Choosing Between Chemical and Physical Sunscreens 

Choosing Between Chemical and Physical Sunscreens: Which is best for your skin?

Summer is fast approaching and very soon, everyone will be looking forward to going out and enjoying the warm summer sun. You finally get to show off your new G. Sonsie swimsuit that you’ve had stashed away in your closet. You’ll get some much-needed vitamin D! 

Hold that thought.  

With benefits of spending time in the sun—vitamin D, warmth, a tan—also come certain dangers, namely sunburn, wrinkles, age spots, and heaven forbid, melanoma. If you directly expose your skin to the sun without putting on any kind of sun protection, you put your skin directly at risk. It is, therefore, extremely crucial to put on some SPF before you head out. 

Sunscreen: Chemical or Physical? 

There are numerous kinds of sunscreens available at your local drugstore. They’re categorized by brand, so it’s up to you to judge the quality of the ingredients, SPF, and overall quality.  

physical sunscreen

The effects of physical sunscreen vs. chemical sunscreen.

With all the hard stuff left up to you, choosing the right sunscreen can turn out to be a lot more challenging than you anticipate. But with the right information, this need not be the case! 

What many people do not realize is that all sunscreens generally fall into two main categories: physical and chemical sunscreens. Simply choosing the correct product out of these two types, is all you need to do to find the right fit. The best part? There’s no wrong answer. 

This article will give you a deeper understanding of the two kinds of SPF and help you decide which one is most suitable for your skin.

What is Chemical-Based Sunscreen?

Sunscreen that utilizes chemicals to protect skin from the sun contain avobenzone, oxybenzone, octinoxate, and similar active ingredients. These products come in lotions, creams, sprays, and mousse.  

Such sunscreens protect the skin through a chemical reaction that takes place in the deeper layers of skin, called the dermis.. The ingredients in the formulation absorb the damaging UV rays and convert them into heat which is then lost from the surface of the skin.  

There is some debate about the safety of chemical sunscreens, because some people have negative reactions, like rashes and itching. So, before choosing a chemical sunscreen and wearing it all day in the sun, wearing some for a few hours around your house first, to see how your skin reacts. 

Applying Chemical-Based Sunscreen

The main advantage of using a chemical sunscreen is the ease of application. They tend to be incredibly lightweight and easy to blend. With this type of sunscreen, putting on your makeup is quite seamless. The downside is that for this sunscreen to work, a significant amount of UV radiation has to penetrate the top layers of your skin first… Yikes. In addition, some people may experience skin irritation if they happen to be sensitive to the chemical ingredients.  

Chemical sunscreens need to be applied at least 30 minutes before you go out into the sun. Otherwise, they don’t have time to absorb into the skin and don’t protect as well as they would when applied properly. Don’t forget to re-apply as often as the directions recommend!

What is a Physical Sunscreen?

physical sunscreen

The most common active ingredients in physical sunscreens are zinc oxide and titanium oxide. These minerals guard against harmful solar radiation by forming a protective barrier on the surface of the skin, which blocks any UV radiation that falls on the skin and then reflects it away from the skin. This method of blocking the sun prevents the underlying skin cells from sustaining any sun damage that could otherwise affect the health of your skin.  

The main advantage of a physical sunscreen is its broad-spectrum UV coverage, meaning that it protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Physical sunscreen is the right choice for anyone who is already dealing with sun-damaged skin. 

On the flip side, physical sunscreens are characteristically white and tend to be thick and difficult to blend into the skin, leaving a whitish film or appearance on skin. Despite all its positive qualities, many people find this one too unpleasant to deal with.

Which Sunscreen Should You Choose?

Choosing between chemical and physical sunscreen depends largely on what your plans are for the day. Chemical sunscreen is a good choice if you plan to spend just a few minutes in the sun or intend to wear makeup. Physical sunscreen is best if you’re planning a full day at the beach, or if your skin is already sunburned or suffering from other kinds of sun-damage. 

For those who are still unsure, there are a few formulations available in the market that are a mixture of both kinds and can offer you the best of both worlds. Whatever kind of sunscreen you eventually settle on, ensure that you always put on some form of sun protection before you leave your house.