How safe is your suncream?

Holiday season is upon us – with it the opportunity for many of us to travel around the world topping up our vitamin D and relaxing in sunny climates where the sun is often a lot more dangerous than we might be used to. These days everyone knows the importance of wearing SPF on a regular basis – it’s even built into a lot of face creams, and the reminders are there every day about the amount of damage that UVA and UVB can do. But do we really know what’s best for us?

What to look out for in your sunscrean

With so many different types of suncream on offer, it can be confusing, but it’s more important than ever these days to understand what you are putting on your body and into the environment.

Suncreams or sunblock's are often made of a mix of ingredients. Key ones being Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide, Avobenzone and Oxybenzone. It’s important to understand the difference between a chemical sun cream and a natural mineral product. Chemical suncreams are generally cheaper than their natural counterparts and will screen you from the harmful rays just as well, but at what cost. While sun-blocking ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene have been deemed safe for human use, they have been found to exacerbate the reef bleaching associated with warming ocean temperatures. As a result, more and more people are moving towards mineral or natural sunscreens, however this does not automatically mean enhanced protection of ecosystems.

Titanium Dioxide

Today we are going to focus on Titanium Dioxide, which is a key ingredient in most natural, mineral sunscreens, including incognito’s sunblock with insect repellent.

Titanium Dioxide is used as a natural physical sunscreen agent. It provides protection against both UVA and UVB radiation from the sun. When applied to the skin, unlike chemical sunscreens which absorb UV rays, titanium dioxide forms a thin protective barrier that reflects and scatters the UV rays away from the skin, thus reducing the amount of radiation that can penetrate and damage skin cells.

It provides broad spectrum protection, meaning it guards against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays can cause skin damage and premature ageing and UVB causes sunburn. It is also good for sensitive skin and should not clog pores. Titanium dioxide particles often also offer water resistant properties allowing them to remain effective for longer, even after exposure to water, or when sweating.

Sounds great, right?

And in theory yes, it is, however most of the titanium dioxide used in many readily available sun care brands also consists of nano particles.

What does this mean?

Nano particles are often included in sunscreen because smaller particles enable easier absorption and application. However, Titanium Dioxide nanoparticles have raised concerns regarding their potential environmental impact as well as penetrating transdermal skin layers. When released into water systems or soil, they may have adverse effects on aquatic organisms and ecosystems and as such are of particular concern to endangered reef systems. Indeed, some countries have already banned this type of suncream (eg Hawaii) for exactly this reason. It’s really important to carefully check the ingredients on your sunscreen before you travel to make sure you are providing the best protection you can for both yourself and the environment you are travelling to.

Howard Carter, CEO and co-founder of incognito, worked for many years with suppliers to develop octo-sized particles of zinc and titanium dioxide as a new sustainable solution in the manufacture of sunscreens. These particles are larger than the nano size that can harm coral and aquatic wildlife that can sometimes make creams difficult to apply to skin.

Sunblock's containing larger than nano-size molecules are usually harder to rub in, which can result in a white sheen over the skin’, explains Christopher Spezzano, a non-executive director of incognito. ‘However, incognito's newly reformulated sunblock is nano-free & easier to rub in, thus protecting the skin and coral reefs.’


incognito® is delighted to announce that their latest sunblock, which has always been nano-free, is considered reef-friendly and also has a great texture that easily blends. On top of that, it also offers anti mosquito and other insect protection too.

So next time you’re shopping for suncream choose a sunblock variety if you are in any doubt when checking the ingredients, and travel as safely as you can.

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