How To Choose Between Chemical Or Physical Sunscreen

By now, most people should know how important cleansing comes in the first step of the skincare routine. It cleanses the skin from dirt and grime, and preps it for the following skincare products such as serum and moisturiser. For daytime, the last step is typically SPF to provide sufficient coverage against the sun’s harmful rays.

But do you know that there are two types of sunscreens, physical and chemical sunscreen? When you take a closer look, they contain different ingredients that function in different ways, while still providing effective broad-spectrum protection against damaging UVA and UVB rays. Knowing the differences – how they work, what they are, how they feel on the skin – can help you select the right product for your skin and lifestyle.

Let’s explore more on the differences between physical and chemical sunscreens.

1. How do they differ from one another?

Once you apply a chemical sunscreen, they sink into the skin to absorb the sun’s UV rays, convert them into heat and protect against its damaging effects. Chemical sunscreens are made up of active sun filters, such as avobenzone, oxybenzone, octinoxate, homosalate and octocrylene. Depending on the formulation, they usually offer a lightweight, non-sticky feel when applied to the skin. As the chemical filters do not have a physical presence, the sunscreen is also less likely to leave a white cast.

For physical sunscreens, on the other hand, they form a barrier on the surface of the skin to block and scatter UV rays away from the skin. They contain mineral filters, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which act as physical blockers to reflect UV rays off the skin’s surface. Physical sunscreens typically appear thicker and whiter than the chemical sunscreen formula, so it allows for a better visual guide to ensure certain skin areas are covered for better protection.

2. When should you apply them in your routine?

Not all experts agree on whether sunscreen should precede moisturiser, or vice versa. Some recommend that sunscreens should be applied closest to the skin, which maximises absorption due to the occlusive ingredients found in moisturisers. While others hold the opinion of applying sunscreen as the last step of the routine, so its effectiveness won’t be diluted.

But it also depends on its ingredients, whether the sunscreen is a physical blocker or chemically formulated, to determine if it can go over or under a moisturiser. Regardless, it is agreed that everyone should be wearing sunscreen. If you’re still unsure, opt for a lightweight moisturiser, and let it soak in and dry first before applying your sunscreen next.

There is also the option of choosing a moisturiser with built-in SPF. Look for a combination product with an SPF of at least 30 to avoid skimping on coverage. But if you’re going to be completely exposed to the sun, it is good to wear a stand-alone, water-resistant sunscreen and reapply it every 2 hours.

3. Which one is right for you?

This depends on your personal preference. It should be the one that you are applying daily. Make sure it is at least SPF 30 or higher and provides broad-spectrum protection to prevent sun damage from UVA and UVB rays. Pay attention to how your skin type reacts to different sunscreen ingredients, as certain ingredients may not be as suitable for sensitive skin. In addition, if your skin leans towards the oily side, look for weightless, non-greasy options. 

Treating skin pigmentation

Wearing adequate sun protection is crucial to also prevent skin pigmentation and delay the onset of wrinkles. If you’re struggling with stubborn sun spots or even melasma, the Q Switch laser delivers non-invasive high-energy pulse in the billionths of a second to target the concerned area and break down the pigmented cells. These small fragments will be released into the skin to be naturally eliminated by the body’s lymphatic system. The laser procedure takes merely 15 minutes and has no downtime, making it a convenient treatment to schedule in during your day. The number of sessions required will depend on your skin type and the targeted areas. Plus, Q Switch also provides skin elasticity benefits by boosting collagen production in the skin, and can work as an acne scar removal option to reduce hyperpigmentation.

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