Should You Use Mineral or Chemical Sunscreen?  | Biodermis

Should You Use Mineral or Chemical Sunscreen? |

The science is clear that we should be using sunscreen when we spend time outdoors in the Sun, but there is still some debate as to what kind of sunscreen is best. Some people think that because chemical sunscreen contains chemicals, that it must be harmful to the skin. This assumption is not correct, however, and there is no scientific evidence to show that chemical sunscreens are harmful to human health. Likewise, because mineral (physical) sunscreens seem more natural to consumers, the assumption is that they are safer but there is no evidence to back this claim.

In this article we will explore the differences between the two and show why neither is harmful to the skin.

Chemical sunscreen

The way chemical sunscreen works is that the chemicals in the formula absorb and disrupt harmful UV rays emitted from the sun. Some of the most common chemicals used in sunscreen include avobenzone, octocrylene, and octinoxate.


• Spreads easily on the skin—less product is needed to be effective
• Cost effective because you don’t need to use as much
• Some chemical sunscreens contain peptides and enzymes that are beneficial for the skin
• Thinner concentration so it can be applied more easily under makeup


• Can take 10-20 minutes after application to become effective
• Can cause skin irritation or burning sensation in the eyes
• Only lasts about two hours before it must be reapplied again
• Not good for people with skin conditions like rosacea
• Can harm nearby coral reefs in the ocean
• May clog pores, depending on the formula

Mineral sunscreen

Instead of absorbing UV rays like chemical sunscreen, mineral sunscreen uses physical agents like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to block out the sun’s harmful effects. It’s thought that physical sunscreens are less harmful to coral reefs in the ocean in comparison to chemical sunscreens. Mineral sunscreen has its pros and cons, which are broken down below.


• Protects the skin against both UVA and UVB rays
• Safe for babies and pregnant mothers
• Starts working as soon as applied—no need to wait before going out in the sun
• Less likely to irritate the skin
• Better for people with skin conditions like rosacea
• Long shelf life


• Rubs off, sweats off and washes off easily—frequent application is required
• Leaves a white or chalky residue on the skin
• Feels heavier and thicker on the skin
• More of the product needs to be applied to be effective
• Doesn’t spread onto the skin as easily

What's the verdict?

Most dermatologists and physicians agree that both sunscreens are generally safe and effective, so it’s really up to the user. The main point is that your skin is being protected from harmful UV rays throughout the day. The question is, which one is right for your skin? If you are prone to acne or have a skin condition, mineral sunscreen may be a better option. On the other hand, if you’ve never had a problem using chemical sunscreens, then there is nothing wrong with their continued use.

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