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Mineral vs Chemical Sunscreen: What to Buy in 2021

Mineral vs Chemical Sunscreen: What to Buy in 2021

Mineral vs chemical sunscreen: the difference between chemical and physical sunscreens and the list of best sunscreens on the market in 2021

With so many brands in the beauty and skincare industry, it is hard, even for us to choose the right product. What to talk about when your skin’s health depends on it. 

So let’s dig into it and discover why sunscreen is so important. The difference between chemical and mineral sunscreen, and in the end, we will give you a list of our best sunscreens for 2020. So you don’t have to be afraid of the sun ever again.

Different types of UV:

There are 3 types of UV radiation: UVC, UVB, and UVA. 

  • UVA has the longest wavelengths (315–400 nm)
  • UVB being mid-range (290–320 nm)
  • UVC is the shortest wavelength (100–280 nm)

Which type of UV is the most dangerous to the skin?

The type we talk the most about is UVB. As UVB rays causes sunburn, hyper-pigmentation, sun spots, or in long-term even skin cancer. In other words, UVB affects parts of our skin which are the most visible to the human eye. Moreover, you can see the damage instantly.  However, the type we often forget is UVA.

UVA has the longest wavelengths. As a result, UVA can penetrate into the deepest layers of our skin and cause, in other words, called invisible damage.

UVA is one of the biggest factors in premature aging, fine lines, and wrinkles.

Factors when choosing a sunscreen:

Broad Spectrum

Protect against both UVA and UVB

Water Resistance

How long sunscreen protects after water exposure or sweat


Sun protection factor

What is SPF?

SPF (sun protection factor) – a measure of how long a sunscreen will protect you from UV rays. If it takes 15 times longer to burn the skin with sunscreen on than it does with no sunscreen applied, the SPF is 15. Let’s say your skin with no sunscreen, starts getting red after 10 minutes. This means that SPF50 will protect you for 500 minutes, or 8 hours, which is 50 times longer.

What is ROS and why it’s important?

ROS – Reactive oxidative species

ROS are produced by cells during normal metabolic activities. And it is necessary to survive.

However, during times when you are exposed to sun, ROS levels increase dramatically.


Moreover, ROS creates free radicals on our skin surface, which can cause plenty of damage to human skin. When in fact, even with the daily sunscreen you are not fully protected from free radicals.

Sunscreens block only 55% of the free radicals produced by UV exposure.

So even when your skin is protected from UV, it still creates free radicals on our skin.

To optimize UV protection, it is important to use sunscreens combined with a topical antioxidant.

One of the strongest antioxidants you can use is Vitamin C.

In addition, Vitamin C  is great for neutralizing free radicals formed due to UV exposure. while this effect is not seen with sunscreens. 


Particularly, important to note that Vitamin C is equally effective against both UVB (290-320 nm) and UVA (320-400 nm).

Visit Vitamin C for the Skin: worth the hype? to understand better the importance of Vitamin C.

Mineral vs Chemical Susncreen:

In contrast of chemical and mineral sunscreens, the main difference are: the ingredients and a way it blocks the UV light from coming into our skin.

Before I start explaining this deeper, I would like to note that both chemical and mineral sunscreens are made from chemical ingredients, so the names are not actually that accurate from the scientific side.

So what’s the difference?

The difference in  mineral and chemical sunscreen is that mineral sunscreen contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide which itself gives you high UV protection.

Zinc and Titanium can reflect light and work immediately after application.

Chemical sunscreen would have more difficult formulation and would contain more ingredients to create that UV protection. Also, it does not work instantly, because of a more difficult formula and it actually has to sink into your skin for a bit to become active. Normally chemical sunscreen will not reflect light as physical one does but will create a chemical reaction that changes UV radiation to the heat.

Mineral sunscreen provides slightly higher UV protection, which makes it a better choice if you have very light and sensitive skin. However, chemical sunscreen is much lighter and acne-prone friendly.

mineral vs chemical sunscreen

Best Sunscreens in 2021


The Oprah Magazine Beauty O-Wards Winner. Powered by EnviroScreen® Technology, this hydrating, antioxidant-rich mineral formula provides complete protection from environmental aggressors in a weightless texture that blends invisibly into all skin tones.

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

Perfect for skin types prone to acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation, EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 is non-comedogenic and free of fragrance, oils, parabens, and sensitivities! This sheer facial sunscreen contains a 9% concentration of transparent zinc oxide teamed up with antioxidants to protect against harmful UVA and UVB rays.


Powered by EnviroScreen® Technology, this all-powerful, all-mineral skin shield provides complete protection in one convenient, on-the-go application—alone or over makeup.

La Roche Posay Mineral Sunscreen For Face SPF 50

Formulated with Cell-Ox Shield™, La Roche Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral Tinted Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid provides intense skin protection and helps prevent sun damage and premature aging.

iS Clinical Extreme Protect SPF30

Provides extraordinary protection by combining broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection and powerful antioxidants to mitigate oxidative solar damage. Featuring micro-fine zinc oxide and microencapsulated organic active sunscreens, EXTREME PROTECT SPF 30 offers advanced sun protection.

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