Chemical V Physical Sunscreen: Which One You Should Invest In

We break down their differences to find out which one is best.
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Wearing sunscreen is unarguably the most important part of your skincare routine because it protects you from the sun’s harmful rays.

WATCH: Sunscreen tips to keep you protected every day.

Sunscreen is the only product on the market proven to prevent ageing, fine lines, and hyperpigmentation.

That’s not to say textured skin is bad but the sun’s powerful nature is damaging your skin’s surface, which can cause premature issues.

There are two types of sunscreens on the market; physical and chemical sunscreen.

Both are great ways to protect your skin, but some key differences may influence your decision.

So, to help you make an empowered consumer choice, we have broken down what they each entail.

What is physical sunscreen?

Physical sunscreen is like what lifeguards wear, but thanks to modern technology, most formulas apply clear. 

According to Adore Beauty, it acts as a physical barrier that blocks the sun from penetrating the skin.

It sits on top of your skin, and it’s naturally a broad-spectrum product that protects against UVA and UVB rays.

It features ingredients like zinc oxide (its modern iteration, not the thick nasty stuff you grew up with) and titanium dioxide.

Because it sits on top of the skin, it doesn’t require any time between application and sun exposure.

It’s recommended for people with sensitive skin (which is why it’s used on children).

However, for people with acne-prone and oily skin, it may not be the best option because it’s so thick.

What is chemical sunscreen?

A chemical sunscreen sinks into the skin, and it absorbs heat so the sun rays can’t enter the skin’s surface.  

Basically, it works like a sponge that takes up the UVA and UVB.

It’s a much lighter formula that needs 15 minutes to embed itself within the skin before sun exposure.

When looking for a chemical sunscreen, read the ingredient list and look out for the chemical oxybenzone. 

Because in January 2019, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found it can bleach coral reefs.

However, there are plenty of products on the market that no longer include this chemical, and it’s also the hallmark of a good company to buy from.  

Do yourself a favour and take suncare seriously. (Credit: Getty)

So, which one is better to use?


It’s up to you, your skin type, and the texture you prefer on your face.


According to Dr Reena Jogi for Bustle, the skin expert claims people with sensitive skin or rosacea shouldn’t opt for chemical sunscreens.


However, if you like to exercise, chemical sunscreen is best as it’s more sweat and water-resistant.


Here are some great physical and chemical sunscreens on the market. 

(Credit: Sephora)

Shop Ultra Violette Extreme Screen Hydrating Body and Hand Skinscreen SPF 50+, $35.00 from Sephora here. 

(Credit: Revolve)

Shop Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40, $50.32 from Revolve here. 

(Credit: Sephora)

Shop Ultra Violette Lean Screen SPF 50+, $49.99 from Sephora here. 

(Credit: Sephora)

Shop Ultra Violette Queen Screen Luminising Sun Serum SPF 50+, $47.00 from Sphora here. 

(Credit: Adore Beauty)

Shop La Roche-Posay Anthelios Invisible Fluid Sunscreen SPF 50+, $32.95 from Adore Beauty here. 

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