Should I use a chemical or a mineral sunscreen?

When it comes to the right sunscreen to use, any is better than none at all. But making a choice between mineral (aka physical) or chemical can be a tricky one. In the Korean skincare realm, the chemical sunscreen is heavily favoured – it’s lightweight and easier to wear. But, I actually prefer to wear a mineral sunscreen. Let me explain why.

Mineral (physical) sunscreens

Mineral, or physical, sunscreens work by creating a physical shield. They sit on the surface of your skin and repel the ultraviolet rays. The mineral filters that are most widely used are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Physical sunscreens are a better option for those with sensitive and acne-prone skin conditions, as the aforementioned ingredients are well-tolerated, non-comedogenic, and anti-inflammatory. However, these formulas are subject to having a thicker consistency and creating a white cast (which none of us are really fond of).

Chemical sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, work by penetrating the skin’s barrier and absorbing the UV – they transform it into heat. The most commonly used chemical filters are oxybenzone, octinoxate, and homosalate – but there are so many. The formulas of these sunscreens tend to be much more sheer and lightweight than the texture of a physical sunscreen, which is why most people favour them. The best skincare is the skincare that absorbs straight into the skin without a trace. They can, however, be more irritating and are potentially not so good for the environment.

Why I choose mineral

The reasons that I prefer to wear a mineral sunscreen are:

  1. The effect of chemical sunscreens on the environment: as a human (and an Australian, but mostly just a human), I do not feel comfortable using a sunscreen that even has the potential to damage the coral reef.
  2. The effect of chemical sunscreens on my hormones: be wary of anything that can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Many ingredients found in chemical sunscreen formulas (not to name and shame but… oxybenzone, octinoxate, homosalate, and parabens) are potential hormone disruptors. Keep an eye out for a future post about the effect sunscreen has on your hormones.

It’s also important to note that cream sunscreens are the best option in terms of delivery to the skin. This is because sunscreen in spray form (regardless of whether it’s mineral or chemical) can be inhaled into the lungs. We do not want that.

Product recommendation

My most recent favourite physical sunscreen is the Guard’s Up Daily Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35 by Versed. The reason I love this one is because it leaves a beautiful dewy-matte finish, has a slight tint (which is perfect for my tan skin) and is the highest SPF before becoming too thick. When it comes to mineral sunscreens, I’ve found an SPF 50+ is much too heavy and leaves a noticeable and unpleasant white cast. With the SPF 30 and 35s, be mindful to reapply often and use a few layers. The Versed formula contains 15.2% zinc oxide and has other beneficial ingredients like apple fruit extract and moringa seed extract. Try it out!


Kait x

Cover photo by Cottonbro Studio