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Physical Sunscreen vs. Chemical Sunscreen: Which one do you need?

Spring is here! Although sunscreen should be a staple step in your daily daytime skincare routine, we know that it is a step that many people still lack to incorporate into their daily skin maintenance. For newbies out there, the whole chemical or physical sunscreen can be quite overwhelming. Therefore, we've decided to break down everything you need to know about these two types of sunscreens to help you make the best choice.


Chemical Suncreen with spf


What is Chemical Sunscreen?

Chemical sunscreens contain chemical molecules that absorb ultraviolet rays from the sun and undergo a series of chemical reactions that changes the UV rays into heat. This heat is then released from the skin to its surrounding environment. Some of the common active chemical ingredients include Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Homosalate, Octocrylene and Avobenzone. You will often find that chemical sunscreens are thinner in consistency, easy to apply and easier to incorporate more skin benefiting ingredients such as Centella Asciatica, green tea and peptides. Organic sunscreen agents are consumed by sunlight and degrades easily, therefore, it is recommended that chemical sunscreen should be applied repeatedly when staying under the sun for long periods of time.

However, in the recent years, a new generation of organic UV filters have been slowly introduced into the market. Many of these chemical molecules have higher SPF protection and more stable peak protection range, making this generation of chemical sunscreen agents a preferred option than the older organic UV filters. You may have heard of chemical agents such as. Unfortunately, as good as these agents are, most of them are still not approved by FDA in the US and Canada, but are widely available in other parts of the world.

Chemical sunscreens like Dr.Ceuracle's Hyal Reyouth Moist Sun and Scinic's Enjoy Super Mild Sun Essence focus on hydration while protecting the skin from UV radiation, making them the perfect choice for those with dehydrated skin.


Physical Sunscreen


What is Physical Sunscreen?

Physical sunscreens, also known as mineral sunscreen contain active mineral ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Unlike their chemical counterparts that work to absorb UV rays, physical sunscreen physically blocks UV rays by deflecting and scattering the UV rays away from the skin. When using physical sunscreen, you will find that the consistency tends to be heavier and requires more effort to rub in the sunscreen. There is also the infamous white cast that tends to appear on darker complexion, however, with newer generations of sunscreen, the white cast is often masked by a colored tint. Physical sunscreens are also less irritating for those with sensitive skin and rosacea.

Physical sunscreens often have tone up effect to help double up as a make up base, giving the skin a brighter and even tone look. The 5A Control No-Sebum Sun Lotion from Dr.Ceuracle is the perfect sunscreen for those with oily skin. It is watery, lightweight and has a matifying effect that helps control the oil and shine effect. The best part is, despite containing titanium oxide, the white cast is barely noticeable on darker skin tone.

For a physical sunscreen with tone up effect in a creamy texture, the Dr.Ceuracle Pro-Balance Biotics Clear Up Sun is a great option if you have lighter skin tone.


Key Differences between Chemical and Physical Sunscreen

Difference between Physical Sunscreen and Chemical Sunscreen



Chemical Sunscreen

Physical Sunscreen

How it works

Absorbs UV rays and changes rays into heat that is then released from the skin

Physically blocks UV rays by deflecting and scattering UV rays 

Duration to take effect

Apply 20 minutes before going under the sun

Although instantly provides protection, it is best to wait at least 15 mins before going under the sun.

Active ingredients

avobenzone, octinoxate, oxybenzone, homosalate

titanium dioxide and zinc oxide

Absorption rate

Quick absorption

Requires rubbing in

White cast




Physical Sunscreen vs. Chemical Sunscreen: Which Should You Choose?

Each type of sunscreen has its pros and cons and depending on your skin's needs, either or both types can help prevent your skin from pre-mature aging. Generally, physical sunscreens are preferred for those with sensitive skin and dealing with rosacea as physical sunscreens are less irritating. Chemical sunscreens are the preferred if you are going swimming or playing sports under the sun and are in need of a quick absorbing sunscreen  What is more important is that whichever sunscreen you choose to use, maintaining a daily routine of applying sunscreen is the key to preventing skin damage. If you aren't sure which sunscreen is suitable for your skin, a patch test is still the best way to determine if you react to a sunscreen or not.

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