What is the difference between Physical and Chemical Sunscreens?
What's Difference Between Physical and Chemical Sunscreens

What is the difference between physical and chemical sunscreens?

image of sunshine on a womens skin

It goes without saying that every day, all year round, we need safe, effective sun protection, but many people are still unsure of whether to choose a physical or chemical sunscreen. If you’re still wondering what the difference is, here’s an easy breakdown.

Physical sun protection Chemical sun protection
How it works

Inorganic sunscreen ingredients act as a shield that reflects and scatters UV rays off the surface of the skin.

Organic sun filters absorb UV radiation, and deactivates it by changing it into heat, then releases the heat from the skin.


Examples include:

  • Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide Minerals

Examples Include:

  • Octocrylene – Organic UVB absorber
  • Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane – Organic UVA absorber
  • Safer to use because physical sunscreen ingredients are not absorbed into the skin.
  • More gentle on the skin, and pose less risk of sensitivity or irritation.
  • Provides broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Provides immediate protection on application.
  • Tends to be easier to apply.
  • Due to a more a thin, translucent format, chemical sunscreens do not leave a white ashy appearance.
  • Provides broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Mineral Sunscreens have a negative reputation for leaving a white, ashy appearance once applied, especially against darker skin tones.
  • Approximately 20-minute waiting period after application for activation of protection.
  • Increased chance of irritation.
  • Potentially harmful chemical ingredients can be absorbed and increase the risk of free radical damage.
  • Chemical ingredients degrade when exposed to UV.

Dr. Des qoute on sun reflection health vs chemical absorption

To effectively protect your skin against damaging ultraviolet light, you should look for 3 essential elements in sunscreen:

  1. Broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection.
  2. Low SPF – less chemicals.
  3. Added antioxidants - UV irradiation activates free radicals in the skin, so it is sensible to choose a sunscreen with added antioxidants. These are powerful free radical scavengers which help to minimise the damaging effects of UV rays that penetrate sunscreens and filters.

Watch to find out more about Environ’s revolutionary new sun care innovation: New RAD SHIELD® Mineral Sunscreen

You can’t hide from the sun, but you can reduce its effects.

You only have one skin. Look after it.

Find out more about Environ’s Even More Sun Care+ Range.




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