Physical Sunscreen vs Chemical Sunscreen

Physical Sunscreen vs Chemical Sunscreen

Physical sunscreen

Physical sunscreens, as known as mineral sunscreens, perform by creating a shield to deflect UV rays, blue lights and fine dust which can cause a range of concerns like pigmentation, skin discoloration, inflammation and a weakened skin surface.

While commonly known for their thick consistency and the white cast they leave behind, mineral sunscreens have evolved into formulations that work for all skin tones,

Typically, physical sunscreens can be found with zinc oxide and titanium oxide ingredients. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still running tests on zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, but currently, they are under a GRASE status (deemed safe and effective). 

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Chemical sunscreen

Different from physical sunscreens which sit atop the skin, chemical sunscreens contain active ingredients which chemically absorb UV rays from your skin and exert them from your body as heat.

A few ingredients usually found in chemical sunscreens are avobenzone, oxybenzone, octisalate, octinoxate, octocrylene and homosalate.

While chemical sunscreens seem like the more convenient choice, smoothly absorbing into the skin and leaving no white cast or residue after application, chemical sunscreens have numerous other side effects.

FDA has proposed the recent regulations on current sunscreen. This includes a maximum SPF label of 60+ and a requirement of sunscreens to fulfill the broad spectrum requirements. They also have banned ingredients of aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and trolamine salicylate, as well as a collection of other ingredients (cinoxate, dioxybenzone, ensulizole, homosalate, meradimate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, oxybenzone, avobenzone, sulisobenzone and padimate O) which show inadequate results in testing.

A study done by the FDA also found that the ingredients in chemical sunscreens enter the bloodstream only after one application and can accumulate to unhealthy levels over time. These ingredients have shown to be still present up to or exceeding 3 weeks.


Physical Sunscreen

Chemical Sunscreen

  • Topical shield for your skin against UV rays
  • Leaves a chalky white cast which is especially noticeable in darker skin tones
  • Better for sensitive skin and provides broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays.
  • Chemical alteration of your skin against UV rays
  • No white cast, no residue. Easy to apply and better for all skin tones
  • Unsuitable for sensitive skin. 
  • Can cause other side effects, including redness, swelling, rashes, itching, melasma, irritation and skin sensitivity. 
  • Can be dangerous for people who are pregnant and/or have underlying health or skin conditions.

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