There are two major types of sunscreens, chemical and physical. Both protect skin against harmful UV rays but feature different benefits and properties.
Unfortunately, most people do not know the differences between chemical and physical sunscreens. Choosing the wrong sunscreen can lead to problematic build-up that causes acne and other skin conditions. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of chemical and physical sunscreens so you can decide what product type is best for you.
Physical sunscreens are made using active mineral ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These minerals settle on your skin to deflect the UV rays. As a result, physical sunscreens offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Besides, they work as soon as you apply them to the skin. Sometimes, physical sunscreens are referred to as natural or mineral sunscreens.
The main benefit of using this type of sunscreen is that it does not clog pores. However, it can rub off easily, feels heavy, and can leave a film on the skin. Also, you need to apply it more often than chemical sunscreen.
Physical sunscreen does not degrade when the sun shines on it because the ingredients used are photostable. Additionally, you can use it to shield your skin against a wide range of UV wavelengths compared to a chemical sunscreen.
If you plan to use a physical sunscreen, pick one formulated with zinc rather than titanium dioxide. Zinc has anti-irritant properties which makes it suitable even for sensitive skin.
- Zinc Oxide Mineral
- Titanium Dioxide Mineral
- Safe to use because the ingredients do not get absorbed into the skin
- Protects the skin against both UVA and UVB rays
- Physical sunscreen is gentler on the skin because it has minimal chances of causing sensitivity or irritation
- Works immediately after application
- Longer shelf life
- Safe to use during pregnancy
- Safe to use on babies
- Tends to leave a white ashy appearance, especially on darker skin types
- Feels heavy
- You need to re-apply frequently since it rubs off easily
- You need to apply a generous amount for more efficiency
Chemical sunscreens are made using carbon-based organic compounds that react by changing the UV rays into heat and then releasing it from the skin. They tend to be thin and spread easily on the skin. This property makes chemical sunscreens perfect for daily use.
You only need a small amount of chemical sunscreen to protect your skin because you do not have to worry about filling spaces like physical sunscreens. Besides, it’s easy to add skin-nourishing ingredients to chemical sunscreen. It is highly recommended to study the ingredients and chemicals used to avoid damaging the skin, however.
Chemical sunscreens protect the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. They are ideal for offering protection all day. You can also layer them with makeup because they are light.
- Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane – Absorbs UVA rays
- Octocrylene – Absorbs UVB rays
- Easy to apply because it has a thin texture
- Does not leave a white film on your skin
- Chemical sunscreens offer a broad spectrum of protection to the skin by shielding it against both UVA and UVB rays.
- Easier to use alongside other skin products that nourish your skin
- You only need a small amount to protect the skin
- The ingredients start to degrade when exposed to UV rays
- It takes at least 20 minutes for chemical sunscreen to work after application
- It might contain potentially harmful chemical ingredients, which increases the risk of free radical damage
- High chances of irritation
Physical Sunscreen Vs. Chemical sunscreens: When to use them
Physical sunscreen ingredients settle on top of your skin and block rays from the surface, whereas chemical sunscreens are absorbed to protect your skin from the inside. You can use both of them at once if you do not have sensitive skin but never mix two different chemical sunscreens. Here are some use cases for both products.
When to use physical sunscreens:
- If you have a sensitive skin
- If you do not sweat during the day
- If you want immediate skin protection
- If you are pregnant
- For babies
When to use chemical sunscreen:
- When swimming – Chemical sunscreens are water-resistant
- If you want a sunscreen that absorbs easily
- If you have a dark complexion
- When playing sports
- If you sweat during the day
- If you want to apply to makeup
What to look for when choosing a sunscreen:
- Broad Spectrum (protects against both UVA and UVB rays)
- Non-comedogenic (does not clog pores)
- Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or above
Frequently Asked Questions about Sunscreen
You can tell if your sunscreen is chemical or physical by reading the ingredients. If you see minerals such as titanium oxide or zinc oxide, then that is a physical sunscreen. Another way is by looking at the consistency of the formula. Chemical sunscreens tend to be more transparent and less thick.
You can mix physical and chemical sunscreen to protect the sun both at the surface and below. These two product types have unique ways of protecting the skin against UV light without tampering with each other. However, it is not recommended to mix two types of chemical sunscreens as they may interact in a way that is harmful to your skin.
Unlike chemical sunscreens that require a few minutes to get absorbed into the skin, physical sunscreens work immediately because they sit on top of your skin to reflect away the UV light.
Both types of sunscreen are designed to work differently, so it depends on various factors. For example, if you have acne-prone or oily skin, then chemical sunscreen will likely suit you better. On the other hand, physical sunscreens offer more protection from UV light.
Chemical sunscreens are the best for oily and acne-prone skins. But if it contains a toxic ingredient that can potentially harm your skin, you should avoid it.
Take Care of Your Skin
Both physical and chemical sunscreen protect your skin against damaging UV rays in unique ways, reducing your risk of skin cancer and premature aging. You need to look for products that do not contain potentially harmful ingredients. If you are not sure which product is best for you, consult a doctor.
Mirror Mirror Beauty Boutique offers beauty and skincare products and services that can help you keep your skin healthy and beautiful. Contact us using this form if you are looking for approved chemical and physical sunscreens around Houston, Texas. Alternatively, you can talk to our staff directly by calling (281) 810-9083.