Physical vs Chemical Sunscreen – What Are The Differences?
Whatever your skin type, no matter your age, you should be using sunscreen when those rays are bearing down on your skin! Protecting you from overexposure to the sun’s propensity to cause signs of ageing and cancer, sunscreen is a bit of a hero product. But with so many options out there to choose from, where on earth do you start?
The two types of sunscreen are physical and chemical, and we’re breaking down the differences below, to make life easier for you when you’re going about purchasing your sunscreen.
Physical vs Chemical sunscreen: the key difference
The main aspect that defines physical and chemical sunscreens is how they block the sun’s rays. Whilst physical sunscreens sit on the skin’s surface, providing a protective shield, chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin, a little like how a sponge absorbs liquids.
So, what are the qualities and distinguishing features of each?
Physical sunscreens: the lowdown
How it works: Also commonly referred to as mineral sunscreen, physical sunscreen provides broad-spectrum protection, reflecting UV radiation and UVB radiation away from the skin.
Contains: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
Best for: sensitive skin, acne-prone skin, redness-prone skin.
Our tip: as they’re not as water-resistant as chemical sunscreens, make sure you’re re-applying often, especially if you’ve been perspiring.
Chemical sunscreen: the lowdown
How it works: chemical sunscreens contain active ingredients that deal with UV rays before your skin has a chance to absorb them. As they don’t leave a visible film layer on your skin, they can be used on a diversity of skin tones.
Contains: chemical sunscreens contain UV filters such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.
Best for: oily skin, combination skin, tolerant skin
Our tip: if you like to wear make-up every day, we recommend opting for chemical sunscreen, which is easier to apply over the top.
Our Skinora sunscreen picks
Physical: Obagi Physical UV Block SPF 32
- Advanced formula that blocks the sun’s rays without administering irritating chemicals to your skin.
- Vanishes on skin for a weightless, non-greasy feel – you’ll forget you even have it on!
- Keep fine lines, wrinkles and loss of skin volume at bay.
Chemical: SkinCeuticals Advanced Brightening UV Defense SPF 50
- Residue-free, lightweight formula enriched with potent ingredients, including tranexamic acid and niacinamide.
- Fend off fine lines and wrinkles, thanks to a high SPF of 50.
- Brighten your overall skin tone and protect against broad-spectrum UV rays.
How it works
Take our 3 minute quiz
Start with a skin quiz compiled by our doctors
This assesses many factors to allow us to customise your skincare for a £10 skin analysis fee
Receive your Customised Skin Programme
Our skin experts will determine the best products for YOU according to your profile
Choose your products
Pay only for the products you’d like to keep
Redeem the £10 against anything you purchase
Delivery to Your Door
We will customise your programme each time adjusting to changes in the seasons and lifestyle factors so your skincare is customised for you