Mineral Sunscreen vs. Chemical Sunscreen


It’s officially summer!!!  I’m not sure about the other areas of the country, but in the DC area its been a long time coming!  Winter stuck around far too long and pretty much kidnapped spring and summer hit us with a BANG!!!  I’m so ready for street festivals, movies on the lawn, outdoor concerts and wine festivals!  With all of the outdoor activities that go hand in hand with summer, its important to include a good sunscreen in your daily routine.

Even though it should be worn year round, sunscreen becomes a staple in most people’s beauty routine during the summer months.  One of the biggest questions people have when it comes to using sunscreen is which is better: chemical sunscreen or physical sunscreen (also known as mineral sunscreen)?

Mineral Sunscreen –  Contains active mineral ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.  These minerals work by actually sitting on top of the skin which allows it to push UV rays away from the skin. Mineral sun screen is frequently referred to as “Physical Suncreen”  or “Physical Blockers”

Pros of Mineral Sunscreen

  •  Mineral sunscreen works as soon as it is applied, no need to wait
  • Lasts longer when in direct contact with UV rays
  • Longer shelf life
  • Protects against both UV and UVB rays
  • Perfect for sensitive skin, because it rarely clogs pores
  • Ideal for persons that suffer from rosacea and redness since it pushes away heat from the skin
  • Won’t cause stinging if it drips into the eyes from sweat

Cons of Mineral Sunscreen

  • Requires frequent application due to it rubbing off easily
  • Not ideal for daily use under makeup due to it potentially being opaque
  • Tends to be thicker, making it hard to rub in
  • Can be less effective if not applied properly since UV rays can sneak between the sunscreen and hit the skin

Chemical Suncreen –  Contains organic compounds like octisalate, octinoxate and avobenzone.  These compounds create a chemical reaction and convert UV rays into heat, the skin then releases the heat.  Chemical sunscreen is often referred to as “Chemical Absorbers” or “Organic Absorbers”

Pros of Chemical Sunscreen

  • Spreads easily on the skin due to it being thinner than physical sunscreen
  • No risk of spaces between sunscreen, so less is needed
  • Less expensive and can be found in discount stores like Dollar Tree
  • Formula is easier to add additional treatment ingredients, such as peptides and enzymes, which offer other skin benefits

Cons of Chemical Suncreen

  • Leaves an ashy film on darker skin tones
  • Can cause stinging if drips into the eyes from sweating
  • Can clog pores for those with oily skin
  • Requires a 30 minute wait after application in order to be effective
  • Can cause brown spots and discoloration due to heat
  • Risk of irritation for those that may have dry skin


If you’re confused about which type of sunscreen to use, then I recommend looking for a sunscreen that uses both chemical and mineral compounds for a happy medium, Dermstore has an excellent selection of chemical and physical sunscreens.

Which SPF is Best?

I’ve always been taught to use a mimimum of SPF 30 for sunscreen and a maximum of SPF 50.  According to WebMD any products over SPF 50 is “just silly”.  Sunscreens with higher SPF rating block a bit more UVB rays  but NONE offer 100% protection.   The FDA is actually trying to ban products over SPF 50 since there is no scientific proof that they offer stronger/longer protection than lower numbers.

What do I use?

For mineral sunscreen I like to use Mustela SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen, even though its for babies.  I just like how lightweight it is and the mild scent

Nordstrom $22


 If I’m using a chemical sunscreen, I like to use Anthelios 45 Body by La Roche-Posay.  Its excellent for sensitive skin, since I’m prone to body acne during the summer its definitely a staple for me

Amazon $37

One extra product I like to use with my sunscreens is a vitamin C serum to prevent visible aging and increase the effectiveness of my sunscreen.  I love to use the Serious-C Serious Beyond serum by Serious Skin Care

$70 Home Shopping Network


I hope I’ve provided a bit of insight on mineral and chemical sunscreens.  It will take a bit of trial and error to determine which product is best for you.  Remember, when it comes to skin care you get what you pay for.  Don’t be afraid to empty your piggy bank to find the right product that works for you.

Until next time…

3 thoughts on “Mineral Sunscreen vs. Chemical Sunscreen

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