Is A Physical Or Chemical Sunscreen Right For You?

By now, we all know that wearing sunscreen is an essential step in your daytime skincare routine. While it’s not the sexiest of skincare products, physical or chemical sunscreen provides protection from the sun’s harsh ultraviolet rays, which contribute to premature ageing as well as melanoma and other skin cancers.

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It’s essential to choose a sunscreen which is at least SPF 30 (sun protection factor). It’s also recommended to opt for broad spectrum formulas, which protect your skin from both UVA (age your skin) and UVB (burn your skin) rays.

There are two main types of sun protectors; physical and chemical sunscreen. Both protect your skin from ultraviolet rays, but work in different ways. Confused? We’ve got you covered.

The difference between physical and chemical sunscreen

Physical sunscreen

Also known as mineral sunscreens, these create a physical barrier between your skin and the sun. All physical sunscreens are broad spectrum, protecting your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. The most common physical sun blockers are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which sit on the skin’s surface and block the sun’s rays. Physical sunscreens are effective as soon as you apply them.

Traditionally, physical or mineral sunscreens have been thicker and tend to leave a white cast, however there are now savvy sheer formulas that leave no cast behind.

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Chemical sunscreen

In contrast to their physical counterparts, chemical sunscreens penetrate the skin and work by absorbing the sun’s rays before they reach the dermis and damage the skin. Chemical sunscreens use ingredients like avobenzone and homosalate to absorb UVA and UVB rays. However, a single chemical alone is typically not enough to protect your skin from both types of UV rays, with most broad spectrum sunscreens utilising compound formulas. Unlike physical iterations, chemical sunscreens need to be applied twenty minutes before sun exposure.

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Words by AR Staff
Feature image courtesy of Luìs Monteiro for Vogue India