What are the Differences Between Chemical and Physical Sunscreen?

What are the Differences Between Chemical and Physical Sunscreen?

We are all too aware of the risks of going into the sun without adequate protection, but when it comes to choosing the right sunscreen, it can be a a bit of a minefield. Look at any sunscreen range and you’ll find yourself dazzled with SPF factors, UVB, UVA protection and it’s easy to get confused.

If you’ve done a bit of research you’ll know that there are additional choices to be made when it comes to your sunscreen selection; the choice between a chemical and a physical sunscreen.

What is a Chemical Sunscreen?

Chemical sunscreen is typically the kind of sunscreen that you will find in big brand sun protection products in your local pharmacy or supermarket. They typically use ingredients such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate, these don’t tend to effective when used alone, so are often combined with other ingredients such as antioxidants. The inclusion of antioxidants is important as some skincare experts believe that chemical sunscreen usage may make your skin more prone to the effects of free radicals. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the sun’s rays. They are absorbed well into the skin like a moisturizer or body cream, however, they are not always ideal for sensitive skin and the delicate skin of children as they can cause irritation.

What is a Physical Sunscreen?

Physical sunscreens create a physical barrier between the sunlight and our skin, they are often called sunblock. Unlike their chemical counterparts they do not absorb into skin at all and sit on the top layer of skin to provide the full block effect. Typical ingredients include Titanium Oxide and Zinc Oxide, both of which are quite viscous liquids which must be blended down to provide a more discrete cream to be worn day to day. Physical sunscreens work by deflecting the sun’s rays away from your skin. You are most likely to find physical sunscreens in natural and organic sun protection products, they are good for sensitive skin and ideal for children. Due to the thicker non-absorbent nature of the product, physical sunscreens do rub off easily, so may need to be applied more regularly.

Which sunscreen gives the best protection?

The jury is still out in terms of which product gives the best protection. Ultimately if you want to care for your skin, not just in terms of sun damage but overall care and protection against sensitivity and anti-aging, then the best choice would be a physical sunscreen.

Artesana has produced their own physical sunscreen which is called ‘2 in 1 Day Cream and Sun Cream’. We’ve combined non-nano particle Zinc Oxide with coconut oil and various natural ingredients to create a safe, natural cream which will to block out harmful UVA and UVB rays and keep your skin looking youthful and even. With an SPF factor of 20, it’s the perfect sunscreen that you can use as part of your daily beauty routine.


Hopefully this post has given you a greater insight into the differences between chemical and physical sunscreen. In terms of choosing the right SPF, research indicates that any sunscreen with an SPF factor of higher than 50 is no more effective than one under 50. We recommend choosing a sunscreen with an SPF of between factor 20 to 50 and ensure that you re-apply on a regular basis.

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