Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreen: What’s the Difference?

Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreen
Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreen

Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreen is the most difficult choice you ever made. When deciding what sunscreen to get, the selection can be daunting. There are sunscreens for sport, there are sunscreens for babies, there are sunscreens that are water resistant and sunscreens just for sensitive skin. There are “reef-safe” sunscreens, sprays, lotions, and everything in between. 

And now “mineral” sunscreens. 

What on Earth does that mean?

 We’re big fans of mineral sunscreen, and we think you will be too, so that’s why we’ve created this guide, so that you know the difference between Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreens and what benefits a mineral sunscreen can offer. 

Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreen: What do “chemical” and “mineral” sunscreen mean? 

Chemical sunscreen is the kind of sunscreen you most likely grew up using. Your mom probably slathered some on you before you headed to the pool as a kid, or it’s the stuff you spray on without thinking before a trip to the beach. 

Difference between Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreen uses chemicals that absorb into your skin and convert the sun’s energy into heat that gets released harmlessly into the air. This keeps your skin from burning, and you from being a bright red lobster-colored human. It usually boasts active ingredients like Octinoxate or Oxybenzone. 

On the other hand, mineral sunscreen uses small mineral particulates that spread out over your skin and act as filters for the harsh sunlight. Instead of absorbing into your skin, they reflect sunlight away from it using ingredients like zinc oxide! 

Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreen: The Problems with Chemical Sunscreen

Unfortunately, there are a couple of concerns with chemical sunscreen. 

The active ingredients in chemical sunscreens may be absorbed into the deep layers of your skin. A study by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found those chemicals can make their way into the bloodstream. The same study concluded some chemicals can still be detected in your body for at least a week after application has stopped. It can be found in the skin, in the blood – and some of the ingredients were even in the milk of breastfeeding mothers!1

If you have sensitive skin, some studies have shown a high potential for Oxybenzone to cause adverse skin reactions and mild risk for other chemical sunscreen active ingredients. Even more upsetting is that some studies have shown several chemicals in chemical sunscreens may disrupt important hormones like androgens and estrogens! This can be troublesome for anyone, but for those suffering from hormonal imbalances already, chemical sunscreen has the potential to wreak havoc. 

It doesn’t stop there! Not only can chemical sunscreens affect the health of the human body, but some studies show they can also be potentially bad for the environment. Specifically, coral reefs can experience damage from the thousands of tons of sunscreen chemicals that wash off the bodies of swimmers and beachgoers every year. 

Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreen: The Argument for Mineral Sunscreen

Mineral sunscreen, on the other hand, offers several benefits since its active ingredients sit on top of the skin. For those who have sensitive skin, mineral sunscreen is a must, because it reduces the likelihood of allergic reactions, and offers broad-spectrum protection from UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays.

Another bonus? Since your sunscreen sits on top of your skin, it’s also a good choice for acne-prone skin. Some chemical sunscreens can be comedogenic and cause breakouts, but with mineral sunscreen you’ll be doing your skin two favors instead of just one. 

Since mineral sunscreen lays on top of the skin, you may notice it applies white and it may be harder to rub in. That’s because the active ingredients are white minerals that lay on top of your skin, and they can leave a white cast at first.

Modern mineral sunscreens are making this problem a thing of the past with smoother formulations that dry clear. The white lotion lets you know where you’re applying the sunscreen to make sure you’re completely covered, but after it dries, you’ll notice a clear sheen.

Mineral sunscreen is a great choice for just about anyone! 

There are, of course, reasons to use both kinds of sunscreen, but a Zinc Oxide based formula can be a healthy sun care choice if you’ve thought about trying it out but aren’t sure where to start. If you’re looking for a good starter product, we’ve got some best-selling mineral sunscreens listed here to make it even easier on you! 

Have any questions about Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreen? Please post in the comments below, and we’ll do our best to answer! 


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