There are trade offs in life – whether you sacrifice space for location when you rent an apartment in Manhattan, or when choosing a mineral sunscreen. Natural or mineral sunscreens use titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide and the advantage is that (although there are issues with titanium dioxide) they are less potentially harmful than chemical sunscreens. The trade off is that their chalky texture and color means that you exchange sun kissed for prison pallor.  MD Solar Sciences has done its best to mitigate the Caspar effect with its Mineral Screen (now upgraded to SPF 50 and $36 in the shop). But, as in life, there is another trade off.

MD Solar Sciences uses a mix of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to achieve a broad spectrum SPF40. So far, so safe and effective. MD Solar Sciences has been equally motivated to produce a product that is cosmetically acceptable. In its own words, Mineral Screen has an “elegant cosmesis”. I am wearing it right now (the sun finally came out in NYC today) and can testify to it being super silky and light. It rubs in without much effort to become completely clear, is not at all greasy and it plays nice with makeup.

It achieves its elegant cosmesis (which has to be my favorite phrase of the week) with the help of silicone. Rather a lot of silicone. In fact, MD Solar Sciences Mineral Screen is silicone and not much else (apart from the sunscreen actives).  With so much silicone, it was time to revisit this ingredient and see if I should be wary about using this sunscreen.

Going back to a detailed post I did on silicones a while back, I was pleased to see that they are unlikely to cause an allergic reaction (the molecules are too big to penetrate the skin). The toxicity of silicones is a controversial issue, but mostly concerns are confined to the silicones that are implanted in the body. So if my sunscreen’s silicones molecules are too big to penetrate the skin, perhaps I should have nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, that isn’t completely true and at best this is a gray area as far as scientific research goes. It seems that topical silicones have been shown to be toxic in animal tests but, at least according to Dow Corning (who manufacturers them), are safe if allowed to evaporate.

The other thing about silicones is that they help some ingredients penetrate the skin more effectively. Tests have been done, for example, on silicones with hydrocortisone. I don’t really want the titanium dioxide here absorbed my skin as it is a photosynthesizer and can lead to increased production of free radicals.

I have been using Mineral Screen on and off for over a week and it hasn’t caused me to breakout or suffer blocked pores. If you can get over the silicone, this is a product for someone who wants something more cosmetically acceptable than a mineral sunscreen goes heavy on the chalky zinc stuff. I’ll keep it and use it for days when I need to wear makeup and am feeling too vain for chalky residue. But the rest of the time, I’ll probably go for something more natural and risk my husband absently rubbing in the white streak on my forehead. Like I said, trade offs.

Active ingredients: titanium dioxide 7.7%, zinc oxide 3.8%

Ingredients: cyclopentasiloxane, caprylyl methicone, dimethicone crosspolymer, dimethicone vinyl dimethicone crosspolymer, dimethiconol, dimethicone, C30-45 olefin, phenyl methicone, stearoxytrimethysilane, polyglyceryl 3, polydimethylsiloxyethyl dimethicone, aluminum hydroxide, stearic acid, triethoxysilylethyl polydimethysiloxxethyl hexyl dimethicone