Choosing the Right Sunscreen – Part II


Not all sunscreen is created equal, and knowing the general ingredients in a sunscreen is key for knowing which sunscreen is right for you.  In the first part of choosing the right sunscreen, we studied the meaning behind SPF50 PA ++++.

But knowing this is only half the battle.  Even if two sunscreen products have the same SPF and PA, they can have different textures, makeup compatibility, whiteness, length of effectiveness, and methods for removing – all depending on their active ingredients.  The sunscreen package doesn’t always explicitly say if the sunscreen is mineral or chemical, you have to look at the ingredient list and see for yourself.  So which one to choose for you?

Is Sunscreen Safe?

As an aside, you may be asking yourself: is sunscreen safe?  The answer is that frequent sun exposure without sunscreen leads to skin redness, rashes, irritations, blisters, and eventually skin cancer.  The worst of the ingredients found in most sunscreens have been found to possibly cause mild hormone changes when large amounts are used over extended periods of several weeks.  Most sunscreen is only worn over the course of several hours and can easily be removed using oil cleansers.  So the upsides of preventing skin damage by the sun certainly outweigh any possible downsides of using sunscreen.

How to Choose?

In this article, we’re going to go through how to choose the right sunscreen part 2 – Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreens.

Chemical… .? Mineral … … ????


Have you looked at the sunscreen type closely before?

It’s okay if you’re unfamiliar with the difference, but many of you may have heard the terminology before.

But one thing is certain.

We should find something that fits your skin.  And not all sunscreens label the difference explicitly, we need to look at the ingredient details.  

So this article will help to prepare you.



Chemical Sunscreen vs Mineral Sunscreen

Sunscreen ingredients block UV light using one of two methods – divided into physical and chemical blocking depending on the ingredients.

Physical blocking uses the ingredients to create a barrier between your skin and the sun using minerals that have very little interaction with your skin (sometimes called mineral or inorganic sunscreen).  Chemical blocking uses organic chemicals that are absorbed into your skin and then transform the UV light into heat before it can damage your skin (sometimes called organic chemical sunscreens). 

Mineral Sunscreens

Physical Blocking


Ingredients repel ultraviolet rays from the skin’s surface by reflecting ultraviolet rays away and preventing them from hitting your skin.

Effective Time Period

Immediately effective for blocking UV after applying.  Lasts as long as it’s on your skin, but easily removed by water or sweat.


Most skin friendly and safe.  Because of its very low toxicity, sensitive skin types can use without trouble.


Stiff and difficult to spread

Texture and Makeup Compatibility?

Dry texture and leaves white residue.  Not compatible with most makeup.  Can clog pores if not removed after use.

How to remove?

After coming inside, you should wash your face with cleansing oil to remove mineral sunscreens.


Representative ingredients (what to look for on ingredients list):

Titanium dioxide: It blocks both UVA / UVB and has relatively little to no skin irritation. The blocking ability is usually higher than that of zinc oxide.  But recent creams that use nano-size particles of titanium dioxide claim to be easier to spread, but sacrifice the UVA blocking ability of the cream.

Zinc oxide: Has excellent UVA blocking ability. It blocks a wide range of UV rays. It also has antioxidant and antibacterial effects, as well as less risk for allergies.  With Zinc being a common mineral found in foods such as meat and shellfish, you know this sunscreen is a safe bet.

Texture Comparison between Mineral Sunscreens and Chemical Sunscreens

Texture Comparison: Mineral Sunscreens vs. Chemical Sunscreens

The hand on the left is using a mineral sunscreen and the hand on the right is using a chemical sunscreen.  After applying, notice how much white residue is left behind by the mineral sunscreen.  The chemical sunscreen leaves behind minimal color and finishes light and glossy – best to use when using makeup or foundation.

Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical Blocking


Absorbs in the skin and uses chemical processes to absorb the sun’s ultraviolet rays, and transforms them to less harmful optical and infrared light.

Effective Time Period

Should be applied 30 minutes before going outside.  More resistant to water and sweat and the ingredients are absorbed uniformly.


Not as ideal for sensitive skin as increased thermal energy produced by absorbing UV rays can irritate sensitive skin.


Very easy to spread over skin and absorbs quickly.

Texture and Makeup Compatibility?

Soft, lightweight texture.  Doesn’t leave too much white residue behind.  Very compatible with makeup and feels light on skin.

How to remove?

You can wash your face with cleansing water or foam.

Representative ingredients (what to look for on ingredients list):

Cinnamate (ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate / octyl methoxycinnamate): It has UVA / UVB blocking ability, and it effectively blocks UVB.  It is used most often and is also used as a discoloration inhibitor.

Avobenzone (Butylmethoxydibenzoylmethane): It has excellent UVA blocking power, but when exposed to light, its blocking ability drops dramatically.  It is used in combination with oxybenzone, and octocrelin for supplementation.

Oxybenzone (benzophenone-3): Moderate UVA protection.  Blocking ability does not weaken over time, even when exposed to light for a long time.  Although found in many chemical sunscreens, this compound has been suspected as altering hormone production when used regularly and is not recommended if pregnant or breastfeeding.

Ethylhexyltriazone, diethylaminohydroxybenzoylhexylbenzoate: It is an organic self-contained ingredient that does not cause irritation or trouble.


What do you prefer, mineral or chemical sunscreens?

If you want to wear makeup and have some time to kill before going outside, a chemical sunscreen might be your best option.  Or if your skin is more sensitive or you need to go out in a hurry, a mineral sunscreen may better suit your needs.  

We hope this helps you in choosing a sunscreen that suits your skin and preferences.  When in doubt, always consult the ingredients list.  

The main thing is to always protect your skin from too much sun exposure, so you can have as much fun in the sun as long as you want.  No worries.


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