Mineral sunscreen vs chemical sunscreen: The difference

Mineral sunscreen vs chemical sunscreen is a debate that can often get confusing. Read on to know how the two work, and which one to use.

Sunscreen is one of the most basic ingredients in a skincare routine. Whether you go outdoors or stay indoors, a layer of sunscreen must be applied to protect your skin from harmful ultraviolet rays. With technology, the sunscreen market has evolved a whole lot, giving rise to sunscreens for different skin types and with various levels of sun protection factor. But one topic of debate that persists in this side of the skincare world is mineral sunscreen vs chemical sunscreen.

Why are sunscreens important?

Sunscreen is very important for protecting your skin from harmful UV rays, which can lead to sunburn, premature aging, and increase the risk of skin cancer. “Both mineral and chemical sunscreens offer protection, but they work in different ways to shield the skin from UV rays,” explains Dr Meera Adhikari, Cosmetologist and Trichologist.

A woman applying sunscreen
Mineral sunscreen vs chemical sunscreen work in different ways. to protect your skin from harmful rays. Image courtesy: Freepik

What are mineral sunscreens?

Mineral sunscreens, also known as physical sunscreens, create a thin physical barrier on the skin’s surface that reflects UV rays away from the skin. “They contain active mineral ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide,” says Dr Adhikari. According to The American Academy of Dermatology, using a mineral sunscreen is better if your skin is prone to acne.

Also Read: Best gel sunscreens for oily skin: 6 top picks for UV protection

What are chemical sunscreens?

Chemical sunscreens are formulated with organic compounds that absorb UV rays before they can penetrate the skin. “These compounds, such as oxybenzone or avobenzone, work by converting UV radiation into heat, which is then released from the skin,” says Dr Adhikari. The American Academy of Dermatology equates the work of chemical sunscreens to that of a sponge that absorbs the rays of the sun.

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Mineral sunscreen vs chemical sunscreen: How are the two different?

Mineral Sunscreen

  • Creates a physical barrier on the skin.
  • Offers instant protection.
  • Can leave a slight white cast on the skin initially.
  • Proven to reduce the risk of melanoma by up to 50% with daily use.

Chemical Sunscreen:

  • Absorbs into the skin and converts UV rays into heat.
  • Requires about 20 minutes to become fully effective.
  • Typically invisible once absorbed.
  • Also proven to reduce the risk of melanoma by up to 50 percent with daily use.

Also Read: Best sunscreen for combination skin: 6 top picks for you!

What are the pros and cons of mineral sunscreen?

The pros of mineral sunscreen include that it is safer for the skin and the environment, particularly suitable for reactive skin, and easier to formulate with. “However, they may leave a white cast on the skin, and some formulations have been shown to cause coral bleaching,” says Dr Adhikari.

What are the pros and cons of chemical sunscreen?

Chemical sunscreens are water- and sweat-resistant, have a lighter formula, and are quick and easy to apply. “However, they can irritate the skin, leave a white cast, and may worsen conditions like melasma and rosacea,” says Dr Adhikari.

A woman applying serum on acne prone skin
For acne prone skin, mineral sunscreen is better. Image courtesy: Freepik

Mineral sunscreen vs chemical sunscreen: Which one is safer and why?

Mineral sunscreens are often considered safer for both the skin and the environment, explains Dr Adhikari. “They provide broad-spectrum protection without the use of potentially harmful chemical ingredients, making them a preferred choice for many people,” she says.

Overall, mineral sunscreens are generally considered better than chemical sunscreens due to their safety profile and effectiveness in providing broad-spectrum protection. However, the choice between the two ultimately depends on individual preferences and skin sensitivities.