Chemical VS. Physical SPF

People have been debating which is better for a while, some people say physical because its “natural” and chemical filters are “dangerous”. The fact of the matter is, both of them are safe... However, some people find certain types of SPF to be more irritating than others. There’s also myths surrounding both that we are going to get into and bust.

Let’s start with physical sunscreens. There are 2 types we use and that is titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, they are also known as the sunscreen that reflects rays. Now, this is true, however, it’s also missing the big fact that physical sunscreens not only reflect sunscreens — might I add, only around 5%, but they also absorb the UV rays, convert them into heat and release them from your skin. I know, it’s hard to believe because we have also been told that physical reflects and chemicals absorb, and that’s why a lot of people avoid chemical filters because they believe that the absorption causes irritation (we will talk about that later on). Physical sunscreens have also been said to be better for anyone who suffers with acne, so if you are someone with acne and chemical filters aren’t working, try out physical! They do often cause a white cast and flashback on everyone, but can also be extremely grey on deeper complexions. Physical sunscreens are my personal favourite though, I will list some recommendations at the end — no photos, just product names.

As for chemical SPFs, it's important to start off by saying that most SPFs found in Canada usually contain both mineral and chemical filters, also known as hybrids. Your favourite sunscreens likely have chemical filters in them and you had no idea about it. Some chemical filter names that are popular in North American sunscreens are: Oxybenzone, Octisalate, Avobenzone, Octinoxate and Homosalate. The most popular I always see is Oxybenzone and Octisalate, which are the two that I *personally* react to negatively the most. I have also found through others that were acne-prone also had this same issue, and they’ve narrowed it down to it being chemical filters that trigger irritation and inflammation and thus they avoid them as well. Keep in mind, this is not a guarantee for everyone, I am sure someone who reads this is probably fine with all chemicals and maybe reacts to physicals. I just want to put out there that if you are someone who gets irritated from sunscreens, maybe check to see if there're chemical filters in it and if there is, switch to a titanium or zinc dioxide and see if it changes. Chemical filters cause less of a white cast, little to no flashback and are great for deeper complexions because they do not cause that grey cast.

So, which one is better? Well, the truth is, none of them are better per se because they both offer the same benefits which is: protecting you from harmful UV rays. It will ultimately come down to personal preference. Mine is physical (mineral) sunscreens, because I have poor reactions with chemical and being acne-prone, it has been said that mineral sunscreens are better if you are.


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