You most likely already know that sunscreen is a non-negotiable part of your everyday skincare regimen, but what you might not know is that there are two different types of sunscreen filters – both of which work very differently and have unique advantages and disadvantages. We explain what chemical and mineral filters are, and how they help protect against sun damage. 

Chemical Sunscreens
As their name suggests, chemical sunscreens use non-natural, chemical filters to protect the skin against the sun’s UV damage. They act like a sponge, absorbing UVA and UVB rays. Through a chemical reaction, the sunscreen dissipates the UV rays. This means that your skin is protected because the UV rays never actually hit your body.

Chemical sunscreen filters blend much easier into the skin and leave no white cast or residue. Generally, they are a much lighter texture and easier to spread, and feel similar to using a moisturiser. 

These chemical filters get absorbed directly into the skin and can sometimes cause irritation, particularly in sensitive skin types. 

Chemical sunscreens need to be absorbed completely by the skin before they become effective and offer protection, which is why you need to apply them at least 15 to 20 minutes before being exposed to the sun’s rays. 

Common filters
Some of the most commonly used chemical UV filters that you might find listed in the product ingredients are Octylcrylene, Avobenzone, Oxybenzone and Homosalate. 

Mineral Sunscreens
Also known as sunblock and physical sunscreens (because they provide a physical barrier between your skin and the sun’s rays), this type of sunscreen uses minerals as its active ingredients to block out UV rays. The filter reflects and absorbs sun rays, preventing you from burning. Think of them as millions of tiny mirrors resting on the surface of your skin, bouncing away harmful UV rays. 

Unlike chemical filters that penetrate the skin, the mineral sunscreen filter sits on the surface of the skin, making it effective immediately from the moment you apply it. And Because they sit on the surface of the skin, they’re less likely to cause irritation. 

Mineral sunscreens are photostable, which means they don’t need to be reapplied as frequently as chemical sunscreens when exposed to light. 

Mineral sunscreens are typically much heavier and thicker. They can easily be rubbed off during the day, and as a result, may need to be reapplied more frequently than chemical formulas.  

Mineral sunscreens can also sometimes leave a white or greyish layer/cast on the skin, which is not ideal for darker skin tones. 

Common filters
The two most commonly used mineral filters are Titanium Dioxide – which protects against all UVB rays and the majority of UVA rays – and Zinc Dioxide, which products against the entire spectrum of both. 

Hybrid combinations
Don’t be surprised if you see a combination of both mineral and chemical filters that provide the best of both worlds – the cosmetic elegance of chemical filters and the broad-spectrum coverage of mineral filters.

So, which sunscreen is best?
At the end of the day, “the best” sunscreen is simply the one you’ll use consistently. When applied correctly, both chemical and mineral sunscreen filters are highly effective in preventing sun damage. However, SKIN functional uses chemical filters in our sunscreen SPF50 to ensure there is no white cast, and it feels incredibly light on your skin. Best of all, it suitable for all skin types.