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Difference Between Mineral and Chemical Sunscreen

Understanding the difference between mineral and chemical sunscreen can help you make an informed choice for effective sun protection.
29 May 2023

Article Overview

  • Mineral sunscreens contain active mineral ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which work by sitting on top of the skin and reflecting UV rays.
  • Chemical sunscreens contain organic (carbon-based) compounds that absorb UV rays and convert them into heat.
  • SkinCeuticals offers mineral sunscreens like Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 and Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50, which provide broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays.
  • Mineral sunscreens are suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin, and they offer immediate protection upon application.
  • Chemical sunscreens, such as the SkinCeuticals Ultra Facial Defense SPF 50, are also available and offer lightweight, non-greasy formulas that are easily absorbed into the skin.
  • Both mineral and chemical sunscreens are effective in protecting the skin from sun damage, but individuals may have personal preferences based on their skin type and specific needs.

A broad-spectrum sunscreen is an essential part of any morning skincare routine in order to shield the skin from damaging UVA and UVB rays throughout the day. Yet with so many sun-protection options to choose from, it may be hard to decide which one is best for you. To better understand the various types of sunscreens, ingredients, and formulations, taking a closer look at mineral vs. chemical sunscreen options is an ideal place to start. The main difference between physical and chemical sunscreens comes down to the active UV-filtering ingredients. In fact, these two types of sunscreens work in different ways to protect the skin from the sun.

Mineral-based Sunscreen Ingredients

Mineral (or physical) sunscreens are formulated with inorganic UV filters such as zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. The difference between physical and chemical sunscreen is that mineral-based active ingredients sit on the surface of the skin and reflect the sun’s rays.



  • More moisturizing formulas can feel heavy on the skin
  • May be more difficult to blend into the skin, however newer matte and tinted formulations help minimize a white cast and can leave the skin with a smooth, even appearance

Skinceuticals Mineral-based Sunscreens

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Physical Fusion UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 50

This lightweight tinted fluid provides 100%-mineral protection for all skin types and features artemia salina. Its iron oxide color spheres instantly boost skin radiance and provide a universal tint that enhances most skin tones.

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Sheer Physical UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 50

Offering ultra-sheer mineral-based protection and a weightless matte finish for all skin types (including sensitive), this artemia salina-infused formulation spreads easily and dries quickly without leaving any residue behind.

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Physical Matte UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 50

Appropriate for oily and acne-prone skin as well as those who prefer long-lasting matte finish, this tinted sunscreen features an oil-absorbing mousse-like texture that helps smooth skin texture and minimize the appearance of pores.

Chemical-based Sunscreen Ingredients

The active ingredients in chemical sunscreens are organic UV-blockers. A few ingredient names include avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, and octocrylene. When comparing mineral vs. chemical sunscreen, chemical-based formulas are absorbed into the skin where they absorb UV rays and convert them into heat that is released from the body.


  • Ideal for water-resistant formulations used for swimming and outdoor activities
  • Generally is absorbed quickly into the skin
  • Does not leave skin with a white cast


  • May not be well-tolerated by sensitive skin

Must-know Information About These Two Types of Sunscreen

Whether you choose mineral vs. chemical sunscreen, it’s imperative to apply sun protection correctly. This means applying a generous, even layer to the face, neck, and chest 15 minutes before sun exposure and applying makeup. It’s also important to reapply sunscreen after swimming, sweating, immediately after towel drying, and least every two hours. It’s a fact that most people do not apply enough sunscreen to obtain the level of protection stated on the bottle. As a general rule, a nickel-sized dollop should be used for the face alone, while the equivalent of a shot glass (three tablespoons) of sunscreen is necessary to protect exposed areas of the face and body.

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Whether you opt for mineral vs. chemical sunscreen, daily use is non-negotiable for optimizing the health and appearance of the skin—and either of these two types of sunscreen should be the final step of your morning skincare regimen. For comprehensive protection against environmental aging, pair your sunscreen of choice with a topical vitamin C antioxidant. When used together daily, sunscreen and a vitamin C serum help protect the skin from UV rays and environmental free radicals that can contribute to premature visible signs of aging.

Everyone’s skin is different, and SkinCeuticals is here to help you understand the difference between physical and chemical sunscreen. To find the ideal sun protection for your skin and lifestyle, use our online Routine Finder, visit one of our SkinCeuticals SkinLab locations, or schedule an appointment with a SkinCeuticals Skincare Professional for a one-on-one consultation .

Next: What is the Difference Between UVA and UVB Rays?

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