Which is Better for Your Skin – Chemical vs Physical Sunscreens?

Which is Better for Your Skin – Chemical vs Physical Sunscreens?

Whether you are an avid skincare content reader or a concerned individual who is looking for the best skincare tips and expert advice you must already know. 

Applying SPF every day for the protection and prevention of skin issues is necessary. And if you live in a city where temperatures in the summer increase to 40 to 50 degrees centigrade, keeping yourself protected from sunburn and skin issues gets even more important. But what is a physical sunscreen and why is applying a sunscreen so important? and what is the best type of sunscreen for daily use? Let's evaluate the pros and cons of using chemical vs physical sunscreen.

Physical vs Chemical Sunscreen: Let's find the difference between Physical and Chemical Sunscreen:

Physical (commonly referred to as mineral) and chemical sunscreens are the two principal categories that exist on the market, Let's investigate the difference between physical and chemical sunscreen:

Mineral (also known as sunblock) and chemical sunscreens are both highly efficient in safeguarding your skin from the harmful effects of sunlight. However, individuals with sensitive skin may find mineral sunscreen to be a better choice. Regardless, it is important to remember to wear SPF 30 or SPF 50 and higher every day and frequently reapply sunscreen for maximum protection.

What is Physical Sunscreen?

Physical sunscreens are also called mineral sunscreens. They function by forming a protective shield on your skin's surface that deflects UV radiation, by creating a barrier. In the majority of physical sunscreens zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are included these safe and efficient components are acknowledged and approved by the FDA.

Advantages of Physical vs Chemical Sunscreen:

The following are the advantages of using physical sunscreens or sunblocks:

  • Physical sunscreen provides comprehensive defense against both UVA and UVB radiation. 
  • Physical sunscreens are appropriate for individuals with skin sensitivities, such as those with acne-prone skin and dry skin can use these sunscreens.
  • Physical sunscreens are also suitable for application on kids as they don’t have harmful chemicals in their formulations and are great for your little ones.
  • These sunscreens also help prevent year-round UVA damage and signs of premature aging, like wrinkles and brown spots, effectively.

Disadvantages of Using a Physical vs Chemical Sunscreen:

The main issues that people face with physical sunscreens are:

  • After the application of physical/ mineral sunscreens, the skin may display a visible white cast and residue which most people don’t prefer as it alters the appearance in a not-so-pleasing way.
  • Additionally, Physical or mineral sunscreens although free from chemicals, and good for sun protection can have a chalky consistency and can be challenging to spread on the skin.

What is a Chemical Sunscreen? 

Chemical sunscreens operate in a manner akin to a sponge. They function by being absorbed into the skin, where they transform UV rays into heat that is subsequently discharged from the body.

Compounds like Avobenzone, octinoxate, and oxybenzone are among the most commonly found active ingredients in chemical sunscreens.

Read More: Can Sunscreen Cause Acne? Unraveling Skincare Myths & Facts

Advantages of using Chemical vs Physical Sunscreen:

Following are the advantages of using chemical vs physical sunscreen:

  • Chemical Sunscreens are typically lighter in weight and more convenient to use.
  • These sunscreens leave no visible white cast or residue after application.
  • Certain formulations in chemical sunscreen exhibit water-resistant properties which makes them last longer on the skin. 
  • Additionally, chemical sunscreens can also be used as a foundation and base for your makeup.

Disadvantages of Using a Chemical vs Physical Sunscreen:

Following are some cons and things to think about before using a chemical sunscreen:

  • The Chemical ingredients present in chemical sunscreens may cause skin irritation in certain individuals.
  • Moreover, the infiltration and absorption of chemical sunscreens into the skin is causing apprehension in people. Research carried out by the FDA has confirmed that six active ingredients present in sunscreens, namely avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, and oxybenzone do penetrate the skin and get absorbed into the blood plasma which can be concerning for your health.

Is Applying Physical vs Chemical Sunscreen every day as a part of your Skincare routine Essential or Excessive?

Regular application of sunscreen to areas exposed to the sun on a daily basis is crucial and not at all excessive. According to experts and certified dermatologists, the sun's UV rays possess significant potency. Mere 15 minutes of being outdoors is adequate exposure that can cause damage leading to skin cancer over time.

And It's not just a matter of being outside in the sun. According to an older 2010 study, skin cancers were found more frequently on men's left side due to sun exposure while driving. 

According to a study conducted in 2016, windshields can obstruct up to 96 percent of UVA rays. Nonetheless, certain side windows may only offer a blockade of approximately 44 percent.

According to dermatologists, if left untreated, cancers that are triggered by exposure to the sun can be aggressive and deadly. However, taking preventative measures is the optimal solution.

Skincare Specialists recommend applying sunscreen daily to your face, neck, chest, ears, hands, and arms as a precautionary measure against sun damage in the long run. Additionally, incorporating the use of SPF 30 or SPF 50 into your daily skincare regimen every day is a must and you shouldn't skip it.

Source: Sunscreen Everyday: Skincare experts on benefits and types (healthline.com)


To sum up, I hope you know the difference between physical and chemical sunscreen quite clearly now. Each type of sunscreen chemical vs physical has its advantages and disadvantages. If you have sensitive and acne-prone skin you should opt for physical sunscreens as they are non-comedogenic and are great for oily skin. However, if you have normal skin chemical sunscreens are also fine to use for broad-spectrum sun protection. 

Those who favor physical sunscreens should consider selecting sunscreen with micronized zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Moreover, when selecting a chemical sunscreen it is preferably recommended to choose one that matches your skin type and sensitivity. Finally, consistently applying sunscreen is critical in guarding against sun damage and lowering the chances of developing skin cancer. 

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