Sun, Skin Science

Get to Know the Difference Between Mineral and Chemical Sunscreen

by Jana K. Hoffman
June 30, 2019

So, it’s Friday night. You’re at the store. And you’re standing in the sunscreen aisle staring at rows of sunscreen in various forms. Lotions. Sprays. Sticks. Mists. Foams. Chemical. Mineral. Physical. Oh my. Not only do you need to choose a brand (hi, hey, pick us!) but you also need to choose between what’s considered a “mineral” sunscreen and a “chemical” sunscreen. Each one has its benefits. And honestly, it really comes down to preference. Here are some quick tips to know the difference between mineral and chemical sunscreens.



Mineral/Physical Sunscreen

Zinc oxide and mineral sunscreen are one in the same. Physical sunscreen and mineral sunscreen are also one in the same. Confused? Don’t be. Basically, mineral sunscreen has multiple names and is made from ingredients like zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Hence the name mineral.

This type of sunscreen is going to sit on top of your skin and act like a shield to deflect sun rays. It also tends to last a bit longer in direct UV light because the formula is thicker and takes some extra effort to rub in. Kids, babies and people who have sensitive skin love mineral sunscreen because it’s free of fragrance, parabens and dyes.



Chemical Sunscreen

Don’t get freaked out by the word chemical. All chemical sunscreen formulas contain one or more of these common active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and/or octinoxate. They’re deemed safe and approved by the FDA.

This type of sunscreen is going to sink into the skin and act like a sponge to absorb sun rays. It turns the rays into heat and releases it from the skin. Chemical sunscreen is great for everyday wear. The formulas are easy to apply and generally lightweight so they rub in effortlessly leaving no white residue behind. Many chemical sunscreen formulas offer super effective water-resistant coverage, which is perfect for beach days, music festivals, patio lounging, pool parties, surfing, climbing, standup paddle boarding and people who spend a lot of time outdoors. But trust us; you don’t have to be an extreme sports doer to wear it.

The next time you’re shopping for sunscreen — which, by the way, should be regularly if you’re wearing it every day — don’t feel overwhelmed. It doesn’t really matter which type you choose. Just make sure it’s at least an SPF 30 and says “broad spectrum” on the label.



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  1. https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care/sunscreen-faqs
  2. https://www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer/learn-about-skin-cancer/prevent/say-yes-to-sun-protection
  3. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/862720872339493252/

Sun, Skin Science

I’m a writer, rescue dog owner, tattoo collector and traveler who shamelessly has an 8-step skincare routine.

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