The difference between mineral and chemical sunscreen.

Which one is right for you?

Did you know the main difference between physical and chemical sunscreens comes down to the active UV-filtering ingredients?

A broad-spectrum sunscreen is an essential part of any morning skincare routine to shield the skin from damaging UVA and UVB rays throughout the day. Yet with so many sun-protection options to choose from, it may be hard to decide which one is best for you. To better understand the various types of sunscreens, ingredients, and formulations, taking a closer look at mineral vs. chemical sunscreen options is an ideal place to start. The main difference between physical and chemical sunscreens comes down to the active UV-filtering ingredients. These two types of sunscreens work in different ways to protect the skin from the sun.

Mineral-based sunscreen ingredients

Mineral (or physical) sunscreens are formulated with inorganic UV filters such as zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. The difference between physical and chemical sunscreen is that mineral-based active ingredients sit on the surface of the skin and reflect the sun’s rays.


  • Generally a better fit for sensitive skin
  • May offer more hydrating benefits
  • Often recommended after professional office-based treatments


  • More moisturizing formulas can feel heavy on the skin

Chemical-based sunscreen ingredients 

The active ingredients in chemical sunscreens are organic UV-blockers. A few ingredient names include avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, and octocrylene. When comparing mineral vs. chemical sunscreen, chemical-based formulas are absorbed into the skin where they absorb UV rays and convert them into heat that is released from the body.


  • Ideal for water-resistant formulations used for swimming and outdoor activities
  • Generally, is absorbed quickly into the skin
  • Does not leave skin with a white cast


  • May not be well-tolerated by sensitive skin

Must-know information about these two types of sunscreen 

Whether you choose mineral vs. chemical sunscreen, it’s imperative to apply sun protection correctly. This means applying a generous, even layer to the face, neck, and chest 15 minutes before sun exposure and applying makeup. It’s also important to reapply sunscreen after swimming, sweating, immediately after towel drying, and at least every two hours. It’s a fact that most people do not apply enough sunscreen to obtain the level of protection stated on the bottle. As a general rule, a nickel-sized dollop should be used for the face alone, while the equivalent of a shot glass (three tablespoons) of sunscreen is necessary to protect exposed areas of the face and body.

Whether you opt for mineral vs. chemical sunscreen, daily use is non-negotiable for optimizing the health and appearance of the skin—and either of these two types of sunscreens should be the final step of your morning skincare regimen. For comprehensive protection against environmental aging, pair your sunscreen of choice with a topical vitamin C antioxidant. When used together daily, sunscreen and a vitamin C serum help protect the skin from UV rays and environmental free radicals that can contribute to premature visible signs of aging.


Remember, sunscreens are available to purchase at think’s gift shop, located on the first floor. Investing in proper sunscreen and using it correctly can make a significant difference in your skin’s health and longevity.

Think Whole Person Healthcare is committed to maintaining your overall well-being, and that includes skincare and sun protection. To find the best sunscreen and skincare products for your needs, visit our gift shop or schedule an appointment with your think provider.

Not a think patient yet? Explore our Services page online and choose your ideal provider by visiting our Meet Your Doctor page.

Our dedicated team is here to support your health. To schedule an appointment, call us at 402.506.9049.

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