Do You Know the Difference Between Physical and Chemical Sunscreen – Facts, Pros and Cons

Sunscreen formulas have changed in recent years, and finding the best product is not an easy job at all. What works for one person’s skin might not work for you, and let’s face it, no one wants a sunscreen product that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Choosing a sunscreen formula doesn’t have to be too challenging. If you know what’s good for your skin or if you discuss it with a specialist, the only thing you have to do is learn the difference between physical (mineral) and chemical sunscreen.

We’re also going to discuss a few facts, pros, and cons of physical and chemical sunscreen backed by science.

Here is what you need to know.

What is Physical Sunscreen?

Physical sunscreen, aka mineral sunscreen, can do wonders for your skin. It can highly prevent sunburn by acting as an active shield. The formula includes mineral-based ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which help scatter and reflect those harmful rays from the sun.

TIP: Check your product’s ingredient list for zinc oxide and/ or titanium dioxide to be sure it’s a physical sunscreen.


Dr Dendy Engelman, a board-certified dermatologist in New York, explains:

“[…] physical sunscreen sits on top of the skin rather than being absorbed, it is considered safer, especially for children and pregnant women, than chemical sunscreen.”

But that’s not all. Applying physical sunscreen is very easy, and it starts working right away! Also, if you deal with sensitive skin, this might be the best sunscreen formula for you.


Even if physical sunscreen can be so good for your skin, there are a few complaints. First, the ingredients often leave some white traces on your skin due to the thick formula.

However, new physical sunscreen products have a tinted formula so that you can avoid the ghost-like appearance.

What is Chemical Sunscreen?

Chemical sunscreen contains oxybenzone, avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, dioxybenzone, octocrylene, and other chemicals capable of absorbing and releasing damaging UV rays. This sunscreen formula partially absorbs into the skin and fight UV damage through a chemical reaction.


Chemical sunscreen doesn’t leave behind any white traces on your face and is easier to apply. Usually, the formulas are lighter and do wonders on oily skin types.


Studies have shown that chemical sunscreen might be more irritating to sensitive skin. Due to how this sunscreen formula is absorbed into the bloodstream, the potential side effects are still being examined.

Remember to discuss with a specialist what are the best sunscreen formulas for your skin type.

Georgia Nica
Writing was, and still is my first passion. I love all that cool stuff about science and technology. I'll try my best to bring you the latest news every day.