The concept of wearing sunscreen year-round to protect the health and appearance of your skin is nothing new (especially here in South Florida). Sunscreen provides anti-aging benefits and protects your skin from sun damage that can lead to not only fine lines and wrinkles but also skin cancer

But you’ve also probably heard the alternative argument that sunscreen is just as bad, if not worse, as exposing yourself to the sunshine’s rays because of the breakdown of chemicals used to create these products.

So what do you do?

There’s actually two different types of sunscreens – chemical versus physical sunscreen. And sometimes you really shouldn’t use one or the other, and other times you’ll probably want to.

When choosing between chemical and physical sunscreen, it’s important to learn what each of them do.

Here are the differences between chemical versus physical sunscreen and which one may be best suited for you:

Chemical Sunscreen

Chemical sunscreen penetrates into the skin and absorbs UV rays. The main active compounds in chemical sunscreens are avobenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and oxybenzone. These ingredients create a chemical reaction that converts the UV rays into heat that is then released out of the skin. 

This may sound scary because of the fact that the sunscreen absorbs into the skin, leading to the potential of more systemic absorption. There is not enough available literature to come to either conclusion though. Chemical Versus Physical Sunscreen Main Differences

One of the primary concerns with one of chemical sunscreen’s main ingredients, oxybenzone, is that it can cause hormonal and endocrine disruption.

The results of tests conducted though are inconclusive in their attribution to sunscreen.

One common observable result of chemical sunscreen though is allergic skin reactions. 

Physical Sunscreen

Physical sunscreens contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide mineral ingredients which barely (if at all) absorb into the skin like chemical sunscreens do. Rather, physical sunscreen sits on top of the skin and deflects UV rays. 

Just because physical sunscreens do not penetrate the skin does not mean that they do not contain any “harsh” chemical ingredients though, as these may be necessary to reduce exposure to UV rays.

Chemical Versus Physical Sunscreen: Which One is Best for You?

At Balance Spa, we value the health of our clients and their skin therefore valuing the importance of avoiding sun damage. While you should take other preventative measures as well, one important step to preventing sun damage is by using sunscreen, but it’s integral to make sure you are using a quality product. We carry a variety of types of SPF protection products and strive to only carry the best of the best in our shop.

So how do you choose? 

Regardless of if you use chemical sunscreen or physical sunscreen, both are great, but for different reasons. 

That being said, chemical sunscreen is better for use while swimming as it has a water-resistant formulation. It’s also better for people who play sports and sweat a lot. Physical sunscreen is not as effective in these instances because it can easily come off. Although, chemical sunscreen can create discoloration and irritate the skin.

Physical sunscreen tends to be less irritating, and is beneficial for people who have more sensitive or heat-activated skin. It’s more moisturizing than chemical sunscreen (without clogging pores) and is effective right away after application. Sometimes, physical sunscreen is difficult to fully blend into the skin though, leaving a white residue. However, brands are introducing matte and tinted varieties.

Ultimately, you can’t go wrong utilizing both, depending on the activities you’re doing that day.

How Frequently to Reapply Sunscreen Chemical Versus Physical Sunscreen Application

Whether you use chemical or physical sunscreen, you need to know when to apply and reapply it. We recommend applying sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going outside but make sure to wait at least 10 minutes before getting dressed to prevent your clothing from rubbing any sunscreen off.

Experts suggest reapplying at least every two hours, or after you’re exposed to water or sweating. Even if your sunscreen is labeled as water-resistant, you should still actively reapply it. To avoid forgetting, set a timer on your smartphone.

Additionally, you should ask for help if you can’t reach certain places on your body to ensure even coverage. When getting started with sunscreen application, we recommend following the teaspoon rule of one teaspoon per each part of your body (i.e. 1 teaspoon for your face, neck and ears, 1 teaspoon for each of your legs, etc.).

How to Treat Sunburn Sunburn from Improper Use of Chemical Versus Physical Sunscreens

Sometimes you may forget to reapply though. Sunburns happen to everyone and if you find yourself with one, there are ways to treat it quickly and effectively

Something you might not think about when treating a sunburn is hydration. Sunburns cause dehydration, so be sure to drink plenty of fluids. 

To reduce inflammation and minimize the burn, you should also apply cool towels onto the sunburned areas. First, simply place a couple of moist towels into the freezer for 15 minutes and then apply to sunburned skin for a soothing experience. 

Aloe is also great for treating sunburns. Look for natural aloe though, not aloe containing additional ingredients as those could irritate the sunburn even more.  

There’s a difference between having a common treatable sunburn and having a more serious condition that requires medical attention though. If you experience dizziness, nausea, fevers, or other worrying symptoms, it’s integral that you see a doctor.

Chemical Versus Physical Sunscreen: What to Use

While sunburns happen, it’s best to avoid them as much as possible. If you’re dipping your toes into the chemical versus physical sunscreen debate for the first time, and are not sure what products to use for your skin type, contact us today for a free skin consultation.