Physical vs. Chemical Sunscreen

sun-protection-chemical-sunscreenProtection from the sun is important when it comes to your skin.  There are two kinds of sunscreen that can be used on your skin:  physical and chemical.  The difference between the two is that physical sunscreens use physical filters and chemical sunscreens use chemical filters.

The chart table below is data both the EPA (Environmental and Protection Agency) and FDA (Food and Drug Administration) have made for the “filter” ingredients used in sunscreen that are either chemical or physical.


Notice that most ingredients protect against UVB rays but not too many protect against UVA rays which are more damaging to the integrity of the skin penetrating deeper into the skin’s layering as seen in the graph below.


Physical sunscreen has two ingredients: titanium dioxide and zinc oxide which help protect against both UVA and UVB rays and make physical sunscreens the better choice to wear on your skin for sun protection.  The physical sunscreen will reflect the sun’s light as it shines down on the skin and chemical sunscreens absorb the sun’s light providing no protection for the skin.



Physical sunscreen does not absorb into the skin easily when applied like chemical sunscreens do, often leaving a white film on the skin.  When it comes to wearing sunscreen, a physical sunscreen allows to protect against a broad spectrum of rays; whereas, a chemical sunscreen will not add enough protection to the skin allowing the sun to pass thru the skin’s layers.