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“Wear your sunscreen” is pretty much the golden rule of skincare in this day and age, and with good reason. Not only is wearing sunscreen the best way to prevent wrinkles and hyperpigmentation, it also lowers your risk of skin cancer. However, a new debate is emerging around facial sunscreen: mineral vs chemical. Spoiler alert: there’s no hard-and-fast rule, so let’s dive into the two types of SPF so that you can work out which is best for your skin.
Chemical sunscreen is the traditional form of sunscreen, so the chances are you have used this plenty of times before. It works by absorbing the UVA and UVB rays so that they don’t damage your skin.
People hear “chemical” and think “bad,” which is not the case. However, there are concerns over some of the ingredients common in chemical sunscreen. It’s important to remember, however, that the FDA has approved these ingredients and danger is often relative to dosage. Think of it like this: a little bit of salt on your food is ok but if you emptied the entire shaker over your meal, you’d definitely get sick.
Some of these ingredients are:
However, there are definite advantages to chemical sunscreens, too. For one thing, they don’t leave a film on the skin and are thus less visible, which is especially advantageous for darker skin tones. Many people also find chemical sunscreens are more comfortable to use and I always say that the best sunscreen is one you’ll actually wear. Although there are concerns over the ingredients listed above, the sun is much more harmful and can do far greater damage in a shorter period of time.
Chemical sunscreens are less mattifying than their mineral counterparts and therefore tend to be well-suited to dry skin types. Whilst there are great chemical and mineral sunscreens out there, chemical sunscreens have been around for longer and so they are more widely available with many more choices for consumers. In my experience, it’s definitely easier to find a chemical sunscreen that feels just like a moisturiser than a mineral one.
Mineral sunscreens sit on top of the skin and deflect UV rays. It is sometimes also called “physical sunscreen” for this reason.
The two main ingredients in mineral sunscreen are:
You don’t have to reapply mineral sunscreens as often than their chemical counterparts, which is certainly convenient – especially if you’re wearing makeup. They are also less irritating to sensitive skin and tend to produce a mattifying effect which is great for those with oily skin.
However, studies show that mineral sunscreens tend to provide less effective protection against UVA rays, which affect deeper layers of skin than UVB and contribute more to premature ageing.
The right sunscreen for you depends on your concerns and skin type. Since mineral sunscreens tend to have a mattifying effect, they are great for oily skin. Chemical sunscreens, however, do the opposite and so may be better for dry skin.
If you are anxious about long-term exposure to potentially toxic chemicals in traditional sunscreen, then err on the side of caution and go with a good mineral option. However, bear in mind that sun damage presents a far greater risk than a chemical sunscreen ever will.
For example, if you run out of your favourite mineral sunscreen whilst travelling and are unable to find a good replacement, go with a chemical alternative until you can. The sun can seriously damage your skin in a matter of hours, whereas any potential side effects of a chemical sunscreen would only occur with prolonged use. Chemical sunscreen is always better than no sunscreen!
It’s really important to find a sunscreen that you like wearing, otherwise you’ll find excuses not to. I have tried some great chemical and mineral sunscreens recently, and these are my favourites.
La Roche Posay Anthelios Invisible Fluid is practically a cult favorite at this point. It’s lightweight, fast absorbing and provides high levels of protection whilst being gentle on the skin – what more do you need? There’s a tinted version available, too.
Ultra Violette’s Queen Screen Luminizing Sun Serum is probably my favorite product right now. It smells gorgeous and gives a beautiful, dewy finish. I’d say it feels more like a luxury serum than a sunscreen, and I find myself reaching for it time and time again.
If you’re looking for a vegan, organic, reef-friendly sunscreen then Coola Suncare’s Classic Face Organic sunscreen is perfect. It’s super sustainable and contains skin-soothing white tea, as well as protective plant extracts. This is great for anyone looking for a clean chemical sunscreen.
Clinique Mineral sunscreen is light and silky, so it’s perfect to wear under makeup. I tend to go for the SPF 50 version if I’m out at the beach or outdoors during the hottest part of the day. For summer evenings I put the SPF 30 version underneath my makeup.
The Dr Dennis Gross All Physical is perfect for city-dwellers, since it has anti-pollution ingredients to further protect the skin against environmental damage.
Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily Defence is another firm favorite of mine. It absorbs beautifully and gives me a nice glow!
For more on skincare, check out this list of the top luxury serums or my guide to noninvasive skin tightening procedures.
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Your Luxe Lifestyle was founded by luxury world traveler Isabella Garofanelli bringing you the very best the globe has to offer in travel, lifestyle, and wellness.
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