BHealthy Blog

Physical vs Chemical Sunscreens: Which One is Right for You?

A healthy, safe summer begins with the right sunscreen, and finding the best one for your skin starts with understanding the difference between physical sunscreens and chemical sunscreens – and knowing which one is right for you.

Physical Sunscreen

Physical sunscreens physically cover your skin, blocking it from contact with the sun by deflecting harmful UV rays. These sunscreens, also known as sunblock, are made up of active mineral ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.


Works as soon as it’s applied

Gentle on sensitive skin

Safer for babies and pregnant women

Provides both UVA and UVB protection

Longer shelf life


Is easily rubbed or rinsed off

Frequent application is required

More difficult to rub in

Feels heavier on skin

Needs to be heavily applied for maximum effectiveness

Chemical Sunscreen

Chemical sunscreens, or organic sunscreens, absorb the sun’s rays through a chemical reaction created by organic compounds, such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone.


More water resistant

Stays on longer

Lighter and more absorbent

More forgiving if you miss a small section of skin


Must soak in for 20 minutes before it will be effective

May irritate sensitive skin and eyes.

May clog pores

Which one is right for you?

Finding the right sunscreen largely depends on your skin type. For example, if you have sensitive skin or a skin condition such as rosacea, you may find chemical sunscreens too irritating. You may have to try a few sunscreens before you find the perfect one that offers both protection and comfort, but the search will be well worth it once you do. If you can handle both chemical and physical sunscreens, you could try a combination sunscreen, which use both physical and chemical ingredients to offer a range of protective properties. When purchasing sunscreen, choose one that is fragrance-free, noncomedogenic, oil-free, paraben-free and at least SPF 30. Your sunscreen should also offer broad spectrum protection, or protection from both UVA and UVB rays.

The regular application of sunscreen is one of the simplest ways you can work to prevent skin cancer, as well as conditions like premature aging, sun spots, dry skin and more. Learn more about how you can stay safe and prevent illness and disease on our BHealthy Blog, or request an appointment with one of our expert dermatologists if you need more guidance in finding the right sunscreen for your skin.

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