Chemical vs. Physical Sunscreen (Pros & Cons)

It’s important to wear SPF every day, no matter what the weather. There are two types of sunscreen – chemical and physical.

Physical sunscreen contains minerals such as titanium dioxide or zinc dioxide. It sits on the top of the skin to deflect UVA and UVA rays.

Physical Sunscreen Pros:

It begins protecting your skin from the sun as soon as it is applied, so there’s no need to wait to go into the sun. Physical sunscreens are usually best for those with rosacea. Physical sunscreens have a longer shelf life than chemical sunscreens.

Physical Sunscreen Cons:

Physical sunscreens are more prone to leaving a while cast on the skin. They can also rub or sweat off more easily than chemical sunscreen. They are usually thicker and take more time to be rubbed in. Also, I don’t recommend physical sunscreen if you’ll be sweating or crying, because you’ll have chalky lines running down your face.


Chemical sunscreen contains organic compounds such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone. These active ingredients create a chemical reaction when they come into contact with the sun, which protects the skin.

Chemical Sunscreen Pros:

They tend to be thinner, and apply easily on the skin. You won’t have any white cast with chemical sunscreens. They’re also more likely to contain beneficial ingredients such as peptides.

Chemical Sunscreen Cons:

They aren’t effective until 20 minutes after application. They have a higher tendency to clog the pores. The higher the SPF, the higher likelihood that it will irritate sensitive skin types. Some states, such as Hawaii are banning chemical sunscreens because they aren’t safe for the reef and cause damage to the sea life.

I hope that this gave you some insight. Skincare is a lot of trial and error, so try out a few different formulas and find out what works best for you. You can even go into Sephora and ask for a few samples. My personal favorite has been EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 for the past 5 years or so. Read about why I love it.



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