Is physical or chemical sunscreen best for me?
Regular use of a broad spectrum high factor sunscreen can reduce our risk of developing skin cancer by 40-50% (https://www.skincancer.org/) as well as preventing sun damage resulting in hyperpigmentation, sun spots, wrinkles and sagging of the skin. So, it should be a non-negotiable step in your daily routine. There are so many sunscreens available and a common concern is whether physical (also known as mineral) or chemical sunscreen is best. Both have been shown to reduce short and long-term damage to the skin and help prevent skin cancer. Here we take a look at the differences between them and help you decide whether mineral or chemical sunscreen is best for you:
Physical (Mineral) sunscreen
- Physical sunscreens act as a shield and work by blocking and scattering the rays before they penetrate your skin
- They include either Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide
- Physical sunscreens traditionally left a chalky cast on application and some still do, but they have now improved and are available without this cast. They are also available in tinted shades to suit various skin tones.
- Physical sunscreens are photostable – meaning they don’t degrade once exposed to the sun’s rays. This does not mean that they don’t need reapplying during the day. They do!
- It is generally thought that only chemical sunscreens need to be applied 15 minutes prior to exposure, but both physical and chemical work better once fully absorbed.
- Physical or physical sunscreens are often thought of as more natural, but they are inorganic and no more organic than chemical sunscreens
- Physical sunscreens have a tendency to suit oilier skin types
- These work like a sponge by absorbing the UV rays before they can damage your skin
- They can contain ingredients such as octisalate or avobenzone
- Chemical sunscreens tend to be easier to rub in than physical sunscreens and often tend to be more light-weight and absorbable
- These must be applied at least 15 minutes prior to sun exposure
- High quality chemical sunscreens tend to have added ingredients to benefit the skin such as peptides, hyaluronic acid, tranexamic acid or niacinamide, so they can benefit the skin as well as protect it
Is physical or chemical sunscreen best for my skin?
Combination / Oily/ Acne-prone skin
It can be difficult to find a sunscreen if you have acne-prone skin, as you don’t want to risk break-outs. Blocking the pores with comedogenic products or a reaction to the UV blocking chemical ingredients are often what can cause these break-outs, so it may be best to try physical sunscreen if you have acne-prone skin. They also tend to have more of a matte finish. Always make sure any sunscreen in non-comedogenic.
If you are more on the dry side, a chemical sunscreen may be more comfortable with some added active moisturising ingredients, as this will have to be reapplied throughout the day, you want it to be comfortable and nourish your skin. If you have normal skin, it may be worth trying both types of sunscreens to see which is your preference. Each brand of sunscreen differs in finish, added ingredients, benefits, how it feels to apply and whether it’s sheer or tinted.
Fitzpatrick skin IV and above
Chemical sunscreens may be easier to absorb without the issue of a white cast, so it may be worth trying these if you have Fitzpatrick IV or darker skin. However, there are numerous physical sunscreens that come with a tint to remove this issue.
In summary, there is no strong evidence to show that one type of sunscreen either physical or chemical sunscreen is best or more effective than the other and regular application and sufficient application is the most effective way to protect your skin. However, it is good to choose one that suits your skin type, because the happier you are with your sunscreen then the more likely you are to apply it religiously. If you like the way it feels on your skin, looks on application and doesn’t cause a reaction or break outs this is the sunscreen that’s right for you.
Choosing a sunscreen – what to look for:
- Broad spectrum SPF – this shows that the sunscreen mitigates both UVA and UVB rays – also look for sunscreens that protect from HEV light
- SPF30 or above, especially if you’re outside for extended periods of time – SPF 30 will block around 97% of the UV rays
- Water resistant – this is important in the summer to allow for sweating, exercise and swimming. You would need to reapply after swimming as most sunscreens become ineffective after being in the water for around 30 minutes
Top tips for sunscreen
- Apply 30 minutes prior to going outside to allow for full absorption
- Re-apply every two hours for optimal efficacy
- Apply two full finger lengths for your face – don’t forget your ears, neck and hands
- Wear a hat in addition to sunscreen on sunny days for added protection of the skin
- Check the expiry date of your sunscreen, if it’s expired or been exposed to sunlight for too long, they become ineffective
- Do not rely on the SPF in a moisturiser or a foundation. Use a separate SPF
Our favourite sunscreens
If hyperpigmentation is a concern of yours, you will love SkinCeuticals Advanced Brightening UV Defense Sunscreen. It combines UV protection with tranexamic acid and niacinamide to help inhibit the melanogenesis effect of UV rays on the skin. It also contains glycerin for an additional boost of hydration.
If breakouts are a concern SkinCeuticals Mineral Matte UV Defense SPF30 is a residue-free mineral sunscreen with titanium dioxide with an amazing tinted matte finish and the OBAGI Sun Shield Matte SPF50 is a non-tinted, non-greasy SPF providing a great matte finish for oilier complexions.
If you have older skin or dryer skin and are looking for a more moisturising sunscreen, SkinCeuticals Ultra Facial Defense SPF50 is a fast absorbing, lightweight option and ZO Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 50 is a slightly thicker, creamier option with added antioxidants and lipid repair.
Visit the website to order your sunscreen now or contact us if you have any questions about which products might be right for you on 0208 185 7273 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org