Should You Wear Chemical Or Physical Sunscreen?

Should You Wear Chemical Or Physical Sunscreen?

Confused between chemical and physical sunscreen? Here’s how to figure out which of these works better for you.


Do you love spending your days in the sun? If yes, then a broad-spectrum sunscreen is the best thing you can add to your skincare routine. Long hours under the sun can wreak havoc on your skin.  The harmful UVA rays can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots. UVB rays can burn your skin. 


According to the American Cancer Society, most skin cancers are a result of exposure to UV rays in sunlight. To prevent the damage, you need to slather on sunscreen daily and make sure that you reapply it after every two hours.


You already know it is important to pick a broad-spectrum sunscreen for maximum sun protection. But not all sunscreens are created equal. Did you know there is another category you should be paying attention to? The two most common types of sunscreen are:

  • Chemical sunscreen
  • Physical sunscreen

While both chemical and physical sunscreens are effective in protecting your skin against sun damage, each of them has its pros and cons. You can choose the one that works best for you, based on your skin type and requirements.


What is a physical sunscreen?

What is a physical sunscreen

Physical sunscreen, also known as mineral sunscreen, contains active ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. The small particles of these ingredients sit on your skin’s surface and prevent the harmful UV rays from penetrating the skin. Physical sunscreen deflects and scatters damaging UV rays away from the skin.


What are the benefits of using a physical sunscreen?


  • A physical sunscreen offers overall sun protection and shields you from UVA and UVB rays.
  • Physical sunscreens are safe for use on babies and even during pregnancy.
  • If you opt for a physical sunscreen, you don’t have to wait after the application to head outdoors. Your skin is protected from the sun as soon as you apply the physical sunscreen.
  • Physical sunscreens are a great option for you if you have sensitive skin. They are less likely to irritate sensitive skin. They also work wonders for people prone to heat-activated skin conditions such as rosacea.
  • A physical sunscreen has a longer shelf life.


What are the cons of using a physical sunscreen?


  • Physical sunscreen is often heavier and thicker on the skin. This is why people with acne-prone skin should avoid it. 
  • Since the particles sit on the surface of your skin, physical sunscreens can rub off, sweat off, and rinse off easily. You need to reapply these more frequently. 
  • Due to its thick and heavy formula, physical sunscreen can appear white or chalky on the skin.
  • It can feel heavy under your makeup.
  • Physical sunscreens can increase perspiration.
  • You need to apply them generously for maximum sun protection.


What is a chemical sunscreen?

What is a chemical sunscreen

Unlike physical sunscreens, chemical sunscreens use active ingredients like oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, or octinoxate to absorb UV rays. Ingredients like oxybenzone work by absorbing UV radiation and transforming it into heat. This heat is then released through the skin. Since chemical sunscreens tend to be lighter and sheer, they are more popular than physical sunscreens.


What are the pros of using a chemical sunscreen?


  • With chemical sunscreens, you don’t need to slather a lot of product onto your skin for it to work.
  • Chemical sunscreen is thinner and easier to spread on your skin. Therefore, it is ideal for everyday use.
  • It doesn’t leave a white cast after application. 
  • Since a chemical sunscreen contains active ingredients like oxybenzone, homosalate, and octinoxate to absorb the radiation, it can be used to ensure the most effective broad-spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB rays


What are the cons of using a chemical sunscreen?


  • A chemical sunscreen takes time to absorb. After applying the sunscreen, you need to wait for 15 to 30 minutes before exposing your skin to sunlight.
  • Some active ingredients (oxybenzone) present in chemical sunscreens can irritate your skin and cause allergic reactions. 
  • Chemical sunscreens often contain oxybenzone, which can disrupt your hormones. Oxybenzone can interfere with your endocrine system, which regulates biological processes like metabolism, growth and development, reproduction, and thyroid function.
  • Chemical sunscreens are bad for the environment as they contain compounds like oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is known to threaten corals and other marine life.
  • Chemical sunscreens are associated with an increased chance of redness for rosacea-prone skin types because they change UV rays into heat which can exacerbate the issue.

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