Is There A Difference Between A Chemical and Physical Sunscreen?

Sunscreen is the one beauty product you shouldn’t live without. Wearing sunscreen on a daily basis not only protects the skin from sunburn and skin cancers, but also protects your skin “investment” from premature aging effects of the sun such as hyperpigmentation and sunspots along with fine lines and wrinkles.

A person’s skin type, skin condition and the level of anticipated sun exposure are considerations that help determine which type of sunscreen makes the best option. When researching sunscreen options, it’s important to know there are two types of sunscreen – chemical sunscreen and physical sunscreen. Knowing the differences between the two will help you determine which type of sunscreen option is best for your skin.

Chemical Sunscreen
Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing and neutralizing UV rays and then converting those rays into heat energy on top of the skin. This process allows a chemical sunscreen’s formulation to disappear onto the skin because the active ingredients aren’t sitting on top of the skin like they do with a physical sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens tend to be lightweight and spread more easily, making them easier to wear for daily use. When shopping for a chemical sunscreen, look for active ingredients such as Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Oxybenzone, Oxtinoxate, Menthyl Anthranilate or Oxtocrylene.

Physical Sunscreen
Physical sunscreens act as a physical block on top of the skin. These sunscreens reflect the UV rays instead of absorbing and neutralizing them as chemical sunscreens do. Physical sunscreens usually don’t irritate the skin because they don’t absorb the active ingredients from the sunscreen. This is why those with sensitive skin should opt to wear a physical sunscreen over a chemical one. When shopping for a physical sunscreen, look for active ingredients such as Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide.

At SkinSpirit, we carry our favorite sunscreens from brands such as SkinMedica, SkinCeuticals, Jan Marini, iS Clinical and Colorescience. Need helping finding the right sunscreen for you? Come into any one of our locations for a complimentary consultation with one of our experts.


Disclaimer: Information and content within this blog is provided for informational purposes only.  This blog is not intended to provide medical advice, and anything read here should not be construed as such.  Reading this blog or communicating with our staff does not create a physician-patient relationship.  If you have questions about any health issue, including something you may have read here, please consult a licensed, trained physician or health professional immediately.

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