Physical vs Chemical Sunscreens: Do you know the difference?

We all know the sun’s damaging rays are reason enough to wear sunscreen every day to protect ourselves from wrinkles, sagging skin, pigmentation, burning and the worst of all, skin cancer. But did you know there are two types of sunscreens, which work very differently?

Chemical sunscreens, most of the ones you’ll find at supermarkets, contain ingredients such as avobenzone, oxybenzone and octinoxate to create a chemical reaction on your skin, absorbing UV rays and converting them into heat. Physical sunscreens sit on top of the skin and use minerals such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to physically block and reflect the sun’s rays. Not sure which one is best for you? We’ve delved into the differences below…

Physical Sunscreen

  • Usually use zinc oxide as their active ingredient (a healing mineral that’s been around for thousands of years to treat burns, rashes and infections), which works to physically deflect the sun’s rays like a shield.
  • Protects against both UVA and UVB rays – so not just burning, but also those pesky sunspots, wrinkles, lines and leathery-looking skin.
  • Can sometimes be a thick, white consistency (think “zinc” in the 80’s!), however modern versions are more easily absorbable and will dry to a sheer finish.
  • Great for sensitive skins and for children, since they deflect heat and won’t cause irritation. Zinc oxide is an effective acne treatment to combat inflammation, so it’s less likely to affect those with problem skin.
  • Non-toxic to coral reefs – some places such as Hawaii have banned the sale of sunscreen containing two of the most common UV chemicals due to their toxicity.

Chemical Sunscreen

  • Works by using ingredients such as oxybenzone, octinoxate and avobenzone to create a chemical reaction in the skin and absorb rays, converting them into heat.
  • The most common type of sunscreen in stores, most SPF ranges in supermarkets and department stores use chemical sunscreen.
  • Usually a thin consistency, so easier to spread over the skin, however, require at least 20 minutes after application to start protecting, and frequent re-application.
  • Not all chemical sunscreens prevent UVA rays, meaning your skin could still be damaged in ways other than burning.
  • Studies have shown some of these chemicals could be toxic, as they have been damaging coral reefs and are suspected endocrine disrupters (interfering with hormones).


All of Suntegrity’s face and body SPF 30 sunscreens use only the best-known physical block ingredient, non-nano size zinc oxide, to provide broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection. In addition, super antioxidants, natural plant oils and botanical extracts enhance that protection and help with skin repair and hydration.

Non-toxic preservatives maintain integrity without sacrificing your skin to potentially harmful chemicals, so you can easily incorporate Suntegrity products into your daily routine, knowing the ingredients are safe and will benefit your skin!

O Cosmedics

Mineral Pro SPF 30+ is a daily moisturiser and mineral sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum UVA & UVB protection. This lightweight and fast-absorbing formula dries to a clear or tinted finish. It also contains antioxidants, resveratrol, a skin conditioning peptide, and a delicious vanilla fragrance.

The broad-spectrum SPF 30+ protection may assist to prevent solar keratoses and sunspots, and reduce the risk of some skin cancers. When used daily as directed, this SPF 30+ moisturiser can aid in the prevention of sun-induced, premature skin ageing thus preserving your skin’s youthfulness and radiance… and it smells yummy too!

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