Physical vs. Chemical Sunscreen: How to Protect Your Skin

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physical vs. chemical sunscreen


Not all sunscreen is created equally, and with summer officially starting, it’s important to choose the right sunscreen in order to protect your skin properly. The two main types of sun protection are physical vs. chemical sunscreen, but which type is best for your skin? In order to fully understand this debate, here are the main differences between the two main types of sunscreen.

Physical Sunscreen Basics

Physical sunscreen contains inorganic ingredients—like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide—to sit on top of the skin and reflect and scatter UV rays. It gets the name because it acts as a physical barrier between your skin and the sun.


  • Protects against UVA and UVB rays
  • Better for sensitive skin
  • Longer shelf life


  • Rubs off easily (especially with water and sweat)
  • Formula is thicker and takes more effort to rub in (a white-ish film is common)
  • Can be less effective if not applied accurately and liberally

There are also clothing options, such as sun sleeves, umbrellas, hats, etc. that physically block the sun (with some even containing UV-blocking fibers).

Chemical Sunscreen Basics

Made from organic materials, chemical sunscreen works by absorbing UV (UVA and UVB) rays, turning these rays into heat, and then releasing that heat from the skin. Active compounds include oxybenzone, octinoxate and avobenzone.


  • Absorbs into skin more easily
  • Only a moderate amount is needed
  • More cost-effective


  • Takes roughly 20 minutes to absorb into skin
  • Can irritate sensitive skin
  • Can clog pores
  • Requires frequent re-application


Physical vs. Chemical Sunscreen

There are both advantages and disadvantages to both types of sunscreen, so it’s best to find the formula that works well with your skin type. For example, those with sensitive skin should consider organic, non comedogenic physical sunscreen, as it is less irritating, while those who are more active should try chemical sun protection, as it rubs in easier and is more resistant to sweat.

At Blue Creek, we understand how important sun protection is, which is why we offer both physical and chemical sunscreen options. Next time you’re getting a treatment, ask about our Eminence Organic Skincare and Image Skincare sun care options:

Eminence Bright Skin Moisturizer (SPF 30)

A unique moisturizer that protects and corrects at the same time, this formula contains a plethora of skin-healing and protecting ingredients:

  • Bearberry
  • GigaWhite™
  • Licorice Root
  • African potato
  • Tara tree
  • Stone crop

Eminence Sun Defense Powders (SPF 30)

A light powder, this hypoallergenic formula is great for all skin types, especially those with sensitive skin, with all-natural ingredients:

  • Minerals
  • Zinc oxide
  • Fruit Extracts
  • Vitamins A & E

Image Daily Hydration Moisturizer SPF 30

This paraben- and chemical-free sunscreen offers a high degree of sun protection with its long-lasting, deeply moisturizing formula with:

  • Antioxidants
  • Vitamins
  • Green tea

Don’t forget about your kiddos! A couple of our top choices that are safe for kids and the entire family are TruKid’s mineral sunscreen and Blue Lizard products.

Once you’ve made your decision regarding the physical vs. chemical sunscreen debate, it’s important to understand how to best apply (and reapply) the sunscreen to provide yourself with adequate sun protection. For everything on proper application, click here.

Not sure which sunscreen type is best for you?  or have sun damage (recent sunburn, hyperpigmentation, etc.) that you want to work on with one of our skin brightening treatments? Talk with your esthetician at Blue Creek! We offer customized treatments specific to your unique skin care needs and are committed to your health—both inside and out.

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