What is the Difference Between Physical and Chemical Sunscreen?

Difference Between Physical and Chemical Sunscreen

While you already understand the need of wearing sunscreen every day, are you aware of the proper sunscreen to use? Here are the distinctions between chemical and physical (mineral) sunscreens.

Sunscreens are well known to be an essential component of any skincare regimen. Put on some sunscreen whether you're sixteen or sixty to avoid the aging effects of sun damage. However, did you realize there are several kinds of sunscreens? We are not discussing the SPF, either. Generally, sunscreens are categorized as Physical and chemical sunscreens. Here is all the information you require about them.

What are Physical Sunscreens?

Physical sunscreens often rest on the skin and reflect the sun's rays, which is the most evident distinction between the two forms of sunscreen. The physical sunscreens are often creamy and frequently have a white hue because they include tiny particles of minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

Pros: Physical sunscreens' thick consistency makes it simple to detect their presence on the skin, ensuring that you apply them uniformly and promptly reapply them.

Cons: The similar texture may irritate certain people and may not be appropriate for oily or acne-prone skin. It is also thought to be less efficient than its chemical equivalents at blocking harmful UVA rays.

Who should use physical sunscreens:

  • Person with sensitive skin
  • Person who does not sweat during the day
  • If you are looking for immediate skin protection
  • Pregnant ladies
  • For babies or children

What are Chemical Sunscreens?

The majority of sunscreens seen on beauty aisles and suggested by physicians fall into this group. When they absorb UV rays, they transform them into heat, which is subsequently expelled from the body. Active chemicals including avobenzone, octinoxate, and oxybenzone are included in chemical sunscreens because of their gel-like nature.

Pros: Maximum effect with less product. Chemical sunscreen offers efficient protection without the need for heavy application. It works well in excess since it is lightweight and non-sticky. It's appropriate for any day and season because it's lightweight and non-stick. effective against UVA and UVB radiation, which bring in early aging.

Cons: Skin allergies and probable free radical damage might occasionally result from prolonged usage of chemical formulations and filters.

When to use chemical sunscreen:

  • During swimming Water-resistant chemical sunscreen
  • If you need a sunscreen that is simple to absorb
  • If your skin has a dark complexion
  • as it relates to sports
  • If you want to wear makeup
  • If you want to go out in the sun

The Difference Between Physical and Chemical Sunscreen

Which one should you choose from a physical or chemical sunscreen? We are going to discuss some key differences between both of them.

Physical Sunscreen

Chemical Sunscreen

The sun's rays are reflected by physical sunscreen, which rests on top of the skin. Physical blocks mostly consist of the minerals zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

Chemical sunblock penetrates the skin, absorbs UV photons, transforms them into heat, and expels the heat from the body. Avobenzone, octinoxate, and oxybenzone are among the chemical sunscreens' active components.

Best suited to delicate skin and less irritating.

For swimming outdoors, you need a water-resistant formulation.

The skin may feel thick from further hydration.

If you play sports or sweat a lot during the day, then this sunscreen is best for you.

A challenge to completely blend with the skin. The skin might seem smooth and even thanks to the matte and tinted varieties that are now available from more recent companies.

Chemical sunscreen is that which absorbs quickly into the skin.

Are Chemical Sunscreens Safe?

The components themselves are a major topic of discussion when it comes to chemical sunscreens. The same substances that absorb so effectively could be dangerous for your health.

The majority of sunscreen ingredients, according to research, can have negative side effects. The FDA has outlawed two chemicals in a sunscreen:

  • Acid Aminobenzoic (PABA)
  • Trolamine Salicylate

Chemical sunscreens have the disadvantage that those with sensitive skin may have unfavorable reactions, such as redness or irritation. Skin diseases like rosacea or melasma may get worse when certain substances are used.

What to look for When Choosing Sunscreen?

There are several things to look for if you are choosing an ideal physical or chemical sunscreen, some of them are mentioned below:

  • Broad spectrum (protects from both UVA and UVB rays)
  • Fragrance-free
  • Noncomedogenic (won't clog pores)
  • Oil-free
  • Paraben-free
  • SPF at least 30 or higher

So, which is better?

There is no obvious winner in the sunscreen battle between chemical and physical sunscreens.

"The sunscreen you choose to apply is the most effective." Although people have preferences for how sunscreen feels and smells, using it regularly is still crucial.

However, since physical sunscreen has a lesser chance of irritating your skin, those with sensitive skin will probably do better with it.


You have choices when it comes to sunscreen.

The best sunscreen may need some compromise because both chemical and physical sunscreens have advantages and disadvantages. Whatever option you choose, be sure to complete it. The greatest strategy to lessen your risk of skin damage from the sun is to wear sunscreen.

Frequently Asked Question - Physical and Chemical Sunscreen

How do I know if my sunscreen is chemical or physical?

By reviewing the ingredients, you can determine if your sunscreen is chemical or physical. Physical sunscreen is one that contains minerals like zinc oxide or titanium oxide. Another approach is to assess the formula's consistency. Chemical sunscreens often have a thinner, more translucent consistency.

Can you mix physical and chemical sunscreen?

To block the sun both above and below the surface, you can combine chemical and physical sunscreen. These two product categories offer different methods of shielding the skin from UV rays without interfering with one another. It is not advised to combine two different chemical sunscreen kinds since their interactions may be damaging to your skin.

Do physical sunscreens work immediately?

Physical sunscreens work immediately because they sit on top of your skin to reflect UV rays, unlike chemical sunscreens that take a few minutes to penetrate into the skin.

Is physical or chemical sunscreen better?

It relies on a variety of conditions because the two varieties of sunscreen are made to function differently. For instance, chemical sunscreen will probably work better for you if you have oily or acne-prone skin. Physical sunscreens, on the other hand, provide more UV light defense.

Should I avoid chemical sunscreen?

The best sunscreens for acne-prone skin are chemical ones. However, you have to stay away from it if it includes a harmful component that can hurt your skin.

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