Chemical vs Physical sunscreen.

On my previous post, we discussed methods of prolonging your sun protection when reapplying your sunscreen every 2 hours isn’t an option.
A sunscreen that combines chemical and physical actives emerged as one of your options but I’ll tell you why I prefer physical sunscreens to chemical sunscreens. First, lets cover the basics on what chemical and physical sunscreens are.

What is chemical sunscreen?
Chemical sunscreens work by scattering or absorbing the Sun’s rays. These sunscreens are absorbed by your skin and DO find a way into your bloodstream. Chemical sunscreens are formulated with  active ingredients like  oxybenzone,avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene,homosalate and octinoxate. These chemicals can be formulated in the lab but oxybenzone  occurs naturally in the flowers of certain plants.


Chemical sunscreens aren’t very good at offering broad spectrum protection but they will prevent sunburn.
What are physical sunscreens?
Physical sunscreens are sunscreens that use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as their active ingredients. These ingredients ‘sit’ on your skin and deflect the sun’s rays. They are able to deflect both UVA and UVB rays thus offer better protection than chemical blockers.

Both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide occur naturally and are inorganic.

Titanium dioxide can be problematic for some people. (If you break out from mineral make up and physical sunscreen, titanium dioxide could be
the culprit.)

Zinc oxide is generally safe. It can be used on delicate skin and is a main ingredient in diaper rash cream.

Why is physical better than chemical?
Other than the fact that physical sunscreen offers better protection, the other reason you should avoid them is that, they are considered endocrine disruptors. Those are chemicals that interfere with the normal function of hormones. The hormones most commonly disturbed are estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and thyroid.

Endocrine disruptors, like some ingredients in chemical sunscreens, can cause abnormal development of fetuses and growing children. They cause early puberty and premature breast development in girls, and small and undescended testicles in boys.
They cause low sperm counts and infertility. Endocrine disruptors that act like estrogen can contribute to the development of breast and ovarian cancers in women, and other endocrine disruptors may increase the chance of prostate cancer in men.

At this point you may be wondering, why do people use chemical sunscreen in the first place? Because they are easier to find and don’t leave you with a white cast.

To solve the problem of the white cast manufacturers now split titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to make them small enough to be absorbed by your skin. These small absorbable particles are called nano particles.

The effect these nano particles in your body hasn’t been studied widely yet, but in my opinion these are much safer than chemical sunscreens.

I have searched all over but haven’t found a suitable non-nano physical sunscreen. I do know that badgers and adorable baby make non-nano zinc oxide sunscreen but those brands are hard to come by around here. If you know of any other options please share.

If you’re wondering whether or not you really need sunscreen, take a look at this.

Thanks for stopping by!


16 thoughts on “Chemical vs Physical sunscreen.

  1. Has there been any significant research into the potential link between endocrine disruptors and testicle cancer? I ask because – growing up practically on the beach – I used a lot of chemical sunblock. Later on I developed cancer in my testicles (and had to have both removed). The doctors say it’s quite rare to get it in both, but that it seems to be on the rise. Thanks for the informative post.


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