Mineral sunscreen applies clear

My previous blog post described why aromatic organic UV filters – all with a benzene ring and belonging to the petrochemical class of chemicals – are neither SAFE or EFFECTIVE. A recent article on CNET quoted  a dermatologist on the comparison between mineral sunscreens and those using 12 aromatic organic UV filters delisted by the US FDA. It was full of dated and inaccurate information. One astute reader commented that  “this article is written mainly to support chemical sunscreens when there is almost no reason not to use physical”. She was exactly right!! I would add that there is every reason NOT TO EVER USE organic petrochemical UV filters – wrongly called a chemical sunscreen. All UV filters are CHEMICALS – fundamental Chemistry. Some sunscreens are organic -meaning carbon based with complex carbon chains and phenolic or benzene rings in their structure.  Mineral UV filters are inorganic compounds (contain no carbon atoms) like zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, iron oxide, and others. Their individual atoms all occur on the Table of Chemical Elements. Mineral or inorganicUV filters belong to the class of INSOLUBLE CHEMICALSwith a large molecular weight > 500 Daltons, which prevents absorption and bioavailability. Organicaromatic petrochemical UV filters in the FDA category III (oxybenzone, avobenzone, homosalate, and 9 others), belong to the class of SOLUBLEUV filters with a small molecular weight < 500 Daltons, the threshold for absorption. All permeate human skin and become bioavailable to every cell in your body, even to the human fetus.

Both the article and that comment suggested that mineral sunscreens were not as esthetic as petrochemical oily filters. The comment also raised the issue of toxicity to the marine environment. Both require accurate information. Fifteen to 20,000 tons of SOLUBLE organic UV filters in popular sunscreens wash off annually and destroy our reefs, similar to an oil spill – an episodic local event, while sunscreen slicks are daily and worldwide, and can damage reefs 6-10 miles offshore. Organic soluble UV filters pollute every link in the land-based aquifer leading to the oceans.  Almost all of the 12 organic filters delisted by the US FDA are found in Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP)  influents and effluents, since they do not remove these petrochemicals. By  2015, thirty-three scientific publications confirmed their contamination of WWTP inflow and outflow, swimming pools, tap-water, urban groundwater, freshwater (rivers and lakes), estuaries, seawater, and  of  sediments from rivers, lakes, beach sand, soils, and sludge.

Regional  pollution of open water around coral reefs was confirmed for oxybenzone in the U.S. Virgin Islands, homosalate and oxybenzone in Japanese waters, and for oxybenzone and avobenzone in South Carolina waters. It is a lengthy exercise to reference the widespread pollution of global water. Studies document the presence of the FDA category III filters in rivers – even in the remote Swiss Alps and Australian estuaries, lakes, streams, ponds and wastewater, wherever humans use sunscreens and personal care products. Even where sunscreen use must be low – the Arctic – these filters pollute, likely from loop currents that bring them from distant coastal waters and cruise ship discharge in the Northern Atlantic.  The  ubiquitous contamination by these petrochemical UV filters of the entire global environment is confirmed by their presence in the open waters of the Pacific Ocean, the surface waters of China, Japan, the USA, Thailand, and every global coral reef system.

The presence and resulting toxicity to marine species is extensive. Coral samples exposed to even small concentrations of these compounds exhibited severe stress responses and often mortality.  Studies identify these drastic effects in scleractinian corals exposed to relatively low concentrations oxybenzone, which was identified as a skeletal endocrine disruptor in planula of Stylophora pistillata(Downs et al 2015). Studies confirm that  soluble organic UV filters bioaccumulate  in mussels, corals , crabs, shrimps, prawns, squids fish, dolphins from the coast of Brazil, incormorants from Switzerland, and in unhatched eggs of bird species from the Natural Park of Doñana (SW of Spain), confirming biomagnification of these substances. It has been confirmed that these agents have the same effects of hormone disruption in  marine species and aquatic biota, as they do in humans. Even dermatologists now admit that mineral sunscreens are safer for the environment (Schneider and Lim 2019) – ”For those concerned about emerging evidence of environmental impact of organic UV filters, based on current evidence, ZnO and TiO ‐containing sunscreens are safe alternatives”.The senior author – Dr. Henry Lim – also stated in a recent interview that he NOW recommends mineral sunscreens for use in pregnancy. I have stringently recommended mineral sunscreens for every consumer over the past 20 years, but the use of soluble organic UV filters delisted by the US FDA must be avoided by expectant or nursing mothers, young and adolescent children, and couples trying to conceive.

Regional bans of soluble organic filters were implemented to protect the reefs in Hawaii, Marshall Islands, Palau, US Virgin Islands, Key west, and the Dutch Antilles. Hawaii has now voted to institute a wider ban to include ALL 12 of the US FDA category III filters. Coral reefs acting as the sentinel organism in the marine ecosystem provide 8 trillion USD of economic benefits to humans.

Another point raised in the article is that mineral sunscreens are less desirable from an esthetic (“white residue”) or sensory feel on skin (“sticky”). One person makes the comment that issues with mineral sunscreens  are  “difficulty with rubbing in” and requiring an “ extra 30 seconds rubbing”. Mineral sunscreens aresafer for humans and our environment and some are now as esthetic as soluble sunscreens using petrochemicals, incorrectly called chemical sunscreens.

It was reported last year that  Former First Lady, Michele Obama,  used a 25% zinc oxide sunscreen, and other celebrities with dark or brown skin have said they use the same sunscreen. Venus Williams just launched as part of her “Eleven” product line, two 25% zinc oxide sunscreens – one a serum, so thin, it is dispensed by a dropper, the other a cream. Both apply clear within a few seconds. Ms. Williams states that both are great for any skin tone, and provide the high UVA protection to prevent skin cancer and photoaging.


© Denis K. Dudley MD, JUNE 2020. All rights reserved.




Published by


Dr. Dudley, M.D., FRCS(C) completed his residency in OB-GYN at the University of Ottawa in 1978. He went on to complete joint fellowship in maternal-foetal medicine and reproductive endocrinology at the John Radcliffe Hospital (Oxford University) and the Royal Free Hospital (University of London) respectively. From 1979-1991, he was the Director for the High Risk Pregnancy Unit at the Ottawa Civic Hospital, University of Ottawa. During this time, he was a member of the academic teaching staff for the department of obstetrics and gynaecology. Laserderm was created in 1987 to provide innovative laser treatment for benign vascular lesions including port-wine stain birthmarks and hemangiomas. Dr. Laughlin was the Medical Director and Dr. Dudley the Executive Director while both physicians provided clinical expertise to create a first in Canada program for this type of laser treatment. In 1990, Laserderm became the first Independent Health Facility within Ontario. Dr. Dudley decided to retire from his position at the Civic Hospital in the High Risk Pregnancy Unit and work full time at Laserderm in 1991. He completed a fellowship in Cutaneous Laser Medicine in 1993 and worked alongside Dr. Laughlin in the continued research and development of many of the protocols and laser systems that are now the standard of care. The Laserderm team became renowned for their expertise in all aspects of cutaneous laser medicine. Over the next two decades, Laserderm worked with industry to research and develop new laser technology for several new applications. Laserderm played a role in the research and development for virtually all of the advances made in cutaneous laser medicine. Each new treatment method was pioneered in Canada at Laserderm. Meanwhile, after a patient asked him about the safety of using a sunscreen during pregnancy- Dr. Dudley began investigating the safety of many of the personal care products that are commonly used, paying specific attention to sunscreens. His experience with foetal-maternal health and his time spent in the dermatology clinic led him to create Cyberderm Laboratories with Dr. Laughlin and a Toronto-based chemist Tom Heinar in 1996. His axiom of creating sunscreens and cosmetics that are ‘safe enough for even a pregnant woman to use’ has led him in a life long pursuit of continuous research and development of leading edge skincare products. The company became operational in 2008 with the launch of its first sunscreen and cosmetic products. The product line under the brand name The Sunscreen Company TM is now available nation-wide, including within Laserderm. It continues to grow while Dr. Dudley continues his research and pushes for the commercialization of the most safe and effective sunscreens in the world. Dr. Dudley continues to publish his latest thinking on the industry, sunscreens and the creation of safe cosmeceuticals on his blog The Sunscreen Doc.


  1. I can attest to the non white residue and non stickiness of mineral based sunscreen. I have been using “Every Morning Sun Whip” as a daily facial moisturizer for years without any issues. I have stopped using petrochemical sunscreen let alone as a daily facial moisturizer.


  2. I have dark skin and I use this mineral sunscreen religiously. I absolutely love the fact that I can get the protection without looking like my skin tone has been altered. It is great to know that we do not have to be scared of Zinc anymore.


  3. “mineral sunscreens were not as esthetic as petrochemical oily filters” NOT TRUE at all.
    I have dark skin and been using “Every Morning Sun Whip” daily. It doesn’t leave any white residue. I love this product!!!


  4. I have been using a mineral sunscreen for years now,Every Morning Sunwhip.
    I dont burn or tan and it blends in beautifully without making me look white.
    Mineral Sunscreen is the way to go!!


  5. Thank you for demystifying the point about mineral sunscreens not being aesthetically pleasing (white residue). Can’t wait to buy one so that I can not only protect myself but protect the environment as well!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s