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What's the difference between chemical and physical sunscreens?

What's the difference between chemical and physical sunscreens?

Sunscreen is an important part of every skincare routine, as it helps protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun's UV rays. However, not all sunscreens are created equal. 

There are two main types of sunscreen: chemical and physical. Understanding the differences between the two can help you choose the best option for your skin.

What is a chemical sunscreen and how does it work

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UV rays and turning them into heat, which is then released from the skin. These types of sunscreens are often lightweight, fast-absorbing and easy to apply, but they can be irritating to some people, especially those with sensitive skin. For instance, many chemical sunscreens also contain alcohol, which can dry or irritate sensitive skin. In 2021, Johnson & Johnson also recalled many of its sunscreens due to the presence of benzene, a cancer-causing chemical.

What is a physical sunscreen and how does it work

Physical sunscreens, on the flip side, work by sitting on top of the skin and reflecting UV rays away from the skin. These types of sunscreens are often thicker in consistency and may leave a noticeable white or purple cast, especially on people of color. Physical sunscreens tend to be less irritating and are made with ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

What type of sunscreen should you use

So, which type of sunscreen is best for you? It depends on your individual needs and preferences. If you have sensitive skin or are concerned about using chemical sunscreens, a physical sunscreen may be a better choice. If you want a lightweight, fast-absorbing sunscreen that won't leave a white or purple cast, a chemical sunscreen may be a better fit.

It's also important to remember that no matter which type of sunscreen you choose, it's crucial to apply it properly and regularly to get the full benefits. Make sure to apply enough sunscreen (at least 1.5 ounces per application) and reapply every two hours, or immediately after swimming or sweating. Apply and reapply sunscreen in hard to reach or easily overlooked areas, like behind your ears, your back and your elbows. By following these tips, you can help to protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun and reduce your risk of skin cancer.

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