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Chemical Vs Physical Sunscreen – Which One Should You Use

Sunscreen has a vital role to play in your skincare routine. Sunscreen helps protect you from the sun's UV rays, which can cause potential damage to your skin. These damages are a great cause of premature aging, fine lines, wrinkles and even worse skin cancer.

Studies suggest that the constant use of broad-spectrum sunscreen with UVA and UVB coverage can reduce the risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer. Not just nonmelanoma, it can also reduce the risk of melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer.

Before buying sunscreen, a few decisions need to be made. Which sunscreen to consider, physical or chemical and does it even matter? Well, it does and we'll discuss that in this blog.

Firstly, let us understand what makes physical and chemical sunscreen different from each other. Physical sunscreen skin stays on the skin's surface and protects it whereas chemical sunscreens get absorbed.

Both the sunscreen have their share of pros and cons and we'll cover all that in this blog.

Physical Sunscreen:

Physical or mineral sunscreen creates a physical barrier on the screen that protects the skin from harmful sun rays. Treens reflect the UV radiation away from your skin. Thus, greatly help avoid skin damage like hyperpigmentation, etc. The formulation of physical sunscreens contains zinc oxide (ZnO2) and titanium oxide (TiO2), both given a green flag by FDA.

Sunscreens with zinc oxide are generally recommended for people with sensitive skin or acne. These sunscreens are gentle enough to be used on children.

Apart from all the pros, physical sunscreen does have its own set of cons as well. They are difficult to spread and leave a white cast on the skin which is pretty noticeable. Anyone with a darker complexion will tend to have a greater problem dealing with this white cast.

A great way to avoid this white cast is by opting for sunscreens with tinted zinc oxide formulation. These are present in both types suitable for the face and body.

For The Face:

A quality that makes them suitable for the face is that they offer a lightweight feel and their latest formulation provides an invisible finish. They also spread well and give a soft texture. Milk, oil and shea butter can be some natural ingredients present in them.

For the body:

Being able to resist water and sweat, being lightweight and hydrating is what makes them suitable for the body as well.

Chemical Sunscreen:

As we discussed earlier, chemical sunscreen does not settle on the skin's surface and forms a protective shield. This kind of sunscreen contains ingredients that soak up the UV rays before your skin does that. They generally include:

  • octisalate

  • avobenzone

  • homosalate

  • octocrylene

  • octinoxate

  • oxybenzone

They mostly do not leave behind any visible white cast on the skin, so they can be worn on any skin complexion. Chemical sunscreens do not feel sticky or greasy at all as they are meant to get absorbed into the skin.

Are They Safe?

The ingredients that get absorbed well in a chemical may pose concerns to one's health. Hence, taking action FDA updated sunscreen requirements. The agency hasn't found any evidence yet but they have banned two ingredients from sunscreen: trolamine salicylate and aminobenzoic acid.

A recent study found that 6 out of 12 active ingredients present in a sunscreen directly enter the bloodstream after the very first application. Not just that but traces of these ingredients can be found up to 3 weeks later. Also, the concentrations pass the threshold that FDA has set.

Some people believe that the presence of oxybenzone and octinoxate chemicals in sunscreen may interfere with endocrine function, but research has found nothing to back this.

Another con of chemical sunscreens is that people with sensitive skin may face reactions like redness and inflammation or even melasma.

Which One To Choose?

So, in this showdown, there is no clear winner. The choice of sunscreen depends on your skin type, your complexion and the one you are comfortable wearing. And what remains the most important here is wearing them regularly. So, if you have sensitive skin, go for a physical sunscreen else you may opt for a chemical one.

Effect On The Environment:

If eco-friendliness is your concern, then you must opt for physical sunscreen. This is because chemical sunscreens have been related to dying coral reefs. The ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene are considered to be the main reasons.

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