A lady on the beach in a swimsuit squirts sunscreen out onto her hand happily.

Physical Blocker or Chemical Blocker Sunscreens

Ever spent money on sunscreen and then only to find that it burns as soon as you put it on. Then you might say, well, that was a waste of money and give it to someone with normal skin. I have tried plenty of different sunscreens, and there are lots out there that say “Dermatologically Tested.” Or you have a friend that recommends a specific brand of sunscreen, saying, “It’s the best!” then you buy it, and it burns your skin.

What was my "AHA" moment?

It is so frustrating knowing that you need to put on sunscreen, so you don’t burn, but then the sunscreen gives you what feels like a chemical burn.

This has all changed when I read a Facebook post by Eczema Support Australia. Their topic was "Eczema in Summer – Sunscreens." They found that you can get a different recommendation from each person.  They pointed out something that I never knew about, and that was when I had the "AHA" moment!

What are the different types of sunscreens?

"Sunscreens come in two main categories – physical blocker or chemical blocker.

Chemical blocker sunscreen works by absorbing into the skin, absorbing the UV rays, converting the rays into heat, and releasing them from the body.

Physical blocker sunscreen works by sitting on the surface of the skin and reflecting the UV rays. Therefore, eczema skin may benefit from physical blockers as they do not generate as much heat (an enemy of eczema) and often have fewer ingredients that can cause skin reactions. Physical blockers often use minerals; usually zinc or titanium oxide-based.”1

How did my skin react to chemical blockers?

This was mind-blowing to me. I never knew about physical blockers and chemical blockers. So now it all made sense why a chemical blocker sunscreen would cause such a burning sensation on my red skin. I suffer from red skin syndrome, and it always felt like my skin was on fire.

I remember going to the chemist/pharmacy and reading the ingredients on almost every bottle after learning about physical blockers and chemical blockers. I also found that they do not say on the bottles whether they are physical blockers or chemical blockers. I now look for the main ingredient, zinc oxide, 5% or higher.

What sunscreen do I use now?

I have now found a new sunscreen to use. Cancer Council Australia makes it, and every purchase goes toward cancer research and services. It's called Sensitive Sunscreen.

It has SPF50+ broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection and is formulated with aloe vera and vitamin E to moisturize the skin. The sunscreen is also fragrance and paraben-free and was tested for 4 hours of water resistance. The main ingredient is zinc oxide 5% (only mentioned in the ingredients on the back of the bottle for some reason).2

What's in it?

Active ingredients: 5% Zinc Oxide, 2.5% Bemotrizinol, 2.5% Methylene bis-benzotriazolyl tetramethylbutylphenol, 1% 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor2

Preservatives: Phenoxyethanol, 1, 2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol2

Tips for applying sunscreen

I know lots of people cover up head to toe and try to keep out of the sun. I live in Australia, and temperatures go well above 40 degrees Celsius (above 104 degrees Fahrenheit), and it makes me even hotter if I am covered head to toe sometimes. I do cover up when I go to the beach wearing a long sleeve rashie and a big bucket hat!

Some other tips for sunscreen usage:1

  • Apply moisturizer at least 30 minutes prior to applying sunscreen
  • Try to avoid thick greasy sunscreens or ones with fragrances
  • Avoid applying to sandy skin as the friction can hurt and cause more broken skin
  • Alternatively, make use of a UV suit or loose cotton/bamboo clothing and a hat with a wide brim.

I am so glad that I found this information and I am happy to share it with the eczema world to help people choose a sunscreen that will work for them.

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