc Oxide
  2. Titanium Dioxide

These components often are the reasons why Physical Sunscreens feel a little thick and greasy on the skin, unlike Chemical Sunscreens. Zinc Oxide in Physical Sunscreens also leaves a white residue that will also go away after 15 minutes or so.

Getting to know Zinc Oxide

Zinc Oxide is an oxidized version of the metal Zinc. It has the chemical formula ZnO where one atom of Zinc is ionically bonded to one atom of Oxygen. Its naturally occurring form is Zincite. Noticeably Zinc Oxide is used as a component in manufacturing lotions, make-up and more popularly on sunscreens. It is also used as an active ingredient in creams that are applied on diaper rashes and what not since. It acts as a protective layer on the buttocks against the diaper. Zinc Oxide works much like a mirror on your skin and reflects back the harmful rays of the sun.


Some experts believe that Zinc Oxide is a safe ingredient or component of Physical (Mineral) Sunscreens. It’s because it stays on top of the skin and does its work by reflecting UVA and UVB.

It also is better in a sense that it can give a broader spectrum of coverage than other sunscreens that don’t have Zinc Oxide. Most dermatologists also believe that it is ideal for all skin types even for those folks who suffer rosacea, skin sensitivity, and acne. It is because Zinc Oxide has anti-inflammatory properties that can help aid these skin conditions.


Perhaps one of the downside to Zinc Oxides in sunscreens though is that when you apply them, they leave a whitish coating on the skin. This eventually goes away. But if protection from cancer-causing, skin aging and hormone-disrupting harmful rays of the sun are what you’re after then it’s a minor downside if you ask me.

Though in some rare cases, some people may turn out to be allergic hence a word to the wise, do a skin test before you generously apply it on your entire body.

So with the question, is the Zinc Oxide from Physical (Mineral) Sunscreens safe for human use. I say let the facts talk and always be updated with the latest when it comes to advances in technology.

Pros Of Zinc Oxide in Sunscreens

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