In personal care, the terms “natural" and “chemical” have become quite diluted. In the sunscreen category, however, each refers to a specific method of protecting the skin from UV rays. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV radiation to protect skin, explains Stephen Baldwin, who leads research and development at Coppertone’s New Jersey office. On the other hand, mineral sunscreens reflect UV radiation off the skin. The words “natural,” “mineral” and “physical” are used interchangeably to describe this method.
Both chemical and natural sunscreens are available in different formulations, including lotion, spray and solid options, offering plenty of choice. "The best sunscreen is the one that you’ll use,” Toronto-based dermatologist Dr. Sonya Cook says.
Look for a water-resistant, broad-spectrum formula with minimum SPF 30 as recommended by the Canadian Cancer Society. And it helps to be mindful of the power of the sun. “It crushes hydrogen all day long and releases massive amounts of radiation,” Baldwin says. “The only reason we’re not frightened by having a giant solar nuclear reactor above us is because that’s just the way it is.”
Coppertone Pure & Simple 100% Zinc Oxide Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50, $11.99 at mass retailers.