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Chemical Compounds of Sunscreen

Whether protecting our skin to stay youthful or to keep it healthy, sunscreen is one of the best ways to keep your skin from burning while enjoying the great outdoors. As consumers, we often forget that the products we use daily are the product of chemical science.

Keeping our skin burn-free with topical ointment is common practice. Despite our routine use of these products, questions linger over the active ingredients used in formulation. And there is much debate over which active ingredients are the safest, most effective and perform best.

One of the most common—and effective—active ingredients in sunscreen is Zinc Oxide (ZnO). While it is used in a variety of applications, Zinc Oxide is FDA approved for use as an agent in sunscreen.

The Role of Zinc Oxide in Sunscreen

The special property that makes Zinc Oxide so effective as a skin protectant is its ability to protect the skin against both UVA and UVB ultraviolet rays. Most other chemical additions only protect against one or the other. But Zinc Oxide helps to reflect and scatter both types of ultraviolet rays. Because of this property, many products labeled as “Broad Spectrum” use Zinc Oxide as the active ingredient.

The Cosmetic Debate

Though research has proven the effectiveness of Zinc Oxide, that does not speak its cosmetic performance. Many consumers have complained of the white cast sunscreens with Zinc Oxide leave on the skin. This is especially troubling to those with darker complexions.

Chemists have found a way to overcome this cosmetic hurdle by altering sunscreen formulas to incorporate Zinc Oxide nanoparticles. Replacing traditionally used microparticles with the finer nanoparticles eradicates the opaque quality. This results in a transparent finish for a more pleasing end product.

The Link Between SPF and the Level of Zinc Oxide 

Surprisingly, you don’t need to consult the drug facts label on your sunscreen to determine how much Zinc Oxide is in the product. The SPF value is directly correlated to how much Zinc Oxide is used in the product. The higher the SPF rating the greater the percentage of Zinc Oxide.

The SPF value is the length of time it would take the sun’s rays to affect the skin when using the product versus the amount of time without sunscreen. Therefore, with perfect use, SPF 30 sunblock would protect the skin for up to 30 times longer than without protection. The endurance of the product is directly linked to increased levels of Zinc Oxide in the product’s formula.

While Zinc Oxide is not the only active ingredient available for use in sunblock, it is among the most used and most effective. Through the use of thoughtfully chosen, high-quality elements, consumers can gain access to products that will improve their quality of life.

Noah Chemicals is here to help you create outstanding products that will benefit your brand and consumers. Our on-staff chemists are happy to talk with you about the role of Zinc Oxide in your product. In addition to supplying Zinc Oxide compounds in both 99.9% and 99.999% purities, Noah Tech also offers custom chemical services to customers all over the country.

For more information on our industry-leading quality assurance program or to order directly, please reach out to Noah Tech today.


Noah Chemicals is dedicated to providing clients the purest chemicals. Buy Zinc Oxide directly from our massive online catalog. To speak with a qualified chemist about custom chemicals and bulk ordering contact us today!

ZINC OXIDE, 99.9% pure, ACS Reagent, -200 mesh, ZnO

ZINC OXIDE, 99.999% pure, -325 mesh, < 5 microns average, ZnO


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