what is zinc oxide in sunscreen

What is Zinc Oxide in Sunscreen

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what is zinc oxide in sunscreen

Let’s face it, there’s so much sun out there, and you have to protect your skin from it! Most of us know that excessive sun exposure causes skin cancer. And I’m sure you’ve heard when skin cancer is found early it’s curable. While that may be true, most skin cancers aren’t found early enough to prevent death. Wearing sunscreen can decrease your chances of developing skin cancer.

While prevention of skin cancer is up on the priority list, sunscreen also keeps your skin from aging quickly and evens out your skin tone. And who doesn’t want to keep a young-looking face? Sunscreen is a must-have for everyone and there are a lot of options for us! One of the more natural options is zinc oxide sunscreen. So what is zinc oxide sunscreen? It’s a mineral-based formula, and it’s important because it’s natural and protects you from the sun!

What Is Zinc Oxide in SunscreenEverything You Need to Know

UVB rays, UVA rays, SPF, zinc oxide, and titanium oxide are some of the words you see on the what-seems-like-a-million bottles on the shelf. You always see the traditional SPF followed by a number. You might have a lot of questions like I did. What is zinc oxide sunscreen and what is zinc oxide in sunscreen?

  • Zinc oxide is a sunscreen formula made with a mineral rather than a chemical. The big deal about this one is it doesn’t seep into your body and it’s more natural than a traditional chemical sunscreen. And hey, isn’t it important to know what goes in our bodies today?
  • Zinc oxide is kind of like a barrier. You apply it, and it makes the sun’s harmful rays bounce right back off of your skin like it was a mirror! And to me, this is an awesome concept because it’s safer than a traditional sunscreen and protects your skin from both UVB and UVA rays. In English, UVB rays burn the outermost parts of your skin and UVA rays go a little bit deeper.
  • Zinc oxide sunscreens are for everyone. It might seem like zinc oxide sunscreens are for people with the lightest skin since it creates a barrier, but that’s not true! Since they create a barrier, they don’t penetrate through the skin like chemical sunscreens. If your skin is sensitive like mine, zinc oxide sunscreens might be a better choice for you too.
  • Some precautions you should know when it comes to zinc oxide sunscreens. First, it’s a little thicker than your average sunscreen. This tends to leave a residue. Since its thicker, its harder to spread evenly. When this happens you can end up with burns outside of the areas you applied the sunscreen to, so you have to be a little more careful when applying zinc oxide sunscreens.

Zinc Oxide Sunscreens

Now we’re going into specifics. I put a list together here with different zinc oxide sunscreen products and how it works it’s best. I have personally used most of these items, so I’m giving you my honest review!

Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Spray

what is zinc oxide in sunscreen

Ok, I have to say zinc oxide sunscreen sprays rock! I tried Babo Botanicals Sheer Zinc Continuous Spray Sunscreen on my first beach trip this summer. I went with an SPF 30.

First off, you can see where you spray, and that made it so much easier to rub in evenly. I spent 4 hours at the beach and reapplied 3 times, following the directions. No burn, just tan!

I think overall, anyone could use this. I thought this was a little pricey, but the sprays went on so evenly that it proved its worth.

Zinc Oxide Sun Cream

what is zinc oxide in sunscreen

Sun creams, or sunscreen lotions, are one of the most common sunscreen products. Personally, they have always been harder for me to distribute and I get streaks. My complexion is pale and I have sensitive skin, so Neutrogena is always a good choice for hypoallergenic products.

I gave Neutrogena’s Sheer Zinc Sunscreen Lotion a shot. I was satisfied with the results. I went with a higher SPF (50) and I didn’t burn or tan at all!

There were two bad things about this one though. It was tedious to put on and cover everything because it was so thick. I had to have help applying it to my back. The other issue is it leaves a white residue like deodorant stains on your clothes and bathing suit.

Best Zinc Oxide Face Sunscreen

what is zinc oxide in sunscreen

Ocean Potion’s Face Zinc is my personal go-to! This face sunscreen became my staple. I am very fair-skinned, and this face sunscreen does the trick. I also have sensitive skin and I have never broken out from this one.

You can wear this plain, or under makeup. It definitely provides extra protection. It’s great for people who burn easily on the face or have sensitive skin like me.

I learned that you have to rub this formula in your hands quickly and apply it to your face just as quick though. If it sets, it will get cakey.

Zinc Oxide Lip Protection

what is zinc oxide in sunscreen

Chapped, blistery lips that won’t go away are the worst! That’s why I recommend Waxhead’s all-natural lip balm (zinc oxide).

Sunscreen lip balms tend to go on thick and feel pasty or waxy. Waxhead’s all-natural lip balm goes on a little thick, but you can smear it in and it tends to stay lightweight. Also, it’s peppermint flavored so it gives off a cooling effect which is awesome when you’re in the sun. Perfect for anyone going to the beach or saying poolside!

Zinc Oxide Powder Sunscreen

Zinc oxide powder sunscreens are a little bit newer on the market. There are two main types of powder.

The first type of zinc oxide powder is a stick with a brush that can be applied like a mineral foundation, and some are even tinted. The powder stick usually comes tinted, so it’s more of a cosmetic product, and I hear it works great!

The other option is zinc oxide powder that you can mix with an oil like coconut, or shea butter and vitamin E cream to make a lotion. The regular powder is awesome for anyone doing a DIY project. It mixes well, offering great sun protection and great for everyone.

Zinc Oxide Side Effects

Zinc oxide sunscreens are great, and while they offer a safer alternative to chemical sunscreens, there are still some things to take into consideration. Zinc oxide side effects are typically minimal.

The most common side effect of using any zinc oxide sunscreen is some mild skin irritation. Sometimes a very rare reaction can occur from zinc oxide. A rare reaction tends to be serious in nature, where you could experience chest pain, dizziness, swelling, hives, and trouble breathing. These reactions are minimal in nature as zinc oxide sunscreens are generally safe.

Above All, Sunscreen is Important

We know that the sun has damaging rays that can hurt your skin. These rays can make you appear years older, can cause lesions like sunspots and dark marks on the face, and at the worse – deadly skin cancers. Since zinc oxide creates a barrier on your skin, rather than your skin absorbing chemicals, its safe for everyone, even if you have sensitive skin.

There are so many zinc oxide products out there to protect you from these deadly rays from the sun.

  • zinc oxide sunscreen spray
  • zinc oxide sun cream
  • zinc oxide face sunscreen
  • zinc oxide lip protection
  • zinc oxide powder sunscreen

With these products, you can have a safer and more awesome experience at the beach and poolside this summer. It’s important to remember that zinc oxide sunscreens go on a little thicker than the traditional chemical-based sunscreens. You have to rub these sunscreens in a little better to gain full coverage and prevent streaking.

Even though zinc oxide sunscreens are thicker, you can put your mind at ease knowing that zinc oxide sunscreens aren’t absorbed through the skin.

Zinc oxide sunscreens protect against both the sun’s burning rays. UVA rays penetrate deeply while UVB rays penetrate the top layer of your skin. As our ozone layer continues to deplete, protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays is now more important than ever.

44 thoughts on “What is Zinc Oxide in Sunscreen

  1. Michel

    It is actually scary just how many people do die of skin cancer, as it is not always easy to detect early. But in any case we should all be looking after our skins when we are exposed to the sun.

    I never realized before that zinc oxide was mineral-based. I always thought it was just another chemical that wasn’t too good for our bodies in the long run. Interesting that it causes the rays of the sun to simply bounce off your skin and it doesn’t go into your skin.

    Thanks for your list of recommended products. I am definitely going to make sure my next sunscreen purchase has zink oxide in it.

  2. Harry

    I live in Greece where I am sure you’ve heard that most of our days are extremely sunny. So, I am using a lot of sunscreen because my skin is very light and I tend to get burned very easily…

    I have never tried a zinc oxide sunscreen but I like the idea of using no more chemicals on my body… I’ll definitely give that a try!

    Thanks a lot!

  3. Aabidah Ahmed

    This is a must-read topic. We all get exposed to the sun once we go out to the beach or for a walk in the sun. Our skin needs protection.

    I see that Zinc Oxid sunscreens are considered safe since it does not penetrate the skin and offers broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. There are no side effects and does not cause any harm. 

    I like the Face sunscreen listed above because I am light-skinned and always need protection in my face from the sun, or else my face will turn red.

    Thank you for sharing this list and all the best to you.

  4. Jordan Smith

    Excellent pieces. The honesty of your post shines through. I’m really impressed by it.
    Cancer is a very serious thing nowadays and products like this are very much needed around. You’ve done a great job. I’ll definitely get it since i will be moving to Malta very soon, and i will also recommend to my friends.


  5. Carol5162

    It is no doubt that the sun of this days is more than scorching. I understand this is attributed to depletion of the ozone layer. I think skin cancer is more scarier that any other thing that may disturb the skin. I am often worried of how damaged the skin will be, with the fact that it is unusually hot during the day when you need to run several errands!

    I admit I haven’t really read the fine prints on the sunscreen, maybe that is the reason my skin still suffers the effects of the sun even after applying sunscreen. I have sure learnt a lot about the Zinc Oxide and will give it a try. I love that is it made of mineral other that chemical.

    Thank you so much for explaining this.

  6. Dave Sweney

    When I look at all the many ingredients to include zinc oxide that is found in many of the off-the-shelf sunscreens that are available it baffles me if what they are adding is needed and healthy for our skin or not. Also, the claimed effectiveness is not always accurate and the whole product line comes into question for me. Is there a brand that works that will not harm you?

    Your simple yet thorough explanation of how the zinc oxide works and why it is perhaps one of the best ingredients to have in your sunscreen makes so much sense. Having a barrier that will not seep into your skin is just what I am looking for in a sunscreen.

    The spay sunscreens are some of my favorites too as they cover your skin areas more thoroughly and easily than lotions do (you can miss spots with the lotion and do not find out until you already have a sunburn). Your suggestions for the other related products are helpful as well. Lip balm and an extra balm for the face makes sense, as these are areas that many people forget about.

    Thanks for the drill down on sunscreens and zinc oxide. Now I understand why it is used and also why it is effective. My next bottle of sunscreen spray will have to have zinc oxide as an ingredient for sure. I will also look at the lip and face balm option.

  7. shirian

    Hi. This is really helpful post. In this hot sunny season we are heading over to beach trip soon. I was brows around to see some quality sunscreen to buy. These all products look good. I first thought Zinc Oxide Spray would be a good choice, but a bit doubt about it and would like to ask: wouldn’t this spray makes any damage on our eyes while applying on the face?Thanks in advance for respond .Anyhow, As You gave a shot about Neutrogena’s Sheer Zinc Sunscreen lotion, without a doubt it,I’d rather go for it.

    Thank You-Best Wishes

    • Arta

      Hey there

      We have just discussed the question sunscreen lotion vs spray and our conclusions can be found here. We have described the benefits and flaws of both – please have a look and let me know if further doubts.

      Hope this helps, Arta

  8. Rina

    Sunscreen is something we can’t do without where I come from. Our temperatures can reach 38 degrees celcius so it gets extremely hot over our summers. The trouble is that there are so many sunscreens on the market that it can be hard keeping up with them. However, what I have learnt from your post is the difference from mineral based with chemical based. It makes all the difference to me and how I will purchase sunscreen in the future. So, thanks so much for sharing, I much appreciate it.

  9. Deanna Martin

    Very informative article about sun protection. I never realized how many different types of sun protection there are. 

    Is it true that any sunscreen over 20 is no more effective than the one for 20? I heard that many years ago, so I was curious if you knew anything about that. All in all a very informative article about sunscreens and the different benefits, Thanks, Deanna

    • Arta

      Hey there

      Without doubt, we have to pay also for a brand name, it is true. But I personally prefer choosing branded products over the less branded ones due to product reputation and reliability. They are more interested in keeping their reputation and build trust so I tend to think their promises about the product are more reliable.

      Happy shopping, Arta

  10. Charles

    This is so cool because I have transitioned into using a more natural bug spray and it’s good to know that there is also a more natural sunscreen. Do you have any advice on natural bug spray on here? I use the Burt bees one.

    my dad really likes the movie Terminator 2 and he always makes a joke about someone saying a million SPF sunscreen. I don’t want to give away what happens in the movie but he always quotes that line from the movie LOL.

    Thanks so much great article and great website. I learned something new today and I’m going to save your page for when I need sunscreen.

    • Arta

      Hey Charles

      Unfortunately, no bug sprays here – just sunscreen sprays 🙂 

      Anyway, I am happy you have enjoyed reading my blog posts and that you find this information helpful.

      Cheers, Arta

  11. AnxietyPanda

    I’ve been using Zinc Oxide ointment regularly, especially on acne that may occur every now and then. Zinc Oxide lip balm is also a big winner in my books. 

    I’m so glad I came across your article as I didn’t know that it was available in sunscreen as well! I like Neutrogena, so will be sure to check their sunscreen out! Thanks!

  12. Daniel

    Wow, thank you so much for sharing that info about zinc oxide. I live in a country where the sun is very strong and I am cautious but my kids are exposed to the sun because they always play outdoors. I heard there are folks who died because they were too much exposed to the sun, I will definitely get the protection as soon as possible.

  13. RoDarrick

    Hello, I read your post about zinc oxide in sunscreen and I got the message perfectly. Though I’m not too familiar with the term before reading this post, but I know how harmful sun rays can be on our skin. This actually seems like a cool alternative to some other materials meant to repel the effects of sun rays and burnt. Nice suggestions of products and I like the fact that they are out of your personal experiences with them. Thanks for this

  14. Henderson

    I guess we learn everyday then. It’s the first time learning of zinc oxide Sun screen. Ofcourse I know about sun screens and how they can protect one from the harsh sun. This type is an addition to what I know. I think it is awesome that the side effects are minimal. It’s summer and the sun can be really crazy right now. I’ll definitely get one of these, thanks for posting.

  15. Oana

    Hi, there.

    I don’t really use sunscreen as I am not easily burning. I could stay in the sun all day and nothing. However, I  know somebody who died because of skin cancer. He was 45 years old. I suppose it depended on the skin, not really know.  Your article does have some useful information which I may print out to have on hand. 

    Thank you for taking the time to write it and to let people know the danger of not using the proper solution.

    • Arta

      Hi Oana

      Thank you for your comment. I just wanted to emphasize that it is important to use the sunscreen even if you are not easily burning as sunscreen protects from the harmful impact of rays on the health.

      Cheers, Arta

  16. Dane

    So much importance I must confess. I’ve often seen zinc oxide as something often used in making sunscreen but I haven’t taken time to look for its importance. Reading this post has however increase my knowledge on zinc oxide, and the understanding of the traditional aspect and not chemicals in these sunscreen is amazes me so much. These products are too good I’d love to try it. Thanks for increasing my knowledge on this via this post. 

  17. Happier At Home

    This is an absolute must-read!  Thank you for sharing your research on zinc oxide!  In my own research, I’ve also learned how important zinc oxide truly is!  I’m quite lazy when it comes to applying sunscreen on a regular basis – but you’ve encouraged me to make it more of a priority!  

    I appreciate how you also offer products such as lip balm.  We usually don’t think about our lips, but they do burn easily also!  It’s important to protect all parts of us that can be touched by the sun.  

    Great article and a good read!  Thanks!

  18. Nicole Stiles

    I don’t know much about sunscreens so this was an eye-opener for me. I did recently learn that those who struggle with face acne can reduce it by applying sunscreen before they go out. It helps protect the face. It’s good to know that zinc oxide is what I should be looking for when buying sunscreen, especially for my one year old. 

  19. Chasnea

    This is excellent information on zinc oxide and honestly something I did not know about. I have heard a lot recently on how unsafe sunscreen is when it includes the chemicals and could actually increase your possibility of getting skin cancer so, of course, I have been hesitant to use it on myself and our kids.

    I love the face and lip protection product and will check the prices on them as well. My kids tend to get the most sun in those areas because we spend a lot of time outdoors hiking and playing so keeping those areas covered is pretty important for us. 

    Do you know much about the chemicals causing cancer, as I mentioned above? I just wondered how true it is. I did some research when I first heard about it and there wasn’t much in the way of conclusive evidence. This is great info and I will definitely use it for next summer!

    • Arta

      Hey Chasnea

      Thank you for your detailed comment. Chemicals used in production of not only sunscreen but also any other product applied on our skin can facilitate cancer – this is true. One of such chemicals is Aluminium that is widely used in different cosmetics so it is the chemical that should be avoided. Aluminium accumulates in the body and is not extracted out so with time it becomes carcinogen. 

      But this is actually a great topic to investigate so we will come back with our investigation results when done.

      Cheers, Arta

  20. walker2

    What a great article, thanks for sharing this valuable information. I learned a lot. I did not realize that zinc oxide sunscreen was the way to go and I’m definitely going to get some of these products. I love the idea of the spray sunscreen. I want to get this for my niece who is 9 years old and loves being outdoors. She doesn’t like to spend time applying sunscreen though and I’m sure she wouldn’t do a good job with the thicker sunscreen. For me, I definitely want to try the lip protection. I hate what the sun does to lips so this is a perfect solution! Can regular lipstick be applied over it? I hope everyone that goes outside uses sunscreen, it makes a huge difference. Again, thanks for the help! 

    • Arta

      Hey there

      Lip protection balm is definitely a great product proven to work for many of us. And you can easily put your regular lipstick over it if needed as the lip balm melts into your lips.

      Hope this helps, Arta

  21. AmDetermined

    Hi, your post on zinc oxide sun cream is very helpful because it discuss more about health issues and over the year I have grown I have never known that too much of sunlight can cause cancer to our skin, this makes this post educating.

    Yoir post is complete because it discuss also about the side effect, since your post have shown the solution to effect of sunlight on our skin many people including me is in need of it.

    i will be sharing your post in groups to help friends to learn from your post.

  22. Garrett

    This is really cool. I absolutely love being in the sun. I literally go to the beach, for a run, or go hiking any chance I get. But me and the sun have a love and hate relationship. While I love and enjoy the outdoors, the harmful sun rays can give me really bad sun burns. I tried wearing sunscreen but they don’t seem to be that effective for me as they only irritate my skin even worse. So I went online to see if i could find some better alternatives which is why I am so glad I came across your page. This is exactly what I was looking for and definitely going to check it out. Great article, very helpful and for sure going to share it on my Facebook.   

  23. Abayomi

    Excellent article,skin cancer are deadly disease and the earlier it been discover the better,to me the prevention is better than the cure,that is why I appreciate this post,helping numerous people to know, and have a sunscreen in order to prevent skin cancer,because the amount to cure is greater than the amount to prevent,wearing it will surely decrease the chances of developing skin cancer,your write-up helpful and amazing,thank you for sharing.

  24. MissusB

    Count me in as one of those people who are curious about sunscreen and sun block ingredients. While it’s necessary to look at the back label, we always wonder how it can really help the skin, whether it’s made of chemical or organic ingridients , and how long would it stay on the skin.

    This article helped me a lot in choosing the right product. Most buyers would look for the SPF and what we know about is that the higher the number, the better. Let me thank you for bringing up an article about zinc oxide and how it does it job in protecting the skin against the harmful sun. Next time,I’ll be looking for your recommended products. 

  25. Jones

    This Is a very sensitizing article, sunscreen is really important for the body, it protects the body from the hurts that can be caused by ray of the sun. My girlfriend trued a couple of product before but they weren’t effective, until she started using Neutrogena sunscreen lotion and its been great since then and I can see its also on your list which makes this a testimony,lol. Thank to sharing this informative article, its really useful and interesting. 

  26. Donny

    To me nothing sound better than having to take care of yourself and getting yourself look better using natural ingredients, i don’t like taking pills when I’m sick, let alone taking supplements. I like the zinc oxide sun screen because it is natural and hopefully I won’t have to worry about my skin getting irritated since it doesn’t sink into the skin. December is fast approaching and I intend to spend most of my time at the beach in Cape town, I’m sure I’ll find this sun screen to be of much use thanks a span.

  27. Bella

    It’s surprising how we user some time things on our body without knowing what it really contains. I got sunburned some times last year and since then have been very serious with using a sunscreen anytime I am out on the beach. I have no idea what the zinc oxide does in the sunscreen, but it makes so much sense it’s not by any means harmful to the skin and it can be that beneficial. Thanks for the information.

  28. Jessie

    Thank you for this awesome post!  You know, I never really thought about the chemicals in my sunscreen, and I have using it on my kids too!  I’m glad I came across this article because I don’t want my kids putting on something that can harm their body in some way.  Thank you for pointing this out!!

  29. fityourselfbarre

    Ohh, I didn’t know about zink Oxide! It is so important to protect our skin from deadly sun rays. More than ever!!  I love the fact that it doesn’t penetrate your skin and that it is mineral and not chemical made. We know now that chemicals in creams are harmful for our delicate skin. What a great find! I would defenitely go for the ” Babo botanical sheer zinc continuous spray sunscreen”. I like the idea that it sprays easily and evenly. Moreover, I’d rather buy a good healthy product even if it’s harder to spread than the opposite. All of these quality products are very interesting and worth their price. Choosing quality is an investment for my future health. Thank you for this very informative and helpful review!

  30. Sarah

    You’ve given a very in depth description of zinc oxide sunscreen as well as other specific products that contain it. I just want to caution that zinc oxide sunscreen does actually break down into hydrogen peroxide in salt water which contributes to the death of the coral reef. (It’s a big issue especially out here on Maui, so we always advise people who come here to not use zinc oxide sunscreen before getting in the water). Luckily, there are coral-reef friendly options out there too, as we know sunscreen is really important in protecting our skin health!

  31. Gaurav Gaur

    Hi, There.
    Thanks for sharing the information on Zinc Oxide in Sunscreen lotions. It was a pleasant surprise to know that Zinc Oxide sunscreen formula is mineral and not the chemical as we thought of. Thanks for the detailed review of various sprays, lotions, creams, and powder. We shall be following your timely suggestions for our upcoming holidays.
    Warm Regards,
    Gaurav Gaur

  32. lemon lin

    i am a sensitive skin as well, i tried different sunscreens but I don’t know how they work, by reading your post I know what should I choose, physical suncreen is best for my skin,and chemical sunscreen really hurts if I keep using them, you literally save my face haha, I will try these sunscreen later!good post!

  33. Feji ben

    Hello there thanks for this awesome article it would be of great help to the public as it has been of help to me.i must say that you have done a very nice job article a you have explained the most important function of zinc oxide in sunscreen.i betbi learnt alot.

  34. Cathy

    I suspect I could be allergic to some ingredients inside a sunscreen product, although I couldn’t pinpoint zinc oxide specifically. Every time I rub the cream on my arms, some kind of papules and mild itchiness will start to form within hours. It gets worse if I sweat. As such, I don’t actually apply sunscreen very often. Now that spray version – I’ve never heard of. Maybe I should try that as it says hypoallergenic on the product label. Thanks for the recommendation.

  35. Steve

    When I was younger and even into my early marriage, we only used the types of sunscreens made with chemicals because that is all we knew. However, after my wife and I started having kids, we also began looking to move away from chemicals to more natural options. That’s when we started to learn more about zinc oxide based sunscreens. I especially like the version that you can spray on. I’m not a big fan of creams, so the fact that Babo Botanicals seems to work well is really encouraging! Thanks for the post!

  36. Alejandra

    Thanks so much for sharing a good article to know more about zinc oxide sunscreen, Summer will be here soon and it’s time to get everything I need to enjoy the good weather without the worry about not to go outdoors all the time.

    As I was talking with one of my son, he told me about the need to use a sunscreen always, after testing a few of them and don’t feeling great about them, I was looking for information to find a sunscreen that is safe to use when the weather turns hot and sunny.

    I bookmarked your article as I will try the sunscreen you share on it.

  37. Jordan

    Your article about “What is Zinc Oxide in Sunscreen” came spot on. My wife always neglects the use of sunscreen when going to the beach, it is fascinating that Zinc Oxide in sunscreens helps prevent skin cancer and aging of the skin.

    The fact that it is mineral-based, not chemical-based will help me convince my wife to use it as she always rejects using chemicals on her skin!

    I will share your page to her with your great recommendation of Babo Botanicals Sheer Zinc Continuous Spray Sunscreen.


  38. Rhain

    Hey, i think it’s better to avoid skin cancer altogether whether it is curable or not. That is not something I’m willing to put myself through, not even in the slightest. So as you mentioned, sunscreens are perfect for preventative measures. Now, I must admit. I had no idea zinc oxide sunscreen was this protective. Imagine a protective sunscreen capable of deflecting the unscrupulous rays of the sun. That’s just amazing.

    I find the neutropenia a very ideal fit for my specific needs because like you, I have a sensitive skin. I might consider incorporating the zinc oxide powder as well.

    Thanks for sharing 

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