Natural Skin protection vs. Chemical protection

Natural Skin protection vs. Chemical protection

Sunscreen is arguably the most important part of your skincare routine, protecting you from damaging ultraviolet rays that can cause sunburn, premature aging, eye damage and skin cancer. Scientists, doctors and beauticians are all in agreement – a good quality sunscreen is a must-have for every beauty bag. But which sunscreen offers the most protection for your skin – natural or chemical? Read on to find out the pros and cons of each.

How do sunscreens work?

Sunscreens work by absorbing, reflecting or scattering sunlight so that the skin itself does not absorb any of the sun’s damaging rays. The ingredient lists of natural and chemical sunscreens are very different, however, and this makes them work differently too. Note that some formulas contain both mineral and chemical sunscreens, so always check the ingredient list before purchasing.

What is the main difference between natural and chemical sunscreens?

In a nutshell, natural sunscreens deflect UV rays, while chemical sunscreens absorb them. Natural sunscreens (also called mineral sunscreens or sunblock) are also typically thicker in consistency and whiter in color than chemical sunscreens. This makes it easier to see where they’ve been applied, so you don’t miss any sensitive spots. Importantly, natural sunscreens are generally less irritating for sensitive skin, as well as for those who suffer from rosacea and redness.

Chemical sunscreens: what’s in the bottle?

Chemical sunscreens contain active, non-natural carbon-based compounds that act as sun filters. Common ingredients include oxybenzone, octinoxate, homosalate, avobenzone and octisalate. These compounds can penetrate the skin and absorb UV rays so that they don’t do any damage. However, some of these active chemical ingredients can cause irritation or discomfort to sensitive skin. Chemical sunscreens have a thinner consistency too, and are more transparent in appearance. This means they tend to spread easily on the skin, but it will be harder to see any missed spots. Typically, chemical sunscreens don’t start to work until about 20 minutes after application.

How do natural sunscreens provide protection from the sun?

Natural sunscreens simply sit on the surface of the skin and provide natural UV protection by blocking and deflecting sun rays away from your body. They start protecting your skin from the moment you put them on. Natural or mineral sunscreens are sometimes called physical sunscreens because they provide a physical barrier between your skin and the sun’s rays. They do this by using two sun-filtering minerals: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Both of these active ingredients occur naturally, although they can be created synthetically too.

Titanium dioxide: nature’s own sunscreen

Titanium dioxide (also known as titanium oxide) is the fine white powder that is created when titanium interacts with oxygen. This extremely useful earth mineral is what gives your skin natural UV protection from the sun. Titanium dioxide protects against both UVA and UVB radiation and is particularly beneficial for those with sensitive skin, as it’s super gentle, non-toxic and non-irritating. This makes it a great sunscreen to use around the eyes too. As titanium dioxide works by deflecting heat and energy from the sun away from your skin, it’s also an excellent choice for those with heat-activated skin conditions, such as rosacea.

Double-duty sun protection: 4 in One Camera Ready Makeup Foundation

Foundations that contain sunscreens are an easy way of boosting your sun protection and enhancing your anti-aging regime without applying multiple layers of thick sunscreen. Our 4 in One Camera Ready Makeup Foundation contains the mineral titanium dioxide to provide natural sun protection as well as incredible, weightless coverage.

Broad-spectrum sunscreen

Whether chemical or natural, a good quality sunscreen should protect you from the two types of damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays: UVB and UVA. Look for a sunscreen labelled ‘broad-spectrum’ as this means it will protect you across both the UVB and UVA range. If a sunscreen isn’t broad spectrum, you won’t be protected from all the UVA rays, no matter how high the SPF is. Physical sunscreens are naturally broad spectrum, while chemical sunscreens require a range of compounds to provide effective broad-spectrum protection.

Written by Jennifer Bradley
Skincare & Beauty Professional

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