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Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreen: What You Need To Know To Protect Your Family

Posted on February 03 2020

Kids applying mineral sunscreen on dad

Not all sunscreen is created equal. If you’ve heard talk about mineral sunscreen but aren’t quite sure what to make of it, we’d like to help you understand the difference between it and chemical sunscreen.

That way, you’ll be in-the-know and ready to make informed decisions to protect your family from the damaging rays of the sun. Let’s start with why choosing a good sunscreen matters in the first place.

Why The Right Sunscreen Matters

You might be sitting there asking yourself, “What’s the big deal anyway? Isn’t sunscreen all the same?” It’s not!

While an important first step is simply wearing sunscreen, choosing the right sunscreen is crucial. The sunscreen you lather on your skin can end up in two places: your bloodstream and the ocean water.

Let us explain.

Sunscreen And Your Body

mom and her kids at the beach

You might think that your skin is an impenetrable barrier. Nothing gets past your skin! Right? Wrong.

While our skin does a pretty good job of protecting our bodies, it doesn’t keep everything out. What you put on your skin (in this case, sunscreen) can end up in your bloodstream.

Certain chemicals and nano-sized particles (in regular English: super-tiny particles) can seep through your skin and into your bloodstream. That means they find their way to every corner of your body, potentially causing problems.

Regardless of whether a substance makes it into your bloodstream, the other reason that sunscreen matters for your body is that some sunscreens can be irritating, especially if you tend to have sensitive skin.

Sunscreen And The Ocean

Sometimes we don’t stop to think about the effect that our actions have on the earth, especially when it comes to something as seemingly harmless as sunscreen.

The truth is the sunscreen on our skin washes off while we splash in the ocean. And it turns out that it’s actually having a not-so-great effect on the coral reefs and sea creatures we love.

guy snorkeling wearing coral reef safe sunscreen

The right sunscreen matters because it really can affect your body and your health as well as the health of ocean dwellers.

That being said, let’s talk about the two types of sunscreens (chemical sunscreen and mineral sunscreen) so you can see the pros and cons of each.

What Is Chemical Sunscreen?

Chemical sunscreens are made of just that: chemicals. Let’s take a look.

Active Ingredients

Active ingredients are the ingredients in a sunscreen that protect you from the sun. The inactive ingredients are the additional ingredients that make sunscreen moisturizing or make it smell good.

So what are the active, sun-fighting ingredients in chemical sunscreen?

Oxybenzone, oxtinoxate, octisalate, avobenzone, homosalate, and octocrylene are some of them. All of these are chemicals cooked up in a lab.

How Chemical Sunscreen Works

How do those active ingredients keep you from getting sunburnt? Chemical sunscreen protects your skin by absorbing the UVA and UVB rays so they don’t get to your skin.

For this reason, chemical sunscreen is sometimes referred to as a “chemical block,” since that’s what it does: it chemically blocks the sun.

Practically, you know the drill with chemical sunscreen. You rub (or spray) it onto your skin around 30 minutes before you head outside. That gives it time to soak into your skin and be ready to effectively block the sun.

woman applying mineral sunscreen at the beach


What are some other things you need to know about chemical sunscreen?

One of the nice things about it is that it goes on clear, so you can’t even tell you’re wearing it! But this isn’t unique to chemical sunscreens since some mineral sunscreens — like our Clear Zinc Sunscreen — also go on clear.

The dark side of the ingredients in chemical sunscreen is that they can damage your body as well as the coral reefs.

Oxybenzone — one of the most common active ingredients — is a hormone disruptor, and it contributes to coral reef bleaching when it’s washed off in the ocean. Not to mention it can irritate your skin.

What Is Mineral Sunscreen?

Just like with chemical sunscreen, it’s easy to know what mineral sunscreen is made of because it’s right there in its name: minerals.

Active Ingredients

There are only two active ingredients used in mineral sunscreens: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Some mineral sunscreens only contain one, while others contain both.

The interesting thing about these two ingredients is that they are currently the only two active ingredients (for both chemical and mineral sunscreens) that are “proposed to be safe and effective for sunscreen use” according to the FDA.

All the others are either a no-go or are still under investigation as to their safety and efficacy.

One other thing to keep in mind? The potential danger of nano-sized particles, which we mentioned earlier.

While there’s not enough data to prove that nano-sized particles penetrate the skin and make their way into the bloodstream, here at Babo Botanicals, we don’t think it’s worth the risk. Plus, nano-sized particles are so small that they can be ingested by coral reefs.

For both of those reasons, we recommend mineral sunscreen made with non-nano particles. We’re happy to say that all of our sunscreens boast a “Non-Nano” label, making things simple for you!

babo botanticals mineral sunscreen made with non-nano particles

How Mineral Sunscreen Works

Mineral sunscreen sits on the surface of your skin (without finding its way into your bloodstream) to scatter, absorb, and reflect the sun’s harmful rays.

In fact, you may hear mineral sunscreen referred to as a “physical block” since it’s a physical barrier that keeps the sun from your skin, as opposed to a chemical reaction.

What about applying mineral sunscreen? While it’s still a good idea to sunscreen-up 15 minutes before going outside, mineral sunscreen does provide immediate protection.


Typically, one of the big complaints about mineral sunscreens is that it leaves your skin white when you put it on. That’s a legitimate concern!

The good news is that, like we mentioned earlier, some mineral sunscreens (Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion, for example) go on clear!

A couple of other characteristics that make mineral sunscreen stand out is that the active mineral ingredients are non-irritating for sensitive skin and get better ratings with the EWG (Environmental Working Group).

Plus, you can find mineral sunscreens that are hypoallergenic and fragrance-free.

Finally, zinc oxide is the best of the two mineral sunscreen active ingredients because it is truly a broad-spectrum blocker, meaning it protects you and your family from UVA and UVB rays.

Titanium dioxide does a good job keeping UVB rays out, but it’s not as effective when it comes to UVA rays.

three friends at the beach

Mineral Sunscreen Tips

For those of us here at Babo Botanicals, there’s no question: mineral sunscreen is our favorite, hands down! 

We like the idea of high-quality, effective sun protection that also keeps our bodies and the coral reefs healthy and happy.

If you’ve decided to go this route as well, here are a few tips and reminders.

1) Choose Clear Zinc Sunscreen

Choosing to use mineral sunscreen doesn’t automatically mean you have to sacrifice your looks.

Try Babo Botanicals’s Clear Zinc Sunscreen. It goes on clear and is hypoallergenic and fragrance-free for those of you with sensitive skin. That’s a win all around!

Babo Botanicals’s Clear Zinc Sunscreen


2) Check Your Daily Sunscreen

You probably put extra thought into sunscreen during the summer months, but don’t forget to check the ingredients of the sunscreen or foundation you wear on your face every day.

If it contains harmful chemicals, consider tossing it and opting instead for our Daily Sheer Tinted Facial Mineral Sunscreen.

Made with a Nutri-Firm™ Complex of Kahai, Sea Buckthorn, Rosehip, and Argan Oil, this tinted moisturizer adds a luminosity to your skin and is also enriched with anti-aging hyaluronic acid.

Hello, gorgeous!

3) Reapply Every Two Hours

Just like with chemical sunscreen, with mineral sunscreen, you’ll need to reapply every couple of hours, especially if you’ve been in and out of the water.

For easy reapplication and 80 minutes of water and sweat resistance, use Babo Botanicals’s Sheer Zinc Continuous Spray Sunscreen.

4) Don’t Forget Your Lips

Don’t leave any body part left behind when it comes to sun protection! That includes the tops of your feet and ears, those hard-to-reach spots, and, of course, your lips.

Protect and pamper your lips with our SPF 15 Pretty & Protective Lip Tint Trio. Pick your favorite shade and don it daily!

babo botanticals SPF 15 Pretty & Protective Lip Tint Trio

Enjoy The Sun!

woman at the beach protected by mineral sunscreen

You’ll enjoy playtime in the sun when you can rest easy knowing that you and your kids are protected by safe and effective sunscreen.

Stock up on Babo Botanicals’s mineral sunscreens so you’ll never be caught without sun protection. Then get out there and have a blast!

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