physical vs. chemical spf

an unbiased overview

As you’ve probably heard by now, sunscreen use is absolutely essential to healthy skin. When used correctly, it helps reduce the risk of skin cancer, skin damage, and even premature aging. 

When choosing a sunscreen, you can opt for either a mineral or chemical formula - and whatever your preference, there are strong pros and cons for each type. Here’s what we know about them. 

chemical

Chemical sunscreens use carbon-based ingredients like oxybenzone or avobenzone to protect the skin from UV rays by actually absorbing them. As these ingredients absorb UV rays, they transform them into heat, which can then be released from the skin. 

pros

The active ingredients in chemical sunscreens are naturally less opaque than the active ingredients in physical or mineral sunscreens. Therefore, chemical sunscreen formulas can usually achieve greater transparency than mineral sunscreen formulas. 

Because chemical formulas absorb into the skin, they can also be slightly more resistant to water and sweat than physical formulas.

cons

Especially if you're being directly exposed to UV rays, the potency of chemical sunscreens tends to diminish more quickly than that of physical sunscreens, meaning that you must reapply more often.

Some studies have shown that chemical sunscreen ingredients like avobenzone, homosalate, and more, can be absorbed into the bloodstream through topical application on the skin; research on how that may affect the body continues. 

Finally, many common chemical sunscreen ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate have been known to damage and even kill coral reefs and other sea life - the state of Hawaii has actually banned the sale and distribution of sunscreens that contain these chemicals for that very reason. 

physical or mineral

Physical sunscreens on the other hand, use minerals like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to protect skin from harmful UV rays. Instead of fully absorbing into the skin like chemical sunscreens, physical sunscreens sit on the surface, where they scatter and reflect UV rays. 

pros

Both of the main active ingredients used in mineral sunscreens (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) are certified as GRASE, or Generally Recognized as Safe and Effective, by the FDA. Additionally, mineral sunscreens tend to have a longer shelf life than chemical sunscreens.

Zinc oxide on its own is able to block the full range of UV rays, while chemical sunscreens often require several different ingredients to do the same - a chemical like avobenzone to block UVA rays, a chemical like oxybenzone to block UVB rays, and so on. 

cons

Minerals like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are naturally white in color. As a result, a common complaint about physical sunscreens is that they can leave a white or chalky cast on the skin, depending on how the SPF in question is formulated. While mineral formulations have come a long way, it’s still safe to say that there will always be limitations regarding transparency when comparing mineral sunscreens to chemical sunscreens. 

Additionally, you’re sweating excessively or getting in the water, physical sunscreens rinse off more easily, meaning that you must be conscious about reapplying.

so, which type should I choose? 

The takeaway here is that there are strong pros and cons for both mineral and chemical formulas. The most important piece of advice we can offer here is to choose a mineral formula or a chemical one, but just make sure you wear one, every day! 

we hope you found this helpful! for more skincare info, tips, tricks, and tutorials, make sure to sign up for our emails below!


11 Comments

N

Nancy Rempel on

I have a hard time putting sunscreen on my face.. I feel like it’ll my pores. Do you have to prime your face before?

K

Kat on

Please tell me that this means you are coming out with a sunscreen!

K

Kelli on

Is this blog and the photo in the email a hint that Cocokind will be releasing a! Everyday sunscreen soon?!? I hope so!

L

L.E. on

Thank you for the helpful info!! Would love to see you guys put out some mineral sunscreen. 💛

S

Sherry on

A physical sunscreen made especially for the face/neck area would be an amazing addition to your line of products!

J

Joshua Hernandez on

Will coco kind be releasing a sunscreen at some point?

S

Suellen Selby on

What about natural sunscreens? I would rather use a natural product as I try to stay away from putting chemicals on my skin. Is a natural sunscreen in Cocokind’s future?

S

Suellen Selby on

What about natural sunscreens? I would rather use a natural product as I try to stay away from putting chemicals on my skin. Is a natural sunscreen in Cocokind’s future?

S

Suellen Selby on

What about natural sunscreens? I would rather use a natural product as I try to stay away from putting chemicals on my skin. Is a natural sunscreen in Cocokind’s future?

D

Daizia Gray on

Very helpful! When I first got the notification about this I thought that you guys had come up with your own SPF & I was already getting my money ready to buy it lol. I’m all seriousness though, great read, very informative. Thank you

C

Crystal on

Very helpful post – thank you!

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