According to skin experts physical sunscreens are fine particles of minerals – commonly titanium dioxide and zinc oxide – that sit on the surface of the skin and reflect, as well as absorb, UV radiation. While physical UV filters can be found alone in sunscreens, they can also be used alongside chemical filters in a synergistic way to create very high-SPF, non-irritating sunscreens in light, breathable formulations.
Pros: As they are usually thicker and whiter than a chemical sunscreen formula, it is easy to see where physical sunscreens have been applied and when they have rubbed off. This helps ensure sensitive areas are covered and protection levels better maintained. Physical UV filters are growing in popularity, as they can be less irritating for sensitive skinthan certain chemical filters.
Cons: A physical sunscreen is often heavier and thicker on the skin than a chemical sunscreen with the same SPF. Therefore, physical sunscreens might not be the best choice for oily and acne prone skin. Additionally, mineral actives alone often offer less protection from damaging UVA radiation than chemical filters.
The vast majority of sunscreens found on pharmacy shelves fall into the chemical (also known as organic) category. These sunscreens contain active sun filters that absorb UV light to prevent from causing damage.
Pros: Chemical sunscreens are able to provide highly effective protection without necessarily needing to be in high concentrations. This means they can be formulated with a lightweight, non-sticky feel that is ideal for daily wear. They spread easily on the skin and, as the chemical filters do not have a physical presence, there is no ghosting effect.
Compound formulas with multiple filters can be used to ensure the most effective broad-spectrum protection from both UVA &UVB Rays. This is vital as, while many people understand the risk associated with UVB rays, UVA rays – which cannot be felt – represent 95% of UV rays on the earth’s surface. They penetrate more deeply into the skin and play a significant role in accelerating premature ageing.
It is essential to protect against both types of ultraviolet rays, as lack of protection over time can lead to deterioration in the skin cells, irreversibly damaging the DNA, and potentially leading to the development of skin cancer.
Cons: Some chemical UV filters have been known to cause allergic reactions and irritation in sensitive skin. Concerns have also been raised over the years about potential free radical damage from long-term use. However, most modern formulas contain antioxidants to safeguard your skin’s health, now and into the future.