What is the difference between mineral and chemical sunscreens?

When it comes to sunscreen, you might have come across terms like "mineral" and "chemical." But what exactly do these terms mean, and how do they affect the sun protection you receive?

In this blog post, we'll dive into the differences between mineral and chemical sunscreens, shedding light on their composition, mode of action, and considerations for choosing the right option for your skin.


What are Mineral Sunscreens?

Mineral sunscreens are often referred to as physical sunscreens because they work by creating a physical barrier on the skin that reflects and scatters UV rays. The two main mineral ingredients used in these sunscreens are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These minerals are naturally occurring and provide broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays.


How are Mineral Sunscreens Different?

Mineral sunscreens sit on the surface of the skin and act as a shield, deflecting UV rays away from the skin. They work immediately upon application, providing instant protection without the need to wait for any chemical reactions. The minerals create a physical barrier that reflects UV radiation, making them highly effective in blocking both types of harmful rays.


Who Should Choose a Mineral Sunscreen?

Mineral sunscreens are generally considered to be safe and gentle on the skin. They are less likely to cause irritation or allergic reactions, making them suitable for people with sensitive skin. Additionally, zinc oxide offers some additional benefits, such as anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe the skin.


What are Chemical Sunscreens?

Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, contain organic compounds that work by absorbing UV rays (like a sponge) and converting them into heat energy. These compounds include ingredients like avobenzone, octinoxate, and oxybenzone. Chemical sunscreens also provide broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays.


How do Chemical Sunscreens Work?

Chemical sunscreens penetrate the skin and work by absorbing UV rays, converting them into a less harmful form of energy. These sunscreens typically require around 20 minutes to become effective after application, as they need time to be absorbed and start their protective action.


What makes Chemical Sunscreen good?

While chemical sunscreens are generally safe and effective, some individuals may experience skin sensitivity or allergies to specific chemical ingredients. It's important to read the ingredient list and consider your personal skin type and any potential sensitivities when choosing a sunscreen.


How to Choose the Right Sunscreen?

When it comes to choosing between mineral and chemical sunscreens, personal preference and individual needs play a significant role. Here are a few factors to consider:

1. Skin Sensitivity: If you have sensitive or reactive skin, mineral sunscreens may be a better option due to their gentle nature.

2. Immediate Protection: If you prefer instant protection without the need to wait for absorption, mineral sunscreens provide immediate protection upon application.

3. Appearance: Mineral sunscreens can sometimes leave a slight white cast, especially on darker skin tones. If this is a concern, chemical sunscreens or tinted mineral sunscreens may be preferable.

4. Environmental Impact: Mineral sunscreens are generally considered to be more environmentally friendly as they do not contain chemicals that can harm marine life or coral reefs.


In summary, the main difference between mineral and chemical sunscreens lies in their active ingredients and mode of action. Mineral sunscreens create a physical barrier, reflecting and scattering UV rays, while chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays and convert them into heat energy.

Both types provide effective sun protection, but personal preferences, skin sensitivities, and desired appearance are important factors to consider when choosing the right sunscreen for you. Remember, regardless of the type of sunscreen you choose, the most important thing is to apply and reapply it regularly to protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.