Different Types of Sunscreen With Pros and Cons [DETAILED]

Feb 08, 2023 - Views: 147

Rating: 4.8 - 51Votes

How many types of sunscreen are there? There are several different types of sunscreen and not all of them are made equal.

Two types of sunscreen are chemical and physical, and each has advantages and disadvantages. 

The best thing you can do for your skin's appearance and health is to use sunscreen daily. Let’s find out more about them in this post!

Two different types of sunscreens

Two different types of sunscreens

What Is Chemical Sunscreen?

Chemical sunscreens are those that have chemical ingredients that penetrate the skin, such as avobenzone, homosalate, oxybenzone, and octinoxate. 

Fatima Fahs, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Michigan and the founder of Dermy Doc Box, explains that there, they collect UV rays and transform them into a harmless amount of heat.


In contrast to mineral sunscreens, chemical sunscreens are simple and quick to apply and do not leave a white film on the skin since the final formulations are relatively light.

It is simpler to blend chemical sunscreen elements into products like makeup and moisturizers as well.

In addition, according to Lauren Ploch, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Augusta, Georgia, these sunscreens statistically perform better in consumer testing that assesses how long they shield the skin from UV radiation.

Using a chemical sunscreen has many benefits

Using a chemical sunscreen has many benefits


The fact that chemical sunscreen still permits some UVA exposure is its main disadvantage. 

Chemical sunscreens may not offer complete UVA protection because UV rays must pass through the skin to reach the chemicals, which nonetheless cause harm to the skin's deeper layers.

In certain individuals, chemical sunscreens may also induce skin responses. According to Ploch, chemical sunscreens can exacerbate rosacea and melanomas and trigger allergic reactions in those with sensitive skin.

Notably, it is necessary to reapply the chemicals more frequently because direct light makes them deplete more quickly.

What Is Physical Sunscreen?

In contrast to chemical sunscreens, which are absorbed into the skin, physical sunscreens sit on top of the skin. 

Also called mineral sunscreens, they develop a barrier on the skin's surface that deflects UV radiation, shielding the skin from harm and sunburn.

Nowadays, only titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are recognized as physical components by the FDA.

How two main types of sunscreen work

How two main types of sunscreen work


The best thing about physical sunscreen is that it inhibits UV radiation at the surface level, protecting against UVA and UVB rays.

They also don't require waiting because they immediately take effect when applied as a physical barrier.

Unlike chemical sunscreens, the FDA typically recognizes the two most popular constituents in mineral sunscreens as safe and effective. 

Ploch asserts that "[Mineral sunscreens] are far safer for persons who are concerned about long-term exposure to chemical chemicals, perfect for kids and people with melasma, as well."

One of the most famous physical sunscreens on the market today is the 3W Clinic Intensive UV Sunblock Cream 70ml. Packed with SPF 50+ and PA++++, it is the most effective wide-spectrum protection available that protects against UVA and UVB radiation.

You can read more about this sunscreen for all types of skin in our blog!

3W Clinic Intensive UV Sunblock Cream

3W Clinic Intensive UV Sunblock Cream


Despite being ideal for those with sensitive skin, mineral sunscreen is thick and lies on top of the skin, which may cause outbreaks in those who are prone to acne.

Which type of sunscreen leaves a white cast? It’s a mineral sunscreen. They often leave a cast that resembles whiteness, which is noticeable on the skin. 

When using this kind of sunscreen, you will have to reapply it frequently because they are quickly washed off by perspiration, sweating, or rinsing off the skin's surface.

Chemical Vs Physical Sunscreen Summary

Now, let’s sum up the pros and cons of these two different types of sunscreens:


Chemical sunscreen

Mineral sunscreen


  • Easy to apply

  • Don’t leave a white cast

  • Provide long protection

  • Protect against UVA and UVB rays

  • Take effect immediately

  • Safe ingredients


  • Still allow UVA exposure

  • May cause skin problems

  • Require frequent reapply

  • May cause outbreak

  • Leave a white cast

  • Require frequent reapply

Which Type Of Sunscreen Should You Choose?

Young children in particular should choose a physical sunscreen because such components are more gentle for people with delicate skin. 

However, if you are wondering what type of sunscreen is best for black skin, the answer should be a chemical one given that it doesn't create a white cast.

Physical sunscreen is safer to be used on the skin

Physical sunscreen is safer to be used on the skin

"A chemical sunscreen basically just protects against UVB - the burning rays," claims Penn plastic surgeon, Ivona Percec, MD, Ph.D. 

That is deteriorated by the sun after two hours. Because it offers UVA and UVB protection, the mineral block is by far the superior barrier.

In all, both sunscreen varieties offer sufficient protection. Which sunscreen is best for you may depend on your own preferences.

Tips To Pick The Best Kind Of Sunscreen

The best type of sunscreen suited to your needs and uses depends on a number of things. Here are some fundamental tips to keep you safe from sunburn and stay healthy:

Tips to decide which type of sunscreen to use

Tips to decide which type of sunscreen to use


You should first have a look at the types of sunscreen ingredients.

Mineral sunscreens, zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide have been the subjects of most research into clinical safety and effectiveness. 

If you choose a chemical sunscreen, try to stay away from products that include oxybenzone as it may cause skin allergies.

Forms of sunscreen

Types of sunscreen products are also worth considering.

Go for a lotion-based sunscreen to minimize inhalation and lung exposure, even though spray sunscreen choices are more practical.


Physical sunscreen is your best bet if you'll be exposed to the sun for most of the day, particularly if you have sensitive skin or a skin problem like rosacea or acne. 

You may want to think about using a chemical sunscreen if you plan to exercise or swim since you will have to reapply mineral sunscreen regularly.

SPF rating

The sunscreen types SPF may be abused, and safety may be taken for granted. 

Thus, the proper application of a low SPF product is far more beneficial than relying on the poor application of a high SPF product.

Don’t focus on the SPF number

Don’t focus on the SPF number


Use a thick layer of physical sunscreen for immediate effectiveness, and at least 20 minutes before going outside if you want a chemical sunscreen.


Use sunscreen again at least every two hours because it all wears off. This is especially true for chemical sunscreens when exposed to the sun directly and sweating or swimming while wearing mineral sunscreens.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is the healthiest sunscreen?

According to dermatologists, the safest option is a so-called "physical" or "mineral" sunscreen containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. 

Only those components are listed by the FDA as being "generally recognized as safe and effective" in sunscreen.

2. Is SPF 30 or 50 every day better?

SPF 30 sunscreen will shield you from around 96.7% of UVB rays, while SPF 50 sunscreen will shield you from approximately 98% of UVB rays.

No sunscreen offers 100% protection from UVB radiation, but anything above SPF 50 makes very little difference regarding the risk of sun damage.

3. What are the worst sunscreen chemicals?

The following high-risk chemical UV filters have already been outlawed in 7 nations and regions worldwide due to their extreme toxicity.

  • Oxybenzone/Benzophenone-3 (BP-3)

  • Octinoxate/Octylmethoxycinnamate (OMZ) 

  • Homosalate

  • Octisalate/Ethylhexyl Salicylate

  • Octocrylene/2-Ethylhexyl Ester

  • Avobenzone

  • Parabens

  • Bemotrizinol

  • Retinyl Palmitate

  • Titanium Dioxide

  • Methylisothiazolinone

Final Words

Applying sunscreen every day is equivalent to making a long-term investment in your skin, particularly if the sunscreen is created precisely for your skin type. Although the benefits might not be apparent right away, they should become clear in ten years.

With this guide, we hope you can get the right one for yourself among two different types of sunscreen. And don’t forget to follow Barcode Live for more helpful tips!

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