Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreen: What’s The Difference?

Knowledge is power--and protected, glowing skin.
BY Sarah Lim
| Last updated May, 2023
Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreen

Mineral and chemical sunscreen are both sunscreens and help protect your skin from the harmful effects of harmful UV rays (ultraviolet) of the sun, including premature aging and skin cancer. But when it comes to mineral vs. chemical sunscreen, what’s the difference, and is one better than the other?

Mineral sunscreen uses ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide, which are particles that coat the skin and prevent the sun’s rays from entering the skin. Mineral sunscreen is sometimes referred to as physical sunscreen.

Chemical sunscreen, however, does let the sun’s rays into your skin, but ingredients such as oxybenzone and avobenzone create a chemical reaction that converts light into heat, which is then free to leave the skin.

Using sunscreen is a universally good idea for protecting your skin against damage such as aging and cancer. But for mineral vs. chemical sunscreen, there are pros and cons of each for you to consider. So, make your best choice!

Pros And Cons Of Mineral Sunscreen

Pros And Cons Of Mineral Sunscreen

You’ll find mineral sunscreen in many natural sunscreens. It may be combined with chemical ingredients, so if having exclusively mineral active ingredients is essential to you in a sunscreen, always check the label!

Pros Of Mineral Sunscreen:

  • Immediately protects your skin from the sun (no waiting to hit the beach!)

Cons Of Mineral Sunscreen:

  • Often leaves an apparent white cast on the skin.
  • It may feel greasy or be hard to apply.
  • It can be pore-clogging, meaning it may not be the best choice for people with acne-prone skin.
  • YOU need to apply it diligently for effective protection, covering all areas of the skin.

Mineral sunscreen is growing in popularity because of its more natural ingredients, but is it the right choice for your skin? Let’s look at chemical sunscreen’s pros and cons!

Pros And Cons Of Chemical Sunscreen

Pros And Cons Of Chemical Sunscreen

Chemical sunscreen may also be combined with minerals to have added effects. So, if YOU want to be sure that the product won’t leave a white film on your skin, check the sunscreen ingredients and the label’s claims (and reviews of the product!).

Pros Of Chemical Sunscreen:

  • Easy to apply and typically leaves no white cast.
  • You can effortlessly layer it with makeup for better sun protection.

Cons Of Chemical Sunscreen:

  • One of the most popular ingredients of chemical sunscreen is oxybenzone, which can cause allergic skin reactions. So maybe, it’s not the best choice for sensitive skin.
  • You need to wait up to 30 minutes to get its effect.

People love chemical sunscreen because it doesn’t look like you’re wearing sunscreen—which is usually the opposite of mineral sunscreen!

What Are The Best Products Of Each Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreen?

What Are The Best Products Of Each Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreen

Choosing the right sunscreen for you is all about picking one that you’ll actually use. If you want more natural mineral sunscreen but can’t stand the greasy feel of it, are you going to wear it?

Ideally, people with a higher risk for skin cancer should wear a minimum SPF of 30, while those with lower risk—think darker skin types—can go with a minimum of 15 SPF. However, always follow your dermatologist’s instructions for sunscreen use!

Here are some of the best products of both chemical and mineral sunscreens to consider.

Best Chemical Sunscreens

1. EltaMD Skincare UV Shield

EltaMD advertised this blend as non-greasy with an SPF of 45 and water-resistant. And EltaMD Skincare UV Shield uses both mineral and chemical components. It is fragrance-free and paraben-free. This product from EltaMD is also oil-free to help prevent clogged pores for people with oily skin.

2. Obagi Sun Shield

Obagi also uses a blend of minerals and chemicals. With an SPF of 50, this product is designed to be non-greasy with a matte finish. People with sensitive skin enjoy this product and say it also has a moisturizing effect.

3. Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen

Unseen Sunscreen is of SPF 40, oil-free, designed to be hydrating, and even offers protection from blue light. This product is from Supergoop! leaves a soft finish, and you can wear it under makeup. It is a pure chemical sunscreen that people love. Being an oxybenzone-free product, it’s marketed as safe for reefs—so go play in the ocean!

Best Mineral Sunscreens

1. Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen

A reef-friendly and fragrance-free formula with non-nano zinc (so the particles aren’t able to absorb into your skin), this sunscreen uses zinc oxide to protect your skin from the sun with an SPF of 30. Although it says clear zinc, some users have noticed a very slight white cast, so be mindful when purchasing!

2. 100% Pure Everywhere Body Stick

The SPF 30 and easy to apply capability of this sunscreen is not known for leaving a white cast. And, it is easy to take with you. Perfect for when you’re in a rush, this stick sunscreen allows you to keep your hands clean while applying sunscreen for sun protection! You must apply it 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. Also, it is water-resistant for up to 40 minutes.

3. Derma E Sun Defense

This sunscreen is designed to be safe for sensitive skin and go under makeup. However, it may leave a slight white cast on your face. SPF 30, non-nano zinc, and unscented, this mineral sunscreen is oil-free, vegan, and contains antioxidants to help defend your skin against sun exposure even more.

Do You Have A Favorite Sunscreen You Use?

When it comes to mineral vs. chemical sunscreen, it’s a personal choice. However, remember that something is better than nothing. Researchers generally consider mineral sunscreens as safer, but it can be more of a commitment than a chemical. Have YOU got a favorite sunscreen that you love and use daily? Let us know in the comments below!

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