Just like cleansing your face, moisturizing your skin, and putting on serums for healthy skin, sunscreens are also a necessity for your skin. They protect our skin from various harmful effects of the sun. From sunburns to the risk of skin cancer, sunscreen gives a lot of benefits to the skin. It is very important to apply sunscreen before you step out in the sun to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.

You must have heard two common types of sunscreens i.e, physical sunscreen and chemical sunscreen. You may want to know the meaning and difference between physical sunscreen and chemical sunscreen.

Which is better for you? Physical or chemical sunscreen. Let us understand both of these to know what are the pros and cons of using them and which one is the healthiest for your skin. 

Benefits of Using a Sunscreen

Before we understand the difference between physical and chemical sunscreen, it’s important to know why sunscreen is important to use?

There are various reasons why you should apply sunscreen. 

  • It protects your skin from UV rays.
  • Reduces your chances of developing skin cancer
  • Prevents premature aging like wrinkles and fine lines.
  • Helps you maintain an even tone.
  • It provides sun protection which means no sunburns and redness on the skin.
  • Prevents tanning on your skin.
  • Enhances overall skin health.

You should apply sunscreen whenever you go out in sun. A little dab of sunscreen on your face protects it from various skin problems.

Physical Sunscreen 

Physical sunscreens or also called mineral-based sunscreen create a physical barrier on the skin to protect against the harmful rays of the sun. Physical sunscreens sit on the top layer of your skin and do not absorb.

Physical Sunscreen
Physical Sunscreen 

They have a naturally broad-spectrum and contains active mineral ingredients such as zinc oxide which prevents the damaging UVA and UVB rays immediately as they are applied. The formula of this sunscreen is pretty thick. Physical sunscreens are often known as sunblock. 

  • Pros of physical sunscreen
  1. Protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
  2. Gives less irritation and good for highly sensitive skin.
  3. Provides an immediate effect as soon as they are applied.
  4. Can be used for a longer period.
  5. Lasts longer than chemical sunscreens.
  6. Good for kids, babies and can be used during pregnancy.
  7. Free of parabens, dyes, and fragrance.
  8. Works well with all skin types.
  • Cons of physical sunscreen 
  1. Physical sunscreen needed to be used more frequently as these can be rinsed off easily with sweat or little water.
  2. They appear on the skin as a white and chalky texture which may not be preferable for darker complexions.
  3. They feel heavy when applied.
  4. Too thick and requires more effort to rub.
  5. Cannot be added into skincare easily.

Chemical Sunscreen

Hearing the word ‘chemical’ might scare you off but they are not always bad. Chemical sunscreens contain active ingredients like avobenzone, octinoxate, and oxybenzone which are considered absolutely safe to use on the skin.

There is a big difference between physical sunscreen and chemical sunscreen. Talking about chemical sunscreen, they are absorbed quickly by the skin and are also lightweight. This sunscreen turns the rays into heat and releases them from the skin. They are super effective and easy to use.

  • Pros of chemical sunscreen
  1. They absorb quickly and easily due to their lotion texture.
  2. These are good for daily use.
  3. Chemical sunscreens are applied easily because they are lightweight and have a thin consistency.
  4. Can be used with makeup and added to skincare easily.
  • Cons of chemical sunscreen 
  1. Chemical sunscreen can sometimes cause irritation.
  2. These are not long-lasting. They last for just 20 minutes after application.
  3. Can clog pores and increase breakouts and acne for oily and acne-prone skin.
  4. This sunscreen may cause redness for rosacea-prone skin.
  5. Not recommended for sensitive skin types.

Contains fragrance and dyes which might not be favorable for people with allergies.

Chemical Sunscreen Vs. Physical Sunscreen. Which One to Use? 

The difference between physical sunscreen and chemical sunscreen is considerable and you should choose the type according to your preference and skin type. Both chemical and physical sunscreens are deemed safe to use and effective if used consistently. It all depends on the usage of the product.

Choosing which is the best? It’s a quite tricky question. While it depends on which type of sunscreen you prefer, it is also important that the sunscreen should suit your skin type and does not gives off any side effects. It all depends on your skin type, texture, and health. 

Physical Sunscreen Vs Chemical Sunscreen
Physical Sunscreen Vs Chemical Sunscreen

You should go for a sunscreen which says ‘broad-spectrum‘. Broad-spectrum means the formula which will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays which are the cause of skin cancer and aging signs like wrinkles and fine lines plus, sunburns. With that said, a physical sunscreen gives good protection against both UVA and UVB rays. The active ingredients are also important when you are shopping for sunscreen. 

SPF 30 is the measure of a good sunscreen if you often go out in the sun like swimming or on the beach and a good sunscreen will always stay for a longer time. However, if you want to apply sunscreen for skin care purposes and not looking for anything heavy on your skin, then chemical sunscreen is going to work for you.

They are lightweight and can be used with makeup. Only use the product if it suits you. If it gives irritation, swelling, or redness on your skin, stop using it. It’s always good to have a patch test on hand or elbow to be safe. 


Using sunscreen is extremely important to keep our skin protected from various skin problems and risks of skin cancer. There is an immense difference between physical and chemical sunscreen. To determine which one to be used is to understand the purpose of your usage and your skin type.

The sunscreen will only work if the user is correct and it is used consistently. If the sunscreen is safe to use, it won’t show any side effects on your skin. You can even use both together sunscreens together if you like. 

Also read- Powder Sunscreen