What is a Physical / Mineral Sunscreen?
Physical sunscreens protect the skin from UV rays by forming a physical barrier on the skin (like a shield). They are often made of minerals such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (thus, are often also interchangeably called mineral sunscreens)
They are different from chemical sunscreens, which are designed to absorb UV rays, rather than deflect or block them.
Physical sunscreens typically have a thicker, more opaque texture than chemical sunscreen because they have to physically block UV rays. Mineral sunscreens usually leave a white cast on the skin, but can be blended with other products for better coverage (and some expensive versions also come in liquid form).
The Benefits of Physical Sunscreens vs Chemical Sunscreens
Physical sunscreens are made to reflect UV (ultraviolet) radiation while chemical sunscreens absorb UV radiation.
- Physical sunscreens are generally cheaper and give better protection against UVA rays.
- People who suffer from skin conditions such as eczema or rosacea are better off using physical sunscreen because it is less likely to irritate their skin than chemical sunscreen.
- People who want to avoid possible harmful chemicals can use physical sunscreen without worrying about toxic ingredients.
- Chemical sunscreens often contain a blend of ingredients, some of which are now being discovered to have some biological side effects (for example, oxybenzone, a common component of high SPF chemical sunscreens).
Downsides of Using a Typical Mineral Sunscreen
Firstly, mineral sunscreens (typically, though not always) leave a white cast, don’t blend well and feel sticky on the skin. This is because they must perform a physical blocking functional. If looks matter more than sensitivity, then mineral sunscreens may not be right for you.
Secondly, because they’re physical blockers, the effectiveness is limited and dependent on how well you’re covered. If you wash it away (on the beach, for example) or apply it too sparingly, it may not do its job as well as an equivalent amount of chemical sunscreen.
Thirdly, if you’re acne prone, the ‘sticky’ factor may irritate you (though they should be no worse in terms of aggravating the acne).
Why We Believe Physical Sunscreens are Better than Chemical Sunscreens
The main reason for this is because physical sunscreens contain natural minerals that sit on the skin and protect it from the sun’s harmful UV rays. No harsh chemicals to worry about, no environmental issues, and no problems with sensitivity.
We’re MerryDerma, and we focus on function over form – so it’s clear what we recommend: physical / mineral sunscreens! And if you must go for chemical sunscreens, and don’t need super-high SPFs, get one without oxybenzone.