Chemical vs Physical SPF

Physical and Chemical SPF at Shine Skin and Body

Chemical vs Physical SPF which should you choose and why? The quick answer is both are great sunscreens and as long as you are wearing sunscreen you can’t go wrong! It’s just personal preference.

We will begin by defining what physical and chemical sunscreens are so that we can understand their benefits, pros and cons


Physical sunscreens, also known as mineral sunscreens, contain particles such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide that sit on top of the skin and reflect the harmful UV rays.


  • Better for the reefs- this only applies if you are in the sea, not walking around or in pools.
  • They provide immediate protection upon application
  • Good for sensitive skins- The benefit to them not penetrating is, as they sit on top of the skin they are less likely to cause irritation in highly sensitive skins.
  • Best for clients who suffer from Melasma (hormonal pigment) as no heat is generated within the skin.


  • Because they sit on top of the skin that is where you can have problems with physical spf, they leave a whitecast on your skin, if you have a darker skin type this is more obvious.
  • Not great for oily or acne skins-they can feel heavier and don’t soak in, so you feel more of a film.
  • Need to reapply more- Because they sit on top of the skin they are very easily wiped off with touch, sweat and water, so if you are being active, chemical spf would be better.


Chemical sunscreens contain various organic compounds such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octinoxate that work by absorbing into the skin, the absorbing and dissipating UV rays, converts the rays into heat, and releases them from the skin.


  • They’re more effective at resisting water and sweat, so they’re usually the better choice when you’re swimming or doing physical activity in the sun.
  • These sunscreens are often lightweight and easier to apply.
  • They leave less of a reside on the skin and no whitecast.
  • Longer-Lasting Protection – Chemical sunscreens typically provide longer-lasting protection than physical sunscreens.
  • Better for UVA protection- there are 12 types of chemical spf ingredients (physical has 2) and a bottle will normally contain a few of these types working better on the deeper ageing rays as they work slightly differently giving you better protection.


  • Potential Environmental Harm – Certain chemicals found in chemical sunscreens, such as oxybenzone, have been shown to have harmful effects on coral reefs when washed off into the ocean.
  • Can generate more heat in the skin so not best for highly sensitive skin or clients with melasma.

At Shine we stock both types of SPF as everyone is different. Speak to your therapist when you come in next and we can guide you to the best one for you.

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