What’s the Difference Between Physical and Chemical Sunscreens, Anyway?

Trace Barnhill, Mia Maguire
·1 min read

In the singular effort to get you to wear some—any!—sunscreen at all on a daily basis, most experts neglect to tell you what kind of sunscreen you should actually wear. Finally, we’re here to break down the differences between physical vs. chemical sunscreens once and for all. Regardless of what Gwyneth Paltrow says about SPF, sunscreen is essential. This’ll be fun-ish, I promise.

Physical sunscreens (also known as mineral sunscreens) create an invisible shield on top of the skin’s surface (well, it should be invisible, but some formulas err on the chalky side). “They’re made up of finely powdered minerals, usually zinc oxide and titanium dioxide,” says dermatologist Annie Chiu. “These minerals sit on the skin and block UV radiation by...

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