Chemical vs Physical Sunscreens

Chemical vs Physical Sunscreens

Published by Ariana A on Jul 3rd 2021

Finally! Summer is here! And this means it is time we take additional measures to protect our skin like adding sunscreen to our routine. But sometimes it seems like there is so much to learn about sunscreens that it can be difficult to choose one. In this article we’ll be focusing solely on what are chemical and physical/mineral sunscreens and the differences between them so that you can choose the best one for your skin type!

Mineral sunscreens, also known as physical sunscreens, are sunscreens that use ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These active ingredients are small particles that sit on the skin’s surface and physically prevent UV rays from penetrating the skin by deflecting and scattering UV rays. 

Mineral sunscreens offer immediate protection, so no waiting is necessary when applying them on. They are capable of blocking a variety of UV wavelengths and are photo stable, meaning they won’t degrade under the sun. They are a fantastic option for those who are acne-prone, suffer from rosacea or melasma, or have generally sensitive skin. This is because sunscreens that employ these active ingredients keep your skin cool and allow it to breathe. Because physical sunscreens deflect UV rays instead of absorbing them like chemical sunscreens do, they maintain the temperature of your skin, thus do not contribute to an inflammatory response that typically aggravates acne or rosacea prone skin when skin temperature rises. This makes them an ideal and gentle choice for sensitive skin types and pregnant women.

Because these active ingredients sit on the skin, it is no surprise that consumers fear them because of their historically heavy feel, the white cast that is left behind, and understandable fears of them clogging pores. However, mineral sunscreens have come a long way since, especially Korean ones! Korean mineral sunscreens are a popular choice because renowned technology has allowed companies to break down zinc oxide and titanium dioxide into much smaller particles to give a more invisible and lightweight feel for a more breathable application. In addition, picking a sunscreen with zinc oxide can also help with treating acne. Studies demonstrate that zinc can reduce skin inflammation and reduce acne causing bacteria while also regulating oil glands!

However, there are some cons to this method of application. Mineral sunscreens can be more difficult to apply and spread. They are also easily sweated off, washed off, and rubbed off. This means more application is needed as compared to their chemical counterparts.

Ideal for: Acne-prone skin, sensitive skin, melasma skin, babies, pregnant women

Chemical sunscreens work differently. Their active ingredients include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate. Unlike mineral sunscreens, they allow UV rays to be absorbed into the skin as opposed to sitting on the skin. Once they do, the active ingredients interact with UV rays to form a chemical reaction. UV rays are then converted to heat that then dissipates from the skin 

Chemical sunscreens are a popular choice because they are very light weight, easy and quick to apply. Generally, less product is needed for protection and no white film is left on the skin. They also last longer in terms of protection because it does not rub off or sweat off as easily as mineral sunscreens do. Additionally, the nature of these ingredients allow for the formulas to add other skin benefitting ingredients such as peptides or enzymes. This is a great option for oily skin types and people of color who still experience a mild white cast residue from mineral sunscreens. 

Of course, nothing goes without its downfalls. Chemical sunscreens take much longer to absorb into the skin to offer protection. Consumers need to wait about 20-30 minutes before chemical sunscreens can deliver their potential. They can also cause skin reactions to people with sensitive skin and can worsen melasma and rosacea because of the nature of their chemical process as explained earlier.

Ideal for: Normal skin, oily skin, darker skin types

I understand it can be difficult to shop for sunscreen with so many options available! That is why we highly encourage you to stop by at either one of our store locations. 

Any of our associates, including myself, will be more than happy to guide you through picking the right one for you, and encourage you to try our different testers so you can test out their consistencies so you can find one that you love. 

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