• Deborah Verga

Chemical Sunscreens vs Mineral Sunscreens - What You Need to Know!

Chemical sunscreens and mineral sunscreens protect your skin from the damaging UV rays of the sun, but in different ways.

We'll get into that in a minute. But first...

With sunscreens, like everything else, there are a ton of options to choose from that have nothing to do with whether or not a sunscreen is a chemical sunscreen or a mineral sunscreen.

Everything from the SPF to what it's best used for.

There are sunscreens specifically for babies and kids. Sunscreens for sports. Sunscreens that are water resistant and waterproof. There are sunscreens for your face or your body or both. There are sunscreens with a low SPF and sunscreens with an SPF of 80+.

And then there are two types of chemical sunscreens and mineral sunscreens (also known as physical sunscreens) for all of these options!

There are so many choices!

Before you choose, the first thing you need to decide is which type of sunscreen you want to use? A chemical sunscreen or a mineral sunscreen?

So what's the difference between chemical sunscreens vs. mineral sunscreens?

Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens are formulated with multiple ingredients that actually penetrate the top layers of your skin to absorb the UV rays as they enter your skin.

These chemical filters absorb the damaging UV rays before they can damage your skin.

The most common active ingredients used in chemical sunscreens are:

  • oxybenzone

  • avobenzone

  • octisalate

  • octocrylene

  • homosalate

  • octinoxate

Most chemical sunscreens will use a combination of these ingredients.

I like to think of chemical sunscreens like a sponge.

The sponge absorbs the water as a chemical sunscreen absorbs the damaging UV rays from your skin.

Mineral Sunscreens

Mineral sunscreens, on the other hand, are formulated using far less ingredients.

The two active ingredients used in mineral sunscreens are:

  • zinc oxide

  • titanium dioxide

While chemical sunscreens absorb the damaging UV rays as they penetrate your skin, mineral sunscreens form a barrier on the surface of your skin that then reflects the UV rays away from your skin.

Conversely, I think of mineral sunscreens like a shield.

A mineral sunscreen deflects the damaging UV rays away from your skin as Wonder Woman would with her nifty bracelets when she's under attack.

Crazy analogies, I know. But, I think it helps to better understand the differences between a chemical sunscreen vs mineral sunscreen.

Pros of Chemical Sunscreens

  • Thin consistency.

  • Goes on smoothly.

  • You use less product because it applies like a lotion.

  • You get better coverage with a fast application.

  • Fully absorbs into your skin with no cast left behind.

  • Easier to apply make up over it because it has a smooth consistency.

Cons of Chemical Sunscreens

  • Combines many active ingredients in order to get both UVA and UVB protection.

  • The combination of multiple chemicals can be problematic for sensitive skin.

  • Can cause stinging and burning, especially near the eyes.

  • The higher the SPF, the higher the risk of irritation for sensitive skin.

  • Once applied, you need to wait at least 20 minutes before it offers UV protection.

  • It changes UV rays into heat which can be problematic for people with rosacea.

  • It needs to be reapplied often because its protection weakens with direct UV exposure.

  • Can leave a greasy, shiny residue on the skin.

  • Not ideal for oily skin or acne prone skin as it can clog pores leading to more breakouts, or worsening acne.

My Favorite Chemical Sunscreens

My 2 favorite chemical sunscreens are the Banana Boat Ultra Sport Reef Friendly Sunscreen Lotion, Broad Spectrum SPF 50 and the Banana Boat Baby Sunscreen Tear-Free Sting-Free Broad Spectrum Sun Care Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50.

Pros of Mineral Sunscreens

  • Only uses one or two ingredients.

  • Offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays and is naturally broad spectrum.

  • No need to wait after application, as it instantly offers protection from the sun.

  • Holds up to direct UV exposure so it doesn't need to be reapplied as often.

  • Non-irritating for sensitive skin.

  • Can be applied all over your face including on your eye lids, without irritation.

  • Safer for people concerned about long-term exposure to chemical ingredients.

  • Better for those with rosacea since it deflects heat away from the skin.

  • Less likely to clog pores.

  • Has a longer shelf life.

  • If you choose a tinted mineral sunscreen there is no white cast.

Cons of Mineral Sunscreens

  • Thick consistency.

  • Harder to apply.

  • It needs to be applied generously to thoroughly cover exposed areas.

  • It can rub off if you don't work it into the skin.

  • It needs to be reapplied more frequently if you're sweating or in the water.

  • Can leave a white cast on your skin (if you don't use a tinted mineral sunscreen).

  • Harder to wear under make up because it's a thicker consistency.

My Favorite Mineral Sunscreens

My favorite 3 favorite mineral sunscreens are the EltaMD UV Physical Tinted Face Sunscreen, Chemical-Free Mineral Sunscreen for Sensitive and Post-Procedure Skin, Non-Greasy, Broad-Spectrum SPF 41, the CeraVe Tinted Sunscreen with SPF 30 | Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen With Zinc Oxide & Titanium Dioxide, and the Banana Boat Suncare Simply Protect Mineral-based Sunscreen Lotion for Baby SPF 50.

Parting throughts...

The absolute BEST thing you can do for your skin, and as part of your anti-aging skincare routine, is to wear sunscreen every. single. day!

Now that you know a little more about the differences between chemical sunscreens vs mineral sunscreens you can choose the best type for your needs!

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The opinions expressed here are always my own unless stated otherwise. Some of my links are affiliate links. If you click a link and buy something, I receive a commission for the sale. It doesn't cost you anything extra and you are free to use the link or not as you choose. If you do use my links, I appreciate your support!

© 2019 Deborah Verga