Which Type of Sunscreen is Best: Physical or Chemical?

In Florida, it feels like summertime all year round, which means you most likely will be spending a lot of your time outdoors. So whether it’s by the pool, on a boat or even sitting on the bleachers at a football game, make sure to protect your skin from harmful UV rays with sunscreen. 

While you are probably aware that wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen is necessary to protect your skin, did you know there is another category you should consider before choosing a sunscreen?

Physical vs. Chemical Sunscreen

There are two types of sunscreens: physical and chemical sunscreens. Physical sunscreens contain ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide which block UV rays at the surface of the skin. Chemical sunscreen absorbs UV rays before they have a chance to reach your body. The benefits of each type are different, so depending on what you’re looking for in a sunscreen, you might want to try out different types. 

Physical Sunscreen

Physical sunscreens, also referred to as natural or mineral sunscreen, are specifically designed to block UV light. Physical sunscreen sits on top of the skin versus getting rubbed in. While this type of sunscreen is less likely to clog pores, it is a thick mineral paste that may feel heavy on the skin. 

Pros of physical sunscreen include:

  • Blocks both UVA and UVB rays 
  • Great for sensitive skin types
  • Effective as soon as it’s applied

Cons of physical sunscreen include:

  • Can rub off, sweat off and rinse off easily
  • May leave a white-ish color on the skin 

Chemical Sunscreen

On the other hand, chemical sunscreens work like a sponge in the sense that they absorb the sun’s rays. Chemical sunscreens contain organic compounds, such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone, that absorb UV rays as they attempt to enter the skin. 

Pros of chemical sunscreen include:

  • Thin and spreads on the skin like a lotion
  • Less product is needed to protect the skin from UV rays

Cons of chemical sunscreen include:

  • Requires about 20 minutes after application before working
  • Increased chance of irritation and stinging due to the multiple ingredients combined
  • The higher the SPF, the higher the risk of irritation for sensitive skin types
  • More likely to clog pores

Contact ForCare Medical Center

ForCare Medical Center understands the importance of maintaining your skin. At ForCare, our dermatologists’ top priority is ensuring that your skin is as healthy as possible. If you are interested in learning more about our dermatology services and how to successfully care for your skin, contact us today!

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