Mineral Vs Chemical Sunscreens

Sadie Young
December 5, 2023
Skin Care

So summer might be on its way out and we’re coming onto my favorite season (yes, I’m basic. Sue me.), but a nice discussion about sunscreen is always a good idea, right? Sunscreen has been a part of our skincare routine since before we even knew what skincare was: summer days at the pool and our moms slathering on the white stuff and making us wait before we could jump in. Excuse me while I bathe in the nostalgia of not being an adult with worries and responsibilities. Okay. Moment over. Back to sunscreen. We all know how important it is, so no worries about me rehashing that here. Instead, we’re going to discuss the benefits of the two types of sunscreens: chemical and mineral. To be honest, I didn’t know mineral sunscreens were a thing until recently so we’ll take this journey of discovery together.

Chemical Sunscreen: Ye old classic

This one is old faithful because it’s what everyone has used pretty much forever. Chemical sunscreens have avobenzone, oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, or homosalate ingredients which sound like a whole bunch of nonsense I don’t know anything about. Essentially, these ingredients get absorbed into the skin and when UV rays hit the skin, those special ingredients absorb the rays, convert them to heat, then send it back into the atmosphere. So long sun rays. Have a nice trip.

Chemical sunscreens are great because they are less likely to dilute over time, meaning they are perfect for swimming and sweating (the two essential summer activities). Also, because chemical sunscreens get absorbed into the skin, you don’t have to walk around looking like Frankenstein’s monster’s bride, whereas mineral sunscreens you can usually spot a mile away.

On the other hand, because these ingredients get absorbed, for those with sensitive or acne prone skin, chemical sunscreens can potentially irritate the skin. Also, certain chemicals in chemical sunscreens are known to be bad for coral reefs and have actually been banned in Hawaii!

Mineral Sunscreen: Flashy but effective

Okay, so the first time I saw someone wearing mineral sunscreen, I kinda just thought they forgot to rub the sunscreen into their skin. Turns out, I just need to keep up on skincare trends more. Mineral sunscreen is typically made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide which sit on top of the skin (hence the “I look like I’m wearing a mud mask look”). UV rays bounce off the skin instead of being absorbed like the chemical sunscreens. So it’s like a trampoline for heat rays. Weird analogy, but now that’s all I can think of. Have fun getting that mental picture out of your mind.

Mineral sunscreens (also known as physical sunscreens) work great for those with sensitive skin or those who have acne-prone skin because most formulas are non-comedogenic and non-inflammatory.

Of course, the con of mineral sunscreens is that if you aren’t the same skin tone as the sunscreen, it’s going to be visible. There are some new physical sunscreens though that are using micronized zinc-oxide which helps reduce the “I’m dressed like a ghost” appearance. Yay for progress!

Which one is best?

It’s really just a preference as to what your skin can handle. If you don’t have any issues with traditional sunscreen and you’re active when outside or not around any coral reefs, chemical sunscreen is perfect. If you are more prone to skin sensitivity, then mineral sunscreen is probably the better choice. Bottom line: just wear the damn sunscreen (either one works).

We recommend:

Epionce Daily Shield Tinted SPF

Sunbetter Tone Smart SPF 75

Sunbetter Sheer SPF 70

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen (Available in the 614 Beauty spa)

Supergoop! Play (Available in the 614 Beauty spa)

Learn more about sunscreen in our blog here.

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