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physical vs chemical sunscreen

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Here are facts you need so you can choose the best sunscreen for your skin.


story highlights

  • Physical sunscreen uses minerals that sit on top of skin and reflect away UV rays.
  • Chemical sunscreen uses ingredients that absorb and transform UV rays into heat.


  • the difference between physical and chemical sunscreen

    Did you know there are two types of sunscreens?

    The two different types are physical and chemical. Both have their own unique properties and benefits, they both help protect skin from UV rays, just in different ways.


    the benefits of physical sunscreen

    Physical sunscreen, also called mineral sunscreen, sits on top of skin. Most physical sunscreens leave a white or tinted residue on skin, but newer formulas like Invisible Physical Defense Mineral Sunscreen SPF30 have been made ultra-sheer to help prevent a chalky effect. This makes them suitable for all skin tones.

    To identify this type of sunscreen, look for the words "mineral," or "physical," as well as active ingredients like Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide.

    Physical sunscreen:

  • Helps protect against UVA and UVB rays
  • Protects as soon as it's applied – there's no need to wait before exposing skin to daylight
  • Is generally comfortable for all skin types and conditions, particularly sensitive skin

    the benefits of chemical sunscreen

    Chemical sunscreens use ingredients that absorb into skin and transform UV rays into heat. This type of sunscreen tends to be popular because it feels light and absorbs well. Sensitive skins may not tolerate this type of sunscreen. 

    Chemical sunscreen:

  • Helps protect against UVA and UVB rays
  • Needs time to absorb – 15 to 30 minutes – before exposing skin to daylight
  • Is generally comfortable for most skin types and conditions
  • Tends to be more water- and sweat-resistant

    We have a range of different SPFs to help with not only protecting your skin but also targeting your skin concerns from ageing to breakouts. Take a look at a few of our chemical sunscreens.

    dynamic skin recovery spf50

    Broad Spectrum moisturiser helps combat the appearance of skin ageing.

    prisma protect spf30

    Light-activated multitasking moisturiser provides broad spectrum defence while preventing future signs of skin damage.

    oil free matte spf30

    This broad spectrum sunscreen helps prevent shine and skin ageing on oily, breakout-prone skin.

    solar defence booster spf50

    Add critical UVA and UVB defence to your moisturiser or foundation with this Broad Spectrum sunscreen for all skin conditions.


    what sunscreen to use

    It all comes down to which formula you like wearing the most. At Dermalogica, we believe any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen to help protect your skin from UV damage. That's why we offer a broad range of SPF moisturizers and sunscreens that suit different preferences and lifestyles. To find out which formula is right for you, consult our SPF guide or chat with one of our professional skin therapists.