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Chemical Vs. Physical Sunscreens

Chemical vs Physical Sunscreens

Exposure to the sun’s harmful rays is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer. The best way to protect your skin is by wearing sunscreen. But with so many options, it’s hard to decide which one is right for you.

To break it down, let’s start with the fact that there are two types of sunscreens: Chemical and physical.


What are chemical sunscreens?

Chemical sunscreens, which include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate, actisalate, homosalate, and octocrylene, work by getting absorbed into the skin and then converting harmful UV light into non-damaging red light.


What are physical sunscreens?

Physical sunscreens either have titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These physical blockers lay on top of your skin and act as a mirror, reflecting the sun’s rays.

People with skin allergies and sensitivity will want to stick with physical blockers, as to not irritate the skin. Though keep in mind, physical blockers need to be reapplied more frequently—especially when swimming or sweating.

There are also some SPFs that are a mix of both mineral and chemical blockers, which can be a great option if your skin can handle chemical formulations.


Still having trouble picking a sunscreen? Keep these factors in mind:

  1. Broad-spectrum-this protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays.
  2. Water resistant- these sunscreens retain their stated SPF value after a certain time (either 40 or 80 minutes) in water or while sweating
  3. Stick to SPF 30 or higher
  4. Finally, don’t forget to apply 30 minuets before you go outside and then again, every 2 hours thereafter.

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