It’s important to wear sunscreen on a daily basis, but it’s also important to wear the right type of sunscreen. There are two types of sunscreens that you can use: mineral vs. chemical sunscreen. Mineral sunscreen, or physical sunscreen as it’s sometimes called, contains the active ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Mineral sunscreen works by physically sitting on top of the skin to block off UV rays.

Chemical sunscreen, on the other hand, contains active ingredients that work by absorbing UV rays, converting them into heat, and then releasing that heat through the skin. Chemical sunscreens typically include ingredients like oxybenzone and avobenzone.

So, what is the best type of sunscreen to use? We’ll be discussing that–and more– in the article below.

In this article, we’ll be exploring more of the differences between mineral sunscreen vs. chemical sunscreen so you can choose the best possible sunscreen for you. To learn more about mineral vs. chemical sunscreen, continue reading this article or use the links below to skip to a section of your choice.

What Is Chemical Sunscreen?

Chemical sunscreen is a type of sunscreen that absorbs into the skin, absorbs UV rays, and then converts those UV rays into heat and releases that heat through the body. Chemical sunscreens contain active SPF ingredients, like avobenzone, octinoxate, and oxybenzone, that offer excellent sun protection but aren’t so easy on your skin or the environment.

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, octinoxate, 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.

Characteristics

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?

Mineral sunscreen, aka physical sunscreen, is another type of sunscreen that physically sits on the skin (hence the name). Mineral sunscreens work by reflecting the sun’s UV rays to provide sun protection. The main active ingredients in mineral sunscreen are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. 

Mineral sunscreens offer broad-spectrum coverage, which means they protect against UVA and UVB rays, which is ideal in a sunscreen. The ingredients in mineral sunscreen are also generally safer and less likely to irritate the skin.

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!

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.

Characteristics

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.

Why The Right Sunscreen Matters

You might be sitting there asking yourself, “What’s the big deal anyway? Isn’t sunscreen all the same?” Well the answer is: 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

You might think that your skin is an impenetrable barrier. Nothing gets past your skin! Right? Wrong. What you put on your skin (in this case, sunscreen) can actually 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, potentially causing problems. Certain sunscreens can also be very irritating, especially if you 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.

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. The right sunscreen 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.

Pros And Cons Of Chemical And Mineral Sunscreen

If you’re struggling to make a decision between mineral or chemical sunscreen, sometimes it helps to make a pros and cons list. Here’s ours!

Pros Of Chemical Sunscreen

  • Quick and easy to apply
  • Generally doesn’t leave a white film on the skin after application

Cons of Chemical Sunscreen

  • The long list of ingredients required to create UVA and UVB protection may cause skin irritation in some people, particularly those with sensitive skin
  • The chemicals in chemical sunscreen can clog your pores and increase breakouts if your skin is acne-prone
  • You’ll have to wait up to half an hour after applying it for the sunscreen to become effective
  • Chemicals from the product may enter your bloodstream
  • These chemicals can affect coral reefs

Pros of Mineral Sunscreen

  • Since there are only two active ingredients used to create mineral sunscreen, this makes it ideal for people with sensitive skin — and the whole family
  • The gentle nature of the sunscreen is safe for babies and pregnant women
  • There is no waiting period required for the sunscreen to be effective; as soon as you apply it to your skin, you’re instantly protected from the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays
  • It won’t get absorbed into your bloodstream
  • If you’ll be swimming in the ocean, the minerals won’t affect the coral reefs

Cons of Mineral Sunscreen

  • Many mineral sunscreens on the market tend to be thicker and leave a white film on your skin. (Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen is light, clear, and leaves no white film, so you don’t have to worry about that!)
  • You’ll need to apply it more frequently than chemical sunscreen

There are so many harmful ingredients that can be found in skincare products that it has never been more important to take good care of your skin! And this means being careful of the products you use on it.

From the above comparisons, we hope you see that mineral sunscreen was created to protect you from harmful UV rays while also being gentle on your skin and the environment.

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. If you’re hesitant to use mineral sunscreen because you’re afraid it’ll leave a white cast on your skin, Babo Botanicals will be your best friend.

Babo Botanicals’s Clear Zinc Sunscreen goes on clear and is very easy to rub in, so you don’t have to worry about being left with that white cast. It’s also hypoallergenic and fragrance-free for those of you with sensitive skin. That’s a win all around! 

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. Any product you use on a daily basis should contain natural ingredients that are safe for your body and skin! And that includes using a safe sunscreen on your face. 

If your daily sunscreen 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. 

You should reapply sunscreen every two hours, and even more often if you’ve been swimming or sweating. If you don’t reapply your sunscreen often, you’re risking exposing yourself to harmful UV rays. It’s not worth the risk. Just remember to reapply every two hours.

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. There’s nothing more painful than sunburnt lips, so give your pout some extra TLC with a hydrating SPF lip tint.

Protect and pamper your lips with our SPF Lip Tint Conditioner SPF 15. Don it daily for smooth, soft lips!

Mineral Vs. Chemical Sunscreen: FAQs

Are Mineral Sunscreens Better Than Chemical Sunscreens?

When choosing between mineral vs. chemical SPF, we say go mineral every time. Mineral sunscreen is made with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which are the only two ingredients that have been actually approved by the FDA to include in sunscreen. It’s important to choose a sunscreen that contains safe, natural ingredients that won’t irritate your skin, which is exactly why you should choose mineral sunscreen.

Mineral sunscreens also protect against both UVA and UVB rays and won’t get absorbed into your bloodstream. Plus, they’re better for the environment! 

Why Are Chemical Sunscreens Bad?

Chemical sunscreens aren’t necessarily bad, but they can contain harmful ingredients that are more likely to irritate the skin. The chemicals in these ingredients are also more likely to cause breakouts, so it’s not ideal for people with sensitive skin. 

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing into your skin, which means they can get into your bloodstream and potentially cause problems. 

Also, chemical sunscreen can negatively affect coral reefs! So at the end of the day, mineral sunscreen will always be the better choice in our book. If you’re wondering if your sunscreen ingredients are safe, you can also look at the EWG sunscreen guide for more insight. 

Does Mineral Sunscreen Last Longer Than Chemical Sunscreen?

Both mineral sunscreen and chemical sunscreen provide sun protection for the same amount of time. Regardless of the type of sunscreen that you use, you should always reapply every two hours in order to get full protection for the whole day.

Does Mineral Sunscreen Leave A White Cast?

Some mineral sunscreens will leave a white cast on your skin, but Babo Botanicals’ mineral sunscreen is lightweight, non-greasy, and goes on sheer. 

Recap: Mineral Vs. Chemical Sunscreen 

When deciding between mineral vs. chemical sunscreen, we’ll always recommend mineral sunscreen. But at the end of the day, any sunscreen is better than none (but if you have the choice, choose mineral). It’s important to know the differences between mineral vs. chemical sunscreen so that you can choose a sunscreen that is safe for you, your family, and the environment– like Babo Botanicals.

Babo Botanicals carries a variety of mineral sunscreen products, like a sheer mineral sunscreen spray and a sheer mineral sunscreen lotion, that are made with plant-based, natural ingredients. All of our mineral sunscreen products are formulated to provide excellent sun protection, without irritating your skin, health, or the environment.