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The Difference Between Chemical and Mineral Sunscreens
Life and Style Daily
September 26, 2022
2 min

Dermatologists strongly advise you to always wear protection outside, and wearing sunscreen daily is the most essential (and non-negotiable).

When you’re about to buy sunscreen, you come across different types of sunscreens — mineral sunscreens and chemical sunscreens. What do they mean? Which is the best sunscreen to incorporate into your skincare routine?

In this article, we’ll discuss the difference between chemical and mineral sunscreens to help you choose which is best for you.

What is a Mineral Sunscreen?

Sunscreen and sun protection go hand in hand when combating skin problems. Let’s begin with mineral sunscreens.

Mineral sunscreens or physical sunscreens contain ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium oxide. These ingredients block UV radiation as they form a physical barrier that reflects the UV rays away from the skin. Sunblock is also another term for mineral sunscreens.

Mineral sunscreens sit on top of the skin and work immediately when applied. The downside of this type of sunscreen is that they are prone to wearing off easily, and mineral SPFs only account for 3.4% of sunscreens in the US markets.

Mineral Sunscreen Pros and Cons

Those with sensitive skin or skin problems should wear mineral sunscreen as it is gentle on the skin.

The active ingredients of mineral sunscreens are also environmentally friendly compared to chemical sunscreens. This type of sunscreen is recommended to be used on babies.

The first con of mineral sunscreen is that it may cause breakouts or trigger acne for acne-prone skin. The other downside of mineral sunscreen is that it is harder to apply, leaves a white cast, and needs to be reapplied every few hours.

What is Chemical Sunscreen?

Chemical sunscreen uses active ingredients or chemical filters to protect our skin from damaging sun rays. Chemical sunscreens include active non-natural, and commonly-used ingredients, such as Avobenzone, Octinoxate, Homosalate, Oxybenzone, etc.

When chemical sunscreen is applied, it is absorbed into the skin, and the active ingredients work once the UV rays enter the skin. These active ingredients absorb the rays and convert them into heat, which is released through the skin.

Chemical sunscreens are ideal for everyday use because they are lighter, sheerer, and preferred by most consumers in their skincare kits. Additionally, this is what people commonly refer to as “sunscreen.” A study also shows that around 96% of sunscreens available in the market are chemical sunscreens.

Chemical Sunscreen Pros and Cons

As mentioned earlier, chemical sunscreens are loved by most because they don’t feel heavy on the skin. In addition, they absorb quickly into the skin and don’t leave a white cast.

However, be wary of wearing this, especially for those who have sensitive skin. Dermatologists explain that this sunscreen may cause allergic reactions and worsen melasma and rosacea. In this case, it is ideal to have other sun protection like wearing summer hats, sunglasses, or an umbrella.

Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreens: Which is Better?

There is no clear-cut answer as to which of the two sunscreens is better. So instead of digging deep into the pros and cons, look for broad-spectrum SPF sunscreens (ideally SPF 30 or higher) that work well with your skin while protecting it from the sun’s harmful rays.


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