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Difference Between Mineral and Chemical Sunscreen

Difference Between Mineral and Chemical Sunscreen

10 Aug 2023

A broad-spectrum sunscreen is an essential part of any morning skincare routine in order to shield the skin from damaging UVA and UVB rays throughout the day. Yet with so many sun-protection options to choose from, it may be hard to decide which one is best for you. To better understand the various types of sunscreens, ingredients, and formulations, taking a closer look at mineral vs. chemical sunscreen options is an ideal place to start. The main difference between physical and chemical sunscreens comes down to the active UV-filtering ingredients. In fact, these two types of sunscreens work in different ways to protect the skin from the sun.

The main difference between physical and chemical sunscreens comes down to the active UV-filtering ingredients.


Mineral (or physical) sunscreens are formulated with inorganic UV filters such as zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. The difference between physical and chemical sunscreen is that mineral-based active ingredients sit on the surface of the skin and reflect the sun’s rays.



  • More moisturizing formulas can feel heavy on the skin
  • May be more difficult to blend into the skin, however newer matte and tinted formulations help minimize a white cast and can leave the skin with a smooth, even appearance


Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50

Old price New price $42.00

Physical Fusion UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 50: This lightweight tinted fluid provides 100%-mineral protection for all skin types and features artemia salina. Its iron oxide color spheres instantly boost skin radiance and provide a universal tint that enhances most skin tones.

Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50

Old price New price $42.00

Sheer Physical UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 50: Offering ultra-sheer mineral-based protection and a weightless matte finish for all skin types (including sensitive), this artemia salina-infused formulation spreads easily and dries quickly without leaving any residue behind.


The active ingredients in chemical sunscreens are organic UV-blockers. A few ingredient names include avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, and octocrylene. When comparing mineral vs. chemical sunscreen, chemical-based formulas are absorbed into the skin where they absorb UV rays and convert them into heat that is released from the body.


  • Ideal for water-resistant formulations used for swimming and outdoor activities
  • Generally is absorbed quickly into the skin
  • Does not leave skin with a white cast


  • May not be well-tolerated by sensitive skin


Daily Brightening UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 30: This dual-action sunscreen offers broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays as well as proven improvement in visible discoloration with 1% tranexamic acid, 2% niacinamide, and 0.3% phenylethyl resorcinol. The hydrating formula provides immediate and all-day hydration as it instantly enhances skin radiance.


Whether you choose mineral vs. chemical sunscreen, it’s imperative to apply sun protection correctly. This means applying a generous, even layer to the face, neck, and chest 15 minutes before sun exposure and applying makeup. It’s also important to reapply sunscreen after swimming, sweating, immediately after towel drying, and at least every two hours. It’s a fact that most people do not apply enough sunscreen to obtain the level of protection stated on the bottle. As a general rule, a nickel-sized dollop should be used for the face alone, while the equivalent of a shot glass (three tablespoons) of sunscreen is necessary to protect exposed areas of the face and body.1

Whether you opt for mineral vs. chemical sunscreen, daily use is non-negotiable for optimizing the health and appearance of the skin—and either of these two types of sunscreens should be the final step of your morning skincare regimen. For comprehensive protection against environmental aging, pair your sunscreen of choice with a topical vitamin C antioxidant. When used together daily, sunscreen and a vitamin C serum help protect the skin from UV rays and environmental free radicals that can contribute to premature visible signs of aging.

Everyone’s skin is different, and SkinCeuticals is here to help you understand the difference between physical and chemical sunscreen. To find the ideal sun protection for your skin and lifestyle, use our online Advanced Regimen Finder, visit one of our SkinCeuticals SkinLab locations, or schedule an appointment with a SkinCeuticals Skincare Professional for a one-on-one consultation.


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