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Difference between physical sunscreen and chemical sunscreen

Sunscreen is a part of the daily skincare routine. It is useful in preventing sunburns, skin cancer, and premature aging. Sunscreen protects the face and the body against damaging rays of the sun.

Do you know that there exist two different kinds of sunscreens? And do you know there is a big difference between these two available sunscreens?

Majority of the people are not aware of the difference between the two sunscreens. Their chemical and physical formulas and the way they work. Read on to understand the difference.

Physical sunscreen

Physical sunscreens have insoluble particles like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that reflect the sunrays from the skin. They make the UVA and UVB rays from the sun to reflect avoiding the rays from penetrating the skin. Physical sunscreens usually sit on the top of the skin to form a physical barrier between the sun and your skin. The restriction reflects the rays of the sun.

Physical sunscreens are broad-spectrum, thus protecting the skin against UVB and UVA rays. In simple words, physical sunscreens operate as a reflector. Physical sunscreens attract professionals and consumers because they don’t require frequent reapplication. Physical sunscreens are best suitable for those people with sensitive skin since they do not get absorbed into the skin. This is in view of the fact that Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide do not absorb in the skin – they stay on the surface.


Chemical sunscreen

Chemical sunscreens contain chemicals such as oxybenzone, octinoxate; avobenzone and octisalate though these chemicals have to be approved by the FDA.

These compounds form a thin coating on your skin. They absorb and turn UVA and UVB rays from the sun and change them into heat. This helps to keep the rays from penetrating the first layer and the bottom layer of the skin. The chemical compounds enter the layers of your skin before they can begin working to protect your skin. That is the reason why you have to stay for at least 20 minutes before it starts working.

A single chemical is generally not sufficient to protect your skin, and that is why the majority of the chemical sunscreens are a combination of compounds. Chemical sunscreens penetrate through all the layers of the skin (the epidermis and the dermis too.) The chemical compounds work inside the skin and on the outside to absorb the rays.  This can be damaging to your health since some of their ingredients are considered to be harmful.

Both physical and chemical sunscreens play the same role, preventing the rays of the sun from causing harm to your skin.  Both of them keep UVA and UVB rays from penetrating your skin and causing damage. It is imperative to know that since chemical sunscreens are commonly available in a mixture of three or four chemical compounds in a single product, they are most likely to cause sensitivity more than physical sunscreens.

Now that you know the difference between physical and chemical sunscreens – you are equipped with the knowledge of choosing the one ideal for you. Irrespective of the type of sunscreen you decide to use, the vital factor is to use it regularly.
Both physical and chemical sunscreens can be effective and safe when applied correctly. However, some people react to diverse components because of some allergic and thus contact dermatitis.  It is good to consult an expert and choose what works best for you.


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