What is the difference between Physical and Chemical sunscreen?

Difference between physical and chemical sunscreen
Should you choose a physical or chemical sunscreen? Whether they choose a chemical sunscreen or a physical sunblock, as long as you are wearing an SPF of 30 at least every single day, you are good to go.

What is the difference between physical sunscreen and chemical sunscreen?

The difference lies in the physical and chemical sunscreen ingredients. Let find out more about it:

Typically, Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sunscreen are often categorised as “physical or inorganic” sunscreens, whereas sunscreen that uses other sunscreen filters is considered a “chemical or organic” sunscreen. However, dividing sunscreens into “physical” and “chemical” isn’t the best way to categorise them because titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are chemicals too. Try finding these elements titanium and zinc on the periodic table, if you will. Octocrylene, Avobenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Oxybenzone, Homosalate, Mexoryl SX, Mexoryl XL, Tinosorb S, Tinosorb M are chemical sunscreen filters, to name a few.

In chemistry, organic means any compounds that contain carbon. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide don’t have carbon and are classified as inorganic. So, categorising chemical sunscreen as organic and physical sunscreens as inorganic would be a better classification.

How do Chemical and physical sunscreens work?

Both Chemical and physical sunscreens work very similarly. Both work-absorbing UV and turn it into heat. Both can provide protection as high as SPF 50+, but broad-spectrum protection is where the difference lies. Besides differences between them are the texture, finish, and skin type, and skin concerns.

There is no evidently clear answer for when you should reapply your sunscreen as it depends on your activities, lifestyle, and environmental conditions; therefore, reapplication every two hours is recommended. But we can give you a few reasons to reapply a sunscreen: you may not have applied enough in the first place and over time it may have been wiped off, thus resulting in a patchy coverage which can lead to pigmentation.

Can you mix physical and chemical sunscreen?

Short answer: Yes, you can use chemical and physical sunscreen together. But layering your sunscreen will not give you additional protection as you think it would. Instead, look for a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against longer wavelengths of UVA. Also, when applied correctly and enough, i.e., one tablespoon, which is equivalent to three fingers for proper protection, both physical and chemical blockers work just as effectively at preventing UV damage.

Physical sunscreens, also known as mineral sunscreens, may leave a white cast on the skin, but these days, sunscreens use nanotechnology to break down particles, making them more wearable. Chemical sunscreens are thinner comparatively and, therefore, are easier to apply on the skin.

Which one is better: physical and chemical sunscreen?

First things first! Both chemical and physical sunscreens work well to protect the skin from UV rays and sun damage. The factors that we consider while purchasing sunscreen are the SPF level or the protection level, how much UV you’re exposed to, ease of application, skin type, texture, greasiness, price, budget, or its overall formulation.

However, here are a few things to take into account when picking a sunscreen:

If you have sensitive skin, a physical sunblock tends to be less irritating and suits sensitive skin better. But depending on the formula, some physical sunscreen may be difficult to blend into the skin fully. However, physical sunscreens have come a long way from their chalky white predecessors to well-formulated sunscreens, such as SUNTIQUE I'm Safe For Sensitive Skin and SUNTIQUE I'm Pure Cica Sunscreen offering lightweight matte leaves of less white cast and giving the skin a smooth, even appearance. You may also wanna try ROVECTIN Skin Essentials Aqua Soothing UV Protector SPF50+ PA++++ one of the best Korean sunscreen for face, extremely lightweight and anti-ageing sunscreen for all skin types.

Chemical sunscreen is usually thinner, sheer, lighter, easy to apply, and thus, absorbs quickly into the skin and leaves no white cast. A'PIEU Pure Block Natural Daily Sun Cream SPF45/PA+++ is a chemical Korean sunscreen in India oily skin and combination skin and it works amazingly well for dry and sensitive skin too.

Some negative connotations that are popular about physical and chemical sunscreens are:

Physical sunscreen work instantly while you have to wait for chemical sunscreens to work

There is no waiting period for either type; both sunscreens give you sun protection as soon as you apply it.

Physical sunscreens are better because they're natural

Natural things aren’t always better than synthetic ones. But they are not even natural; zinc and Titanium dioxide are both chemical compounds like explained above. You want to delve more into what to look for when choosing sunscreen such as SPF meaning in sunscreen.


It is important to wear sunscreen daily to prevent sun damage. Both physical and chemical sunscreen are effective in preventing UV damage. There is no clear answer as to when you should reapply your sunscreens, but as long as you wear sunscreen and reapply it every two hours, you are good to go.

Which sunscreen do you prefer, chemical or physical? Share your routine with us in the comments below.


Shop the best Korean sunscreen in India