Mineral Vs. Chemical Sunscreen: Here's What To Know Before Picking The Right One For You

Sunscreen should be a constant in your skincare routine regardless of the season. Even in winter, sunscreen should be included in your skincare daily. APDerm explains that even though you may not see a powerful sun, the rays emitted are still strong enough to cause sunburns or put you at risk of skin cancers. If you are in an area with snow and ice, the UV rays reflect off these and straight into your skin. With that in mind, it's best to know which type of sunscreen is the best for you.

As the skincare industry has grown, so have the options for sun protection products. Nowadays, you can find different forms of sunscreen on the shelves, with many promoting that they are mineral sunscreens. Although the word mineral has a natural and safe connotation, it's still important to analyze if it's right for you. When choosing such an important product, as sunscreen, it's only correct to know that it will protect you. The same is true for chemical sunscreens. Regardless of your preference, you should know what you are putting on your skin and if it is safe for your body.

What is a mineral sunscreen and how does it work

Although you can find that most sunscreens will be a mixture of chemical and mineral sunscreens, there are a few pros to mineral sunscreens that may sway you. Sometimes referred to as physical sunscreens, mineral sunscreens are starting to gain legitimacy as a popular option. On this, dermatologist Dr. Hadley King tells NBC News that mineral sunscreens sit on the skin like a protective shield against UV and UVB rays. Because these sunscreens are mineral-based, they naturally protect against both types of rays.

According to Skin City, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are used most in mineral sunscreens, with the former protecting against most UVB and UVA rays and the latter protecting you from the entire spectrum of sun rays. If you ask us, this means you really can't go wrong with a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide. Plus, you can always check the ingredients section on the sunscreen to see how much concentration of the mineral(s) is included.

Although mineral sunscreens seem as if they are the perfect well-rounded solution, there are a few things to note. Since they only sit on top of the skin, they should be reapplied constantly throughout the day. Skin City adds that they are a thicker formula than chemical sunscreens, meaning if they have a white cast, it will most likely show on darker skin. If you want to avoid this white cast, opt for a tinted mineral sunscreen that will balance out the white cast. 

What is chemical sunscreen and how does it work

Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, are more known to the general public as they are the typical sunscreens we grew up using. Khiel's reports that a recent study found that 96% of the sunscreens on the market use chemical ingredients versus mineral ingredients. Because they have a long tradition, they are often our first choice when picking out a sunscreen. What's more, much of the incline towards chemical sunscreens is because they take a shorter amount of time to absorb into the skin — as little as 15 minutes — and they don't require as much reapplication as mineral sunscreens. However, recent discoveries have cast doubts on whether it is safe to use chemical sunscreens.

A recent study by the Environmental Working Group shows that a common ingredient found in chemical sunscreens, oxybenzone, is currently under further investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This investigation is due to concerns that it may increase the risk of breast cancer and endometriosis. Chemical sunscreens contain these chemicals as they absorb the UV rays emitted by the sun and release them as heat from the skin. According to Mustela, the chemicals that cause this process have been found to also absorb into the bloodstream and subsequently enter other bodily fluids. Ultimately, although both types of sunscreens work to protect against UV rays, they depend entirely on how you apply them and which cons are more important to you.