The key difference between chemical and physical sunscreen is that chemical sunscreen is absorbed into the skin to act against UV rays, whereas physical sunscreen stays on the skin surface as a barrier to act against UV rays.
It is important to use sunscreen to protect ourselves from damage from UV rays. Even when it is cloudy, our skin is susceptible to rays coming from the sun.
What is a Chemical Sunscreen?
Chemical sunscreen is a type of sunblock that can get absorbed into the skin and then absorb UV rays, converting them into heat and release from the body. Most of the time, chemical ingredients in this type of sunblock provide comparatively a complete protection compared to physical ingredients. Moreover, this type of sunblock is more effective in resisting water and sweat. Therefore, it is a better choice when swimming or doing physical activity under the sun. Moreover, chemical sunscreen is a better option if we play sports or sweat a lot in the daytime and when we need a sunscreen that can get absorbed into the skin quickly.
The damage to the skin and sunburns are not common when using a chemical sunscreen. Currently, there are around 12 FDA-approved chemical sunscreen ingredients that can be added to sunscreens. Some of the common ingredients include avobenzone, oxybenzone, and octinoxate.
When considering the advantages and disadvantages of using chemical sunscreens, they provide more complete UV protection than physical sunscreen. This type of sunblock is also comparatively more effective. Many people prefer using this sunscreen because of its lighter consistency and quick absorption. Furthermore, chemical sunscreen is more comfortable to wear. There can be disadvantages of this product as well; they can irritate the skin of some people, especially children and people with chronic skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea.
What is a Physical Sunscreen?
Physical sunscreen is a type of sunblock that can stay on the top of the skin and reflect the rays of the sun. These are commonly known as mineral sunscreens. The sunscreen is not absorbed into the skin. It forms a barrier at the surface of the skin, which can reflect the UV rays to prevent damage and sunburns. However, there are only 2 FDA-approved ingredients that can be used in sunscreen; these are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
Generally, children and people with sensitive skin can withstand physical sunscreen. Often, the consistency of this sunscreen is thicker compared to chemical sunscreen. Therefore, people having dry skin prefer moisturizing sunscreen types. However, this formula is thicker and heavy for oily skin or normal skin.
It is difficult to rub in the physical sunscreen because they don’t sink into the skin. This leaves a white cast on the skin. However, there are newer and modified formulas now, which help to overcome these problems.
What is the Difference Between Chemical and Physical Sunscreen?
Chemical and physical sunscreens are important for our skin health. The key difference between chemical and physical sunscreen is that chemical sunscreen absorbs into the skin to act against UV rays, whereas physical sunscreen stays on the skin surface as a barrier to act against UV rays.
The following table summarizes the difference between chemical and physical sunscreen.
Summary – Chemical vs Physical Sunscreen
There are two main categories of sunscreens as chemical and physical sunscreen. The key difference between chemical and physical sunscreen is that chemical sunscreen absorbs into the skin to act against UV rays, whereas physical sunscreen stays on the skin surface as a barrier to act against UV rays.
1. “5 Important Reasons to Wear Sunscreen Daily.” Mahoney Dermatology, 25 Feb. 2021.