Many of us prefer summer over winter, and for obvious reasons — you get to spend your evenings outdoors, the sun is almost always shining and it’s a great opportunity to reconnect with friends and family. With so much more time spent outdoors, it’s crucial to keep sun safety in mind. Using sunscreen is one of the key ways to protect your skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted by the sun, but how do you know which kind is right for you? Sunscreens usually fall into one of two categories: chemical sunscreen and mineral (or physical) sunscreen. The one you choose may depend on your skin type, your preferred summer activities or even your desired texture.
Let’s dive into what each sunscreen offers:
What’s the difference?
The fundamental difference between mineral sunscreen and chemical sunscreen is how they protect your skin from the sun’s rays. Mineral sunscreens sit on top of the skin, creating a barrier on the skin’s surface that reflects UV rays to prevent sun damage and sunburns. The most common mineral filters are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, use chemical filters (such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate and octisalate) which absorb into the skin, convert the sun’s UV rays into heat and release them from the body to protect against sun damage and sunburns.
Chemical: In most cases, chemical sunscreens provide more complete UV protection than mineral sunscreens. Most chemical sunscreens are also sweat- and water-resistant, making them an ideal choice for those of us who spend our summer days swimming, cycling or kayaking. Keep in mind that it takes around 20 minutes for chemical sunscreen to absorb into the skin and start working.
Mineral: Mineral sunscreens may be considered more effective because they create a physical barrier between your skin and the sun’s rays. However, since they sit on top of the skin, you’ll need to reapply mineral sunscreen more often if you’re swimming and/or sweating. Mineral sunscreen starts working immediately after application.
Safety of ingredients
Chemical: Chemical sunscreens may contain ingredients considered harmful to marine life, though more research is needed to fully understand their impact. In addition, some active ingredients used in chemical formulas may enter the bloodstream after being absorbed into the skin — this doesn’t mean these chemicals are unsafe or harmful, just that more research is needed to determine the long-term effects.
Mineral: The ingredients used in mineral sunscreens, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, are the only sunscreen ingredients generally recognized as safe and effective (GRASE) by the FDA. These ingredients are also very gentle on the skin — so much so that most baby sunscreens are made with mineral formulas. As opposed to chemical formulas, mineral formulas are believed to be more environmentally friendly.
Consider your skin type
Chemical: Chemical formulas are much more lightweight and don’t have a chalky finish like mineral formulas often do. The ingredients present in chemical sunscreens may irritate the skin, especially in children and those with a skin condition such as eczema, rosacea or psoriasis.
Mineral: Those with sensitive or acne-prone skin may prefer a mineral formula because the ingredients don’t absorb into the skin, meaning there’s little risk for irritation. Plus, zinc oxide actually soothes and heals skin while protecting you from sun damage. Those with dry skin may prefer the thick texture of mineral sunscreen, but normal or oily skin types may find it too heavy.
Finding your ideal sunscreen
Generally speaking, one type of sunscreen isn’t necessarily “better” than another — the best sunscreen for you is simply the formula that’s most comfortable to wear and doesn’t irritate your skin during or after application. Those with darker skin tones may choose a chemical sunscreen to avoid white streaks, while those with sensitive skin may instead opt for a mineral formula to minimize skin reactions.
We can’t wait to help you find a sunscreen you’ll love to wear! Call 757.819.7633 or request a consultation online today to get started.