There are two types of sunscreen: physical and chemical.
Both work to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Both types of sunscreen have pros and cons, so choosing the right one for you is essential.
Chemical sunscreen works by absorbing the sun’s UV rays before they can damage your skin.
It contains active ingredients that interact with the skin to create a chemical reaction that absorbs UV rays.
Chemical sunscreen typically needs to be applied 20 minutes before sun exposure in order to work correctly. And it’s important to reapply it every two hours, or more often if you’re sweating or swimming.
Chemical sunscreen can irritate the skin, especially for people with sensitive skin. It can also cause allergic reactions in some people.
Chemical ingredients usually include:
These compounds are not believed to be dangerous, but because the skin absorbs them, more research is being done to determine their long-term safety.
Physical sunscreen, also known as mineral sunscreen, works by reflecting and scattering the sun’s rays away from your skin.
Physical sunscreens are typically made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, both of which are recognized by the FDA as safe and effective.
These types of sunscreens tend to be less popular because they can be thicker and more challenging to apply evenly. They can leave visible white residue on the skin. They are also less water-resistant, so they may need to be reapplied more often if you are swimming.
But they do appear to provide better and broader protection against the sun’s harmful rays, and they are less likely to cause skin irritation.
They are also a good choice for people who have sensitive skin or are allergic to chemical sunscreen ingredients.
Which Sunscreen Should You Use?
The best sunscreen is the one you will use consistently and as directed.
Physical sunscreen may be better if you have sensitive skin or are allergic to chemical sunscreen ingredients.
But if you find it difficult to apply or don’t like how it looks on your skin, you may be less likely to use it consistently. In that case, chemical sunscreen may be a better choice.
The bottom line is that any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen. So, choose the type of sunscreen that you will use.
Wear sunscreen anytime you are outside, even on cloudy days and during the winter.
And remember, sunscreen should be just one part of your overall sun safety plan. You also need to seek shade, wear protective clothing, and avoid being in the sun during peak hours.