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Everything you need to know about UV filters - but were afraid to ask.

Mineral versus Chemical, Rising Skin Cancer Cases - What's really protecting you from UV radiation?

UV filters are the active ingredients in a sunscreen that prevent the harmful effects of UV radiation - skin ageing and eventually skin cancer. What do you need to know about them?

UV radiation has many sides (wavelengths)

  • UV light consists of different wavelengths, which are categorized as UVA, UVB and UVC.
  • UVC radiation is high-energy and short-wave. Fortunately, it is kept away by the ozone layer.
  • UVB-radiation is also largely blocked by the ozone layer. However, some of it still reaches us and is important for sunburn and melanoma skin cancer,
  • UVA-radiation reaches us fully and is for the skinageing (Anti-Age) and Non melanoma skin cancer. Although it is not as energetic as UVB radiation, it penetrates deeper into our skin.
  • One needs different UV filters for optimum protection.
    UV filters often act in a specific waveband of the UV spectrum. Therefore, combinations of different filters are commonly used. Their primary mechanism of action is absorption.

A good sunscreen...

  1. ...protects against both UV-B and UV-A rays.
    1. The sun protection factor on the perpackage indicates how effectively the UV filters protect against UVB light (SPF 15, 30, 50).
    2. To ensure that the skin retains its elasticity in old age, your sunscreen should also protect against UVA radiation. Just look for the UVA symbol on the packaging. If it is in a circle, the product has at least one third of the SPF as UVA protection (sunscreen with SPF 30 with UVA in a circle has UVA protection of 10).
  2. ...has a low risk of causing allergies. Any substance can cause allergies, but some more than others. Your filters should be as unlikely as possible to trigger allergic reactions. The seal of the German Allergy and Asthma Association offers good guidance here.
  3. ...is not visible after application. To optimize user-friendliness, UV filters should not leave white streaks after the cream has been applied. Some filters, such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide filters, do just this. The faster and easier sunscreen is absorbed by the skin, the more likely consumers are to use it.
  4. ...has a long shelf life. Filters can decompose over time, which means that they lose their effectiveness. And some substances can develop a carcinogenic effect in the process.
  5. ...is also effective in direct sunlight. Sunlight can decompose some chemical filters and reduce their effectiveness. Therefore, a cream with photostable filters is needed. Most modern filters meet this criterion.
  6. ...is as environmentally friendly as possible. Sunscreen filters are not readily biodegradable and have a negative impact on the environment. Which filters are properly certified as environmentally friendly? Quick tip: The "Hawaiian Reef Safe" designation doesn't really exist. This is merely a ban on some filters - which is a good start, but still not enough in our opinion. With the EcoSun Pass® , a transparent method was developed to evaluate the environmental compatibility of filters.
  7. ...uses as few filters as possible.The fewer filters in a formulation, the better it is for the environment.

The filter Myths

As suppliers of organic filters, we have heard and read a lot of 'alternative facts' about "natural mineral filters", the inorganic UV filters. All filters in sunscreens are chemical by nature, so a distinction between organic and inorganic UV filters is more accurate.

So let's set a few things straight:

Myth 1: Mineral filters work like small mirrors.

What is certain is that all filters work primarily in the same way: Namely, by absorption, which converts high-energy radiation into low-energy heat. Only about 10% of the filtering effect of inorganic filters is based on their reflective property.

Myth 2: There are natural and chemical UV filters.

Although the basic minerals used in inorganic filters occur naturally, they must be significantly transformed to make them suitable for use as UV filters. This process is energy intensive and requires high temperatures and highly reactive chemicals such as sulphuric acid and chlorine to convert zinc, for example, into zinc oxide. This has little to do with "nature" anymore.

Myth 3: Inorganic UV filters are natural, environmentally friendly and reliable.

There is no scientific correlation between naturalness, toxicity and environmental friendliness. However, many natural ingredients exist that are toxic to humans (e.g. parts of poisonous plants, allergens, etc.) or have a negative impact on the environment, such as fossil oil, because it is not biodegradable and therefore poses a risk to aquatic organisms.

Conversely, the fact that an ingredient is synthetic does not necessarily mean that it is harmful or toxic to humans. As is often the case, there are good and bad natural and synthetic ingredients.

Myth 4: Chemical, i.e. organic, filters are bad.

Let's face it, there are definitely problematic organic filters on the market. Some are banned, others are probably disappearing in the near future (e.g. benzophenone-3). Still others are approved, but have been proven to have hormone-like effects (e.g., octocrylene or homosalates). The most important insight: a few bad apples don't spoil the whole bunch. There is a whole range of modern UV filters that are approved in the EU and do a great job.

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