Chemical Vs. Physical Sunscreen-Pros And Cons

Sun protectionIf you are in favour of using natural and safe products for your skin, there is no way you have not heard about chemical and physical mineral sunscreen filters, and wondered what is safer to use, chemical or physical sunscreen.

Still, before you decide, it is better to have an idea of the differences between these two as well as their pros and cons.

So, let´s see now, chemical vs. physical sunscreen, which is better and safer for the skin of adults and children? Also, which of the two is the most suitable for your type of skin?

What Are Chemical Sunscreens?

Chemical sunscreen filters are Carbon-based chemical photo protectants that are combined to offer broad spectrum protection (both from UVB and UVA sun rays).

Some examples of these ingredients are Octinoxate, Avobenzone, Oxybenzone, Octisalate, Octocrylene and others.

What Do they Do?

Due to a chemical reaction, chemical sunscreen ingredients absorb certain wavelengths of UV rays, convert ultraviolet radiation to infrared one (of lower energy) and then release it as heat, thus preventing UV rays from penetrating deeper into the skin.

Pros and Cons of Chemical Sunscreens

Let´s have a look at some advantages of the chemical sunscreens. Most chemical sunscreen filters are photostable, meaning that they do not lose their power when exposed to the sun.

Also, they have a thin texture so they are applied easily to the skin. Their composition is such that the product which contains them can be boosted with additional skin care ingredients that have moisturizing as well as anti-aging properties.

Now, the disadvantages. For these type of sunscreens to be effective, you have to wait 20 minutes after application and before you expose your skin to the sun.

Another con is that due to the many components contained in broad spectrum chemical sunscreen filters, they may cause irritation or photosensitivity to sensitive, reactive or vulnerable skin.

In addition, the thin consistency of chemical synthetic sunscreen may make it easier for the sunscreen to be removed from the skin once you swim or dry yourself with a towel. In these cases, you need to re-apply sunscreen more often.

Finally, some of these chemical sunscreen filters are said to promote free radical production in the skin, which is linked to premature skin aging.

What Are Physical Sunscreens?

The physical mineral sunscreen filters consist of inorganic compounds of ingredients of mineral origin, that is why they are also called mineral filters. Examples of such filters are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

What Do They Do?

By applying a mineral sunscreen product onto your skin, the natural filters sit on its surface and reflect or diffuse UV rays like tiny mirrors, preventing them from penetrating into the deeper layers of the skin.

Mineral Sunscreen Pros and Cons

On the one hand, physical mineral sunscreens offer broad spectrum protection from both UVB and UVA rays. They provide sun protection right after application and their function lasts longer against exposure to UV rays.

They are also skin-friendly for all types of skin and particularly sensitive skin. They rarely cause skin irritation and that is why they are recommended for very sensitive skin types as well as children´s skin.

On the other hand, if the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide molecules in the mineral sunscreen´s composition do not have a nanoparticle size (15-100 nm), they leave a white residue on the skin.

This can be rather unpleasant especially if you use a sunscreen like that on your face.

The first time I used a mineral sunscreen on the face, I had no idea that it would leave such residue and also that it would not be absorbed into the skin, making me look like a white ghost 🙂 Nevertheless, I kept using it on my body and chose something different for my face.

Alternatively, you can apply a tiny amount of sunscreen on the face and rub it gently on the skin till it disappears, but then you are not providing your skin with adequate sun protection especially for the face where sun can cause all kinds of damage such as sun spots and redness but also fine lines and wrinkles.

Nevertheless, in order to deal with this problem, companies today are using nanoparticles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in their mineral physical sunscreen products, so you don´t need to worry about that white residue.

Another con of those mineral sunscreens is that some of them may not spread on the skin as nicely as chemical sunscreens do due to their thicker consistency.

Finally, some sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide may cause acne.

After looking at the pros and cons of chemical vs. physical sunscreen, it is up to you to choose the one that suits your skin´s needs and sensitivities the most. Still, remember that for people with sensitive skin or for babies, the use of mineral physical sunscreen is the best choice.