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How sunscreen works: physical vs. chemical

How sunscreen works: physical vs. chemical

Here are the facts you need so you can choose the best sunscreen for your skin.

17 Apr 20

Story highlights: 

  • physical sunscreen uses minerals that sit on top of skin and reflect away UV rays

  • chemical sunscreen uses ingredients that absorb and transform UV rays into heat

The difference between physical and chemical sunscreen

There are two main types of sunscreen: physical and chemical. Both have their own unique properties and benefits, and both help protect skin from UV rays. 

 Physical vs chemical sunscreen - what's the difference

The Benefits of Physical Sunscreen

Physical sunscreen, also called mineral sunscreen, sits on top of skin. Most physical sunscreens leave a white or tinted residue on skin, but newer formulas like Invisible Physical Defense SPF30 have been made ultra-sheer to help prevent a chalky effect. To identify this type of sunscreen, look for the words "mineral" or "physical," as well as active ingredients like Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide. 

Physical sunscreen:

  • helps protect against UVA and UVB rays 
  • protects as soon as it's applied - there's no need to wait before exposing skin to daylight 
  • is generally comfortable for all skin types and conditions, particularly sensitive skin 

The Benefits of Chemical Sunscreen

Chemical sunscreens use ingredients that absorb into skin and transform UV rays into heat. This type of sunscreen tends to be popular because it feels light and looks unnoticeable. 

Chemical sunscreen: 

  • helps protect against UVA and UVB rays 
  • needs time to absorb - 15-30 minutes - before exposing skin to daylight 
  • is generally comfortable for most skin types and conditions 
  • tends to be more water - and sweat-resistant 

What Sunscreen to Use

It all comes down to which formula you like wearing the most. At Dermalogica, we believe any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen to help protect your skin from UV damage. That's why we offer a broad range of SPF moisturisers and sunscreens that suit different preferences and lifestyles. To find out which formula is right for you, consult our SPF guide or chat with one of our professional skin therapists. 

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