What is Physical Sunscreen?
Mineral sunscreen is currently (and quite appropriately) enjoying its day in the sun. The concept of physical sunscreen has been around for some time, but remains something of a buzzword many are unfamiliar with.
But what is physical sunscreen, and what distinguishes it from ‘conventional’ sunscreen? Is physical or chemical sunscreen better, and which is the best physical sunscreen on the market right now?
Truth is, the whole physical vs chemical sunscreen debate is open to interpretation. It depends entirely on your own personal preferences, the quality of the product you use, and how you use it.
Even so, it’s important to understand the differences between physical sunscreen and chemical sunscreen, in terms of their formulation and how they work. Not to mention, how to use each (or both) to afford your skin the best possible protection from the sun’s harmful rays.
What is Physical Sunscreen?
Physical sunscreen – aka mineral sunscreen – works by physically blocking (or defusing) the sun’s rays, using zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as its active ingredient. The effectiveness of a mineral sunscreen will be influenced greatly by the concentration of these ingredients in its formulation.
With a physical sunscreen, the product works by absorbing UV rays into the skin and turning them into heat. This is similar to how chemical sunscreen works, but mineral sunscreen also reflects back approximately 5% of the sun’s harmful rays.
The physical properties of the minerals in the sunscreen deflect and disperse some of the sun’s radiation, effectively protecting the skin from harm.
As is the case with chemical sunscreen – aka conventional sunscreen – physical sunscreen can be purchased at a wide variety of SPF levels. However, dermatologists typically recommend wearing no less than SPF 30, even when heading out and about on cloudy days.
What Do SPF Levels Mean?
The SPF level indicated on a sunscreen tells you how long you can stay in the sun before your skin starts to redden and burn. For example, if it typically takes you 10 minutes in the sun before your skin starts turning red, wearing an SPF 30 product would extend this by 30x – so 300 minutes.
This applies to both physical and chemical sunscreens alike, but is only true when they are applied properly and topped up as necessary. In addition, the quality of the product you apply to your skin in the first place will influence the level of protection it provides.
Why Would I Need Mineral Sunscreen?
There are several benefits to choosing mineral sunscreens, either as an alternative to chemical sunscreens or to be used alongside them.
For example, skin that is highly sensitive or acne-prone will almost always respond better to mineral sunscreen. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are much gentler to the skin than some of the components that go into chemical SPF products. In fact, zinc oxide has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin, making it particularly useful for super-sensitive skin types.
In addition, topping up with an additional layer of physical sunscreen throughout the day is a breeze. It comes in a fine powder form, and can even be applied on top of make-up without smearing or smudging. For maximum protection, you can apply a layer of chemical sunscreen, followed by your make-up, and finalized with an additional layer of a physical sunscreen. You can also try to use clothing to protect you from the sun, such as a hat, sunglasses, long sleeves, and/or an umbrella.
When Should I Use Chemical Sunscreen?
Chemical sunscreen – aka conventional sunscreen – remains the tool of choice for many. In some instances, high-end chemical sunscreen products can also double as effective moisturisers for the skin. They can also provide longer-lasting protection when sweating or exposed to moisture, as mineral sunscreen has very little water resistance.
Chemical formulas are also more breathable than their physical counterparts, which means they can help prevent excessive sweating – particularly when exercising.
However, some people simply do not like the greasy feeling associated with many conventional sunscreens. In addition, physical sunscreen offers instantaneous protection, whereas chemical sunscreen usually takes 20 to 30 minutes to be fully absorbed by the skin.
Mineral vs Chemical Sunscreen – Which is Better?
Physical and chemical sunscreens both have their own unique points of appeal. They have the potential to provide equally effective protection from the sun’s rays, and can be hugely versatile in a wide variety of scenarios.
They can even be used together to maximize their effectiveness, treating your skin to the best of both worlds.
It’s therefore impossible to label one of the two ‘better’ than the other. For the most part, it’s all about the quality of the product you pick up, and how/when/where you use it.
What is the Best Physical Sunscreen on the Market?
Shopping for sunscreen, in general, can be a confusing business, with such an abundance of products to choose from at an endless range of price points.
There’s no shortage of high-end options to choose from, but the following three physical sunscreens come highly recommended:
Superior protection from the sun’s harmful rays with a hint of color-enhancing pigment, ZO Sunscreen + Powder has also been precision-engineered to maintain hydration while minimizing shine. The skin is left feeling smooth and looking luminous, while benefiting from high-factor protection from UVA and UVB radiation.
Sunforgettable EnviroScreen combines SPF 50 protection from UVA/UVB damage with further protection from free radicals and environmental aggressors. It goes on easily and blends invisibly into all skin tones, making it perfect to wear on its own or underneath make-up.
A fantastic everyday sunscreen at an affordable price, Skinceuticals Physical Matte UV Defense combines broad-spectrum SPF 50 protection with a subtle matte finish. The perfect product to reach for when out and about, even in hot and humid conditions.
For more information on any of the above or to discuss the potential benefits of physical sunscreen in more detail, contact a member of the team at My Skin Shop todayvia email, phone call, or text message.