Mineral vs Chemical Sunscreens: Why Safe Sunscreen Matters

Posted on March 04 2020

Mineral vs Chemical Sunscreens: Why Safe Sunscreen Matters
The benefits of sunscreen can never be overstated. Over the years, we’ve been hearing dermatologists, skincare experts, and beauty bloggers talk more and more about how important it is to wear sunscreen in order to protect ourselves from harmful UV rays, and to save our skin from premature aging and skin cancer. 

In fact, it’s no longer the case that sunscreen should be applied only when you’re going out or when the rays seem too strong. Sunscreen should be worn pretty much every day, because the presence of UV rays is eternal and shielding our skin from it is vital.

Perhaps you may have had instances in the past that have made you wary of using sunscreen. Maybe you didn’t quite appreciate the sticky feeling and pasty look you were left with after application. Maybe the one you used was making you break out. However, these aren’t good enough reasons to put your skin through the danger of UV exposure. And at We Are Wild, we know that any part of a good skincare routine - even protecting it from the sun - must feel comfortable and fun.

When you’re finding a sunscreen for your skin, you can either choose between a mineral sunscreen or a chemical sunscreen. Let us go through the differences between the two, their ingredients, their pros and cons, and which one is better for you.

Related: Benefits of Probiotics for Skincare

How do Mineral and Chemical Sunscreens Work?

alt text: A person holding a surfboard looks at the water as the sun sets.

Both mineral and chemical sunscreens protect your skin from the damaging UV rays in different ways. Mineral sunscreens contain tiny particles that sit on the surface of your skin, thereby physically shielding the UV rays from getting into the skin. Mineral sunscreens can be applied after other skincare products, too. 

Chemical sunscreens, as opposed to mineral sunscreens, enable UV light to get inside the skin. Once the light has been absorbed, the chemicals present in the sunscreen then cause a chemical reaction to take place, wherein the UV light gets converted into heat, and this heat then disappears from the skin. 

The Ingredients in Chemical and Mineral Sunscreens

Mineral sunscreens contain the ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These work as physical sunscreen filters, and are ideal regardless of whether you’re out in the sun for a short or a prolonged period of time. This is due to the broad-spectrum protection present in mineral sunscreens that protect the skin from UVA as well as UVB rays. Mineral sunscreens help in reflecting UV rays, and it’s advised to apply a good amount of it on your skin about 15 minutes before you step out in the sun.

There are more than 30 synthetic ingredients present in a chemical sunscreen. These absorb into the top layers of the skin, scatter and deflect the UV rays, and then convert the UV rays into heat, thereby deactivating them. Some of the common ingredients present in chemical sunscreens include octinoxate, octisalate, oxybenzone, avobenzone, and homosalate. Chemical sunscreens, too, should be applied 15 minutes prior to sun exposure.

While both types of ingredients have been labeled safe by the FDA, the Environmental Working Group has recommended avoiding chemical sunscreen because it contains ingredients that may be irritating to the skin.

Pros and Cons of Mineral Sunscreen

Alt text: The back of a We Are Wild mineral sunscreen stick with product details.


Mineral sunscreens tend to be safer than chemical sunscreens. A new FDA-backed study shows that the UV-blocking chemicals in chemical sunscreens can be directly absorbed into the blood, while another study asserts the other unknown harms related to these chemicals that we do not yet know.

The pros of mineral sunscreen include:

  1. Has a natural broad-spectrum and shields your skin against both UVA and UVB rays
  2. Does not get directly absorbed into the bloodstream
  3. Are designated to be Generally Recognized as Safe and Effective
  4. Does not damage ocean reefs
  5. Does not take time at the beginning to work, and protects your skin as soon as it’s applied
  6. Has a longer shelf life
  7. Works best for acne-prone skin, as it doesn’t clog your pores
  8. Good for sensitive skin, too, because it doesn’t irritate your skin or cause any negative reactions
  9. Lasts for quite a long time in terms of exposure to direct UV rays
  10. Is effective on heat-activated skin, as it deflects the energy and heat coming from the sun off your skin
  11. Non-nano mineral formulas are especially effective

Looking for a quality mineral sunscreen? Check out We Are Wild, Solid Block with SPF 35++.

The cons of mineral sunscreens are:

  1. If not applied generously and between regular intervals, mineral sunscreens can prove to be less effective
  2. Mineral sunscreen wears off pretty quickly, so you will have to reapply it quite often
  3. They often leave unsightly white patches on the skin

Pros and Cons of Chemical Sunscreens

The pros of chemical sunscreen are as follows:

  1. You don’t need to apply a lot of it on your skin
  2. Chemical sunscreen generally has a thin formula and is easier to apply and spread on your skin

Here are the cons of chemical sunscreen:

  1. It can clog your pores in case you have oily skin
  2. If it’s of a higher SPF range and has the possibility of irritating your skin, especially if your skin is sensitive
  3. It takes 20 minutes to start working after being applied
  4. The numerous ingredients present in a chemical sunscreen can cause stinging and irritation 
  5. When you’re exposed to direct UV light, chemical sunscreens get used up quicker, and you might have to reapply it more
  6. As it converts UV rays into heat, the chances of redness increase with a chemical sunscreen
  7. Chemicals can be absorbed and penetrate the bloodstream
  8. Chemical sunscreens are not safe for the ocean and reef environment
  9. Not all of the chemicals in sunscreens are GRASE designated and need further FDA testing

Which is Better?

Alt text: Two people with surfboards walk towards the waves.

Both mineral and chemical sunscreens have been around for a long time, and have used by individuals as well as tested extensively by dermatologists, so they’re safe for daily use. However, it’s best to consult your dermatologist before deciding which one to go for, because that will completely depend on your skin type and which kind suits you more. If you are pregnant, it is especially important that you consult a physician to avoid chemicals that may absorb directly into your bloodstream.

If you want to avoid the irritating ingredients of chemical sunscreen, you should opt for mineral sunscreen. Check out our easy-to-apply Solid Block sunscreen, a mineral formula that glides on your skin without creating stickiness or white patches. Gain the benefits of hemp seed oil and lavender while also protecting your skin from the sun. This sunscreen utilizes non-nano materials that are safe both for humans and the environment. They’re safe for ocean reefs and won’t penetrate the skin so you enjoy the sun without worry.

Related: Hemp Oil for Skin: Can Cannabis Sativa Oil Help With Acne, Anti-Aging, & Other Skin Issues?

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