Physical vs. Chemical Sunscreen – Vine Vera Reviews

Woman with sunscreen on her back in a beach.

With summer approaching rapidly the importance of applying a sunscreen increases. And you don’t need to put a whole lot of thought into the brand you choose because sunscreen is sunscreen, right? Not entirely. There are actually two major types of sunscreens:  physical and chemical. Both protect against UV damage, but the way in which they work differs. Sunscreens do exist that are a hybrid of both types of sun blockers containing physical and chemical sunscreens. Vine Vera reviews both physical and chemical sunscreens to help you learn which sunscreen suits your needs best.

Woman applying sunscreen in a beach.

Physical Sunscreen
Physical sunscreens are also known as sunblock or inorganic sunscreen and are generally considered safe and are approved by the FDA. Physical sunscreens tend to be thick and may leave a white cast on the skin. The UV filters in physical sunscreens are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide; both are natural minerals ground into a fine powder. Zinc oxide provides complete protection from the full spectrum of UVA and UVB rays. Titanium dioxide protects against UVB rays, but not the entire UVA spectrum. One of the advantages to using a physical sunscreen is that it begins blocking harmful UV rays immediately upon application. Physical sunscreens work by blocking or deflecting the sun’s rays. While physical sunscreens do provide immediate blocking protection, they also rub off more easily than chemical sunscreens. Additionally, if spending an extended time in the sun, physical sunscreens must be applied more frequently than chemical sunscreens. A disadvantage to physical sunscreens is that titanium dioxide may increase blemishes on your skin. If mineral makeup causes you to break out, it’s most likely due to the titanium dioxide, and problematic skin may result from using a physical sunscreen.

Woman applying sunscreen in a beach.

Chemical Sunscreen
Chemical sunscreen is also known as organic sunscreen and they work mainly by absorbing the sun’s harmful rays. Some of the UV filters used in chemical sunscreen work by scattering the sun’s rays. Chemical sunscreens are often more liquid than physical sunscreens, and can feel quite greasy on the skin. The possible UV filters in chemical sunscreen include:

  • 4-MBC
  • Avobenzone
  • Helioplex
  • Homosalate
  • Mexoryl SX and XL
  • Octisalate
  • Otinoxate
  • Octylcrylene
  • Tinosorb S and M
  • Uvinul A Plus
  • Uvinul T 150

Some downsides to chemical sunscreen include the potential for skin irritation and damage, increased free radical damage and many of the filters have not been FDA approved yet. These UV filters have been approved in areas such as Europe and Asia. Additionally, chemical sunscreens tend to take more time to absorb into your skin. Dr. Craig Burhart, associate professor of Dermatology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was quoted in an article by the Wall Street Journal advises the use of physical sunscreens rather than chemical sunscreens. Still, he says that the best sunscreen is the one that you actually use. He is quoted as saying “[w]hether it’s a chemical or zinc oxide or titanium dioxide product, I want you to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen every time you go outside, and I want you to apply it every two hours while you’re exposed to the sun.”

The bottom line is that no matter what your preference is, to protect your skin you must apply sunscreen each and every time you head outside so you can enjoy the sun safely.

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