Is Mineral Sunscreen Really Safer Than Its Chemical Counterpart? A Dermatologist Weighs In

Sunscreen is an essential element of skincare that should never be skipped. However, choosing the best sunscreen for your skin can feel like an overwhelming project. One factor that comes up frequently in sunscreen advertising is mineral versus chemical sunscreens. Skincare companies often say that mineral sunscreen is safer than its chemical counterpart, but is there any truth behind the claim? To find out more, we had an exclusive chat with Dr. Alberto de la Fuente Garcia, a board-certified dermatologist at VIDA Wellness and Beauty who has over 15 years of experience in the field.

According to Dr. de la Fuente Garcia, mineral and chemical sunscreens have one key difference: Mineral sunscreens contain ingredients that reflect the sun's UV light away from your skin, whereas chemical sunscreens have substances that absorb the UV rays instead. Per Dr. de la Fuente Garcia's expert opinion, both sunscreens are effective at keeping your skin safe from the sun. How you decide between the two sunscreen types depends on your personal skincare needs.

Is mineral sunscreen safer than chemical sunscreen?

Mineral and chemical sunscreens will both protect you from harmful UV rays, but they still have different properties that you should take into consideration. Dr. Alberto de la Fuente Garcia tells Glam exclusively that "[mineral sunscreens] are usually considered to be more natural and therefore more healthy for you." In contrast, the ingredients in chemical sunscreen can be irritating for people with sensitive skin. It's also worth acknowledging for any eco-conscious Glam readers that chemical sunscreen generally isn't reef safe, since the chemicals can wash off in the water and harm wildlife (via the National Park Service).

All that said, chemical sunscreen does have some benefits that might make you prefer it over mineral varieties. Dr. de la Fuente Garcia noted that chemical sunscreens tend to feel more lightweight — this can be a big perk for folks who struggle with the feeling of sunscreen on their face. Furthermore, Dr. de la Fuente Garcia says that chemical sunscreen will "last longer with one application" in comparison to mineral sunscreen, which is certainly appealing when you're looking for a reliable SPF product.

Ultimately, opt for mineral sunscreen if you want SPF that's gentle on your skin and eco-friendly, but consider chemical sunscreen if you want more choices that are lightweight and long-lasting. At the end of the day, both will protect you from the sun. 

Application matters

"No matter which type of sunscreen you use, it's important to apply the product properly in order to get the best results," Dr. Alberto de la Fuente shares exclusively with Glam. What's more, Dr. de la Fuente advises that you "apply liberally and evenly" and reapply every two hours or when your face gets wet, including if your skin gets sweaty. He also recommends using sunscreen alongside another sun protection strategy, such as wearing clothing or staying in the shade. So next time you're planning a fabulous swimsuit ensemble, be sure to incorporate a big statement hat and a stylish cover-up.

Ultimately, the best sunscreen is the one that you'll actually wear consistently, whether it's a mineral or chemical formula. If sunscreen gives you a skin reaction, Dr. de la Fuente advises you to stop using it and consult a dermatologist. Otherwise, just be sure to slather on the SPF every day (and every two hours) and keep your skin safe while you enjoy those gorgeous sunny days.