Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreen: which one should you choose?

Posted May 10, 2024 by Michelle Fox

In addition to the many options we have for sunscreen (brand, consistency, SPF level), now we have an entirely new category added to the mix - updated mineral sunscreen. So what exactly is the difference between chemical and mineral sunscreen? Is one considered better? Or perhaps safer? This blog will explain the difference between these 2 types of sun protection. Read through to the end and you will be ready to make the right decision for you and your skin.


Episode #51: Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreen: which one should you choose?


Check out last summer's blog about the importance of Sunscreen plus a few other ways to protect your skin, UVA & UVB Rays - is sunscreen enough to protect our skin?

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Mineral or Chemical Sunscreen - which one is right for you?

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Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreen: which one should you choose?

Let's talk about chemical sunscreen first!

Chemical sunscreens penetrate your skin and absorb UV rays. Then these rays are converted to heat and released from the skin. Chemical sunscreens may also include antioxidants that fight free radicals, which cause UV-ray damage. Because chemical sunscreen protection must penetrate your skin before it can do its job, instructions usually advice to apply it 20 to 30 minutes prior to sun exposure.

Chemical sunscreen must be absorbed by the skin before it can provide protection from the sun's harmful rays.

For more tips on caring for your skin in the summer, check out Summer Skincare - Shake Things Up with These Top 5 Tips!


Popular Chemical Sunscreens for Spring/Summer 2024

Please note: In 2021 the European Commission published final opinions on the safety of three non-mineral ultraviolet, or UV, filters, oxybenzone, *homosalate and **octocrylene. It found that two of these filters – homosalate and octocrylene – are not safe in the amounts at which they're currently used. 

Of this list, only Clarins and Mary Kay provide products that do not use these ingredients. Mary Kay Daytime Defender SPF 30 is the product used in my demonstration.

Now let's talk about mineral sunscreen

Mineral sunscreens, also called physical sunscreens, sit on top of your skin and create a barrier that reflects UV rays. That is why they are often referred to as "sunblock". Sunblock has been around for many years and has experienced a bad rap for leaving a white residue on your skin since they are not absorbed. However, this new batch of mineral sunscreen on the market is much more advanced, and includes clear and tinted options. So be sure to check the reviews to find out whether the mineral sunscreen you are considering is makeup friendly. One advantage of these sunscreens not being absorbed, is that they do not have to be applied in advance. However both cheminal and mineral sunscreen should be reapplied after swimming or sweating, and/or every 2 hours. 

Popular Mineral Sunscreens for Spring/Summer 2024

The mineral sunscreen used in my video demonstration is Mary Kay Mineral Facial Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30.

Attn: Many companies sell products advertised as containing non-nano titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in their mineral sunscreen. These claims can be misleading. Read HERE for details.

Here's a handy chart that reviews what we've learned. 

Click the chart to download your own copy!

Let's compare!

Wrap Up

Understanding the differences between chemical and mineral sunscreens is important for effective sun protection. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays, while mineral sunscreens reflect them. Chemical options often contain synthetic ingredients, while mineral use natural minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Mineral sunscreens are typically better for sensitive skin and the environment but can leave a white residue. Both provide SPF, which is the goal of any sunscreen. Ultimately, choosing the right sunscreen depends on personal preference and skin type.

Products used during demonstration

Mary Kay TimeWise® Daytime Defender Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30


Mary Kay® Mineral Facial Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30



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