Sunscreen can be confusing. We get it. There are so many different formulas, acronyms, and filters to understand. A big question we get asked all the time is about chemical vs physical sunscreen. To make matters more confusing, the right term for "physical" is actually "mineral". If this has got you scratching your head too, keep reading to find out what the differences are and which one is right for you.
What is a UV filter?
So, to start, let's get into what a UV filter is. Just like a queen to her crown, UV filters are what makes our SKINSCREEN™, SPFs. They're the active ingredients responsible for doing all the hard work; protecting our skin from those harmful sun rays. Fun! There are a lot of different ingredients that can do this, like zinc oxide or Tinosorbs. All these UV filters have different benefits and can be suited to certain skin types or conditions too. This is reflected in how we describe the SKINSCREENS™; eg, Lean Screen contains zinc as a UV filter, which doubles as being a fab anti-inflammatory ingredient for soothing sensitive skin.
A note on physical sunscreen
We want to point out that at UV we refer to physical sunscreen as mineral sunscreen. This is because physical is pretty misleading thanks to new research into how mineral UV filters actually work. Once upon a time it was believed that physical UV filters reflected 100% of UV rays and didn't absorb any, but it's since been discovered that actually only 5% of UV rays are reflected. More on this down below!
Physical vs Chemical Sunscreen
Then what does physical (also called mineral) and chemical actually mean then?
Well! UV filters are generally split into two different categories; mineral or chemical, depending on how they work.
What is chemical sunscreen?
These filters are known for being lightweight, gliding onto the skin effortlessly and offering absolutely zero white cast. They work by absorbing UV light to protect it from reaching your skin. Chemical UV filters can be found in Queen Screen, Supreme Screen, Extreme Screen, Daydream Screen and Sheen Screen.
What is physical sunscreen?
Before Ultra Violette hit your #shelfies, these filters were known for being pretty thick. Some people refer to them as physical, because there's an outdated myth that mineral UV filters reflect all UV rays rather than absorbing them like chemical filters. This is only partially true. Mineral UV filters actually work by absorbing 95% of rays and only reflecting 5%. These filters can be found in both Clean Screen and Lean Screen.
Chemical vs Physical Sunscreen Ingredients
When it comes to the UV filters used in each different formula, we're talking:
- Zinc Oxide: Used in physical sunscreens like Lean Screen
- Titanium Dioxide: Used in physical sunscreen like Clean Screen
- Add Chemical filters
Why choose a chemical sunscreen?
Chemical sunscreens offer very effective sun protection against both UVA and UVB rays. They're easy to apply and due to their lightweight texture, are particularly enjoyed by those with an oily skin type.
Why choose a physical sunscreen?
Mineral sunscreens tend to be favoured by those with sensitive skin. It should be noted that reactions to sunscreens are very, very rare. However, if you are extra sensitive you will do well to choose a mineral/physical sunscreen.
What is the difference between chemical vs. physical sunscreen
Chemical vs Physical sunscreen: which is better?
SO! When it comes to chemical sunscreen vs physical sunscreen they work super similarly. Are you more confused than ever?
Basically, you're just best to choose which formula is right for you.
Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. Avoid prolonged high-risk sun exposure. Wear a hat, protective clothing and sunglasses when exposed to the sun. Re-apply frequently.
About the author
My name is Chloe and I'm the Assistant Brand Manager at Ultra Violette. I've been working in the beauty industry for the last 7 years, either on the shop floor helping the fellow skincare-obsessed build routines, or behind the scenes working in marketing.
When I'm not doing Vi's bidding, I'm swimming at the beach, trying to convince my friends to play mermaids with me.