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Chemical and Mineral Sunscreens: Which is Better?

November 10, 2016

Chemical and Mineral Sunscreens: Which is Better?


Did you know there are two different kinds of sunscreens? If you didn’t, that’s perfectly okay. You’re not alone at all. Many people don’t know this. Many people also don’t know that SPF stands for sun protection factor. You learn something new every day.

What are mineral sunscreens?

Mineral sunscreens are sunscreens that contain natural ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to protect your skin from the sun. These two specifically offer broad-spectrum protection which is what makes them so effective, and why you see them in most sunscreens.

What are chemical sunscreens?

Chemical sunscreens are formulated with synthetic ingredients such as octinoxate, avobenzone, or octisalate.

So, which is better?

Well, neither is necessarily *better* than the other. They both serve the same exact purpose of protecting your skin, and often times sunscreens contain both mineral and chemical protectors. They do each have their pros and cons, though.

Mineral sunscreens protect your skin by reflecting the rays off your face and not allowing them to penetrate. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide tend to give flashback because of their white color. So, this is especially important to consider if you’re going to take flash photography. These minerals can have you looking like Casper the Ghost if you’re under direct flash. I don’t want that for you and I’m sure you don’t want that for yourself. Another con is that they can make you sweat profusely (they make me sweat like crazy).

Chemical sunscreens are a bit more my speed. The simple fact that they typically do not cause flashback is enough to win me over. They’re not as heavy as mineral sunscreens and they protect you by absorbing UV rays and releasing them as energy (heat), which can sometimes make people feel a little hot and sweaty.

Some people report irritation and breakouts as a result of using chemical sunscreens, which is plausible. If this is you, try using physical sunscreens or sunscreens with a mix of both chemical and physical ingredients. Overall, I can’t exactly tell you which one is better, they both have their pros and cons and what works for me may not work for you. They both protect your skin from the sun which is truly all I care about for you guys. Protect your skin from sun damage how you best see fit.

What matters more than whether a sunscreen is chemical or mineral is if it’s broad spectrum. Broad spectrum means that it protects you from both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays cause sunburn while UVA rays cause photoaging. You want protection from both whether it’s from mineral or chemical filters. Also, make sure you’re using between SPF 30 and 50. Nothing less. You can use more, but there’s no proof that it provides more protection. It may leave you a greasy mess and clog your pores.

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