What’s the difference between mineral and chemical sunscreen?
With both mineral and chemical sunscreens on this list, you may be asking yourself what the difference is between the two. Let’s look into it! “Mineral SPF products sit on top of your skin and UV rays bounce off rather than chemical SPF products, where the UV radiation is absorbed into the chemical block that is sitting on the skin,” says Purvisha Patel, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist. “The UV rays dissipate once dissolved into the cream.”
How can you tell them apart? Look to the ingredients list. “Mineral sunscreen consists of inorganic compounds like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide,” says Dr. Libby. “Chemical sunscreen consists of organic compounds like avobenzone, oxybenzone, or octinoxate.” According to Gloria Lu, the other half of Chemist Confessions, you may also be able to tell them apart by how they appear on your skin. “Mineral filters are also powders, which can pose many formulation challenges such as leaving a white cast, drying skin feel, and heavy/tacky skin finish,” Lu explains. “Chemical filters are typically liquid, oil-based substances, which can provide more elegant textures. However, this category has been facing a lot of scrutiny and fear-mongering regarding safety and environmental impact. These concerns are usually taken out of context and not substantiated.”
So, they both protect the skin from UV rays, just in different ways…how can you tell which is the best type for you? “If you have oily or acne-prone skin, mineral sunscreen is a better option for you as they tend to be easier on the skin than chemical SPF products,” Dr. Patel adds. This may seem like it would only apply to sunscreen you’re applying to your face, but because many of us touch our faces more than we realize, it’s helpful to avoid pore-clogging ingredients that could rub off onto your face.