Sun care – Overview of UV Filters

May 23, 2020

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There are quite a few ingredients in skincare products that can cause an unsightly rash in combination with the sun. Did you know that certain UV filters can even cause problems when exposed to sunlight? That is quite strange. Does your skin suddenly show hypersensitivity reactions in the sun? Then check the list of ingredients in the (sun) creams you use.

Some UV filters are known to often cause allergies. As most sun protection products contain several UV filters, it is not always easy to identify the allergy trigger and then find a product that is suitable for your skin. Sometimes you have to try three or four products. And then it should also be a UV filter that offers the best protection. Do all filters have the same effect?

Green, yellow and red light for these UV filters

To help you with your search, I have drawn up an overview of the most commonly used UV filters in skincare with a focus on Europ. The reason I focus on Europe, as Europe has the widest available UV filters in comparison to the USA that only approved a handful of UV filters. And we want to avoid most of them.

I have then divided these into "good", "doubtful" and "better to avoid" based on the available scientific literature. The question of whether I would allow the substance to come into contact with my niece's skin played an important role in the classification.

I would use the good UV filters without hesitation. I would not use the dubious UV filters on a daily basis. I would avoid the UV filters in the "better to avoid" category.

Overview of UV filters:

Please find below an overview of often used UV filters in sun care products. Take a photo of the table below or save it to your bookmarks, so when you go shopping for products next time, you will have this handy to make an informed decision.

The following are filters that I trust.

Would we use it? INCI Type of filter Possible side effects Alternative names Descriptions
Yes Ethylhexyl Salicylate chemical Allergies Octisilate Octisilate is a relatively common UVB filter. It can give sunscreens water-resistant properties. Even if octisalate does not seem to have a hormonal effect in the body, we would not offer it, because it is often combined with octinoxate due to its weak UV protection properties.
Yes Drometrizole Trisiloxane chemical - Mexoryl XL Mexoryl XL is also one of the new chemical UV filters that are UV stable and provide reliable UVA protection. It is combined with UVB filters to achieve broad-spectrum protection. Mexoryl XL has no hormonal effects in the body and is a chemical filter that we would offer. It can be found in L’Oréal products, where it is very often used in combination with Mexoryl SX due to its synergistic protective effect.
Yes Diethylhexyl Butamido Triazone chemical - Iscotrizinol Iscotrizinol is a modern UV filter that protects against both UVA and UVB radiation.
Yes Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate chemical - Univul A Plus Uvinul A Plus is a potent and good UVA filter. This is used in sunscreens in combination with UVB filters to ensure broad-spectrum protection.
Yes Terephtyhalydlidene Dicamphor Sulfonic Acid chemical - Mexoryl SX Ecamsule Mexoryl SX is similar to Mexoryl XL. It is a stable UVA filter that has no hormone effects in the body and is therefore recommended. It also has a stabilizing effect on other chemical filters (e.g. avobe zone). It can be found in L’Oréal products in combination with Mexoryl XL because they have a strong synergistic protective effect.
Yes Zinc Oxide (non-nano) mineral Zinc oxide (along with titanium dioxide) is one of the two physical UV filters. In contrast to chemical UV filters, physical filters are milder and more caring for our skin. This means that they are more suitable for sensitive skin, rosacea, neurodermatitis and allergies. They reflect the UV rays and thus protect the skin from damage. Zinc oxide protects against both UVA and UVB rays (broadband protection, also called “broad spectrum”).





The following are red and UV filters I avoid. 

Would we use it? INCI Type of filter Possible side effects Alternative names Descriptions
No Tri-Biphenyl Triazine (nano) chemical and mineral Nano particles Tinosorb A2B Tinosorb A2B is a broadband filter that is particularly water-resistant. Since it is used in nano size, we would not offer it.
No Octocrylene chemical hormonal effect; - Octocrylene primarily protects against UVB radiation. It also has a stabilizing effect on other UV filters. However, we wouldn’t offer octocrylene because it penetrates the skin and accumulates in the human body. There it leads to increased oxidative stress (increased production of free radicals) and could also have a hormone-active effect.
No Methylene Bis-Benzotriazlyl Tetramethylbutylphenol (nano) chemical and mineral nano partciles Tinosorb M Like the other Tinosorb filters, Tinosorb M belongs to the generation of new chemical UV filters. It is UV stable and has good UVA and UVB protection (broadband protection). Another positive aspect is that Tinosorb M does not appear to have any hormonal effects in the body. It also stabilizes other UV filters and works synergistically with them to protect the skin. It is interesting that Tinosorb M is used in the form of small particles (similar to zinc oxides or titanium dioxide). It functions as a physical and chemical UV filter. Since the nano-sized particles are used, we wouldn’t offer this filter. Long-term studies are particularly lacking in Tinosorb filters. If the nano-sized particles get into the body, there are risks that cannot yet be assessed.
No Isoamyl Methoxycinnamate chemical hormonal impact; allergies Isoamy P-Methoxycinnamate Isoamyl P-methoxycinnamate is a hormone-active UV filter that can cause allergies (like all filters that end on “-cinnamate”.
No Homosalate chemical hormonal impact; allergies - Homosalate is a (particularly in the USA) widely used UVB filter, which is often used in waterproof textures due to its lipophilic (fat-loving) properties. We would not offer this filter because a substantial amount is absorbed by the applied portion and the substance has hormonal effects in the body. Even though this ingredient is generally considered to be mild, it is an ester of salicylic acid (salicylate). Some people are allergic to salicylates, so special care should be taken with them.
No Ethylhexyl Dimenthyl PABA chemical allergies Padimate O Padimate O is a UVB filter that fortunately is hardly used these days. PABA-based filters (para-aminobenzoic acid) are known to cause allergies and are therefore rarely found in sunscreens today.
to its synergistic protective effect.
No Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine, Acrylates/C12-22 Alkyl Methacrylate Copolymer chemical micro plastic Tinosorb S Lite Aqa We are fundamentally against microplastics in cosmetics
No Zinc Oxide (nano) mineral nano particles - We would not offer nano-sized zinc oxide.
No 4-Methylbenzyliden chemical hormonal impact Enzacamen Enzacamen is a rarely used UVB filter that also protects against infrared radiation. We would not offer it because it is suspected of having a potential carcinogenic (carcinogenic) effect.
No Benzophenone-3 chemical hormonal impact, allergies Oxybenzone Fortunately, oxybenzone is rarely used in EU sunscreens, but more often in make-up products such as BB, CC creams and foundations. This is primarily a UVB filter, which also protects against a part of the UVA spectrum. Although Oxybenzone stabilizes other UV filters (e.g. Avobenzone), we would not offer this. This substance is known to penetrate the skin to a large extent and develop hormonal effects in the body. In addition, many people have an oxybenzone allergy. In this case, special care is required, because this ingredient is also found in other cosmetics (e.g. nail polish removers, hair sprays)!
No Benzophenone-4 chemical hormonal impact, allergies Sulisobenzone It is a rarely used UVB filter that also protects against part of the UVA spectrum. Since this substance is closely related to Oxybenzone (see benzophenone-3), we advise against it.
No Benzophenone-5 chemical hormonal impact, allergies Sulisobenzone sodium The sodium salt of benzophenone-4. S. benzophenone-4 or benzophenone-3. It is a rarely used UVB filter that also protects against part of the UVA spectrum. Since this substance is closely related to Oxybenzone (see benzophenone-3), we would not offer it.
No Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane chemical - Avobenzone The Avobenzone is the first widely used filter that protects against the complete UVA spectrum. Avobenzone is UV-unstable, which means that the substance “disintegrates” and becomes ineffective when exposed to UV. In the past this was a problem that has to be taken into account other filters (Oxybenzone, Tinosorb S, Tinosorb M etc.) stabilized and made powerful, it has no hormonal effects in the body.
No Octyl Methoxycinnamate chemical hormonal impact Octinoxate The Octinoxate is a potent UVB filter that is used very often in sunscreens. We would not use this filter because it has hormonal effects and a certain toxicity in the body. In addition, octinoxate is often used in combination with oxybenzone – an unsightly combination that is best left off!
No Polysilicone-15 chemical silicone Parsol SLX Parsol SLX is a UVB filter that is used relatively rarely. We would not use this as silicones do not support the skin and its barrier.
No Titanium Dioxide mineral - - Titanium dioxide is the second physical UV filter. It is also well tolerated and suitable for sensitive skin, skin diseases and allergies. Titanium dioxide protects against UVB and only part of the UVA rays. That is why it is often combined with other UVA filters in sun creams.
No Titanium Dioxide (nano) mineral nano particle - We would not offer titanium dioxide in nano size.

Related posts: 

The Science between Chemical (organic) and Physical (inorganic) sunscreens

Shield your skin from the sun

Overview of filters

Does sunscreen deplete me from Vitamin D

Why you should protect your skin from UVA




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