Physical vs Chemical Sunscreen: 3 myths you need to stop believing


Sadly there’s a lot of misinformation out there perpetuated by brands and influencers peddling their products, so I’m here to set some records straight.

Author: Jenny Wu
Jenny Wu

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  1. Anne says:

    These things need to be repeated over and over again – sunscreen is so important, yet people use it incorrectly or not at all because of these misconceptions.

    Anne from Doctor Anne

  2. √Člise says:

    as someone with combination but acne-prone and sensitive skin, i’ve stopped trying out chemical spf and resorted to finding physical ones until i discovered krave beauty’s beet the sun / the beet shield spf which is a chemical formula but with UV protection ingredients i don’t think has been widely used by other brands yet (i might be wrong though). this is probably the only chemical spf that works on my skin for every day use (i used to use the biore uv aqua rich and i think my skin hated it at some point)

    i try my best to stay away from oxybenzone and octinoxate since they’re said to be not as safe for acne-prone skin. not sure how true this is but i watched liah yoo and i really trust her when she said it’s better to use physical spf if one has combo, acne-prone and sensitive/rosacea skin. i didn’t know zinc oxide is bad news for coral reefs though, yikes. but don’t we need both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in physical spf for full protection, though? i personally always look for physical spf with both TiO and ZnO and will feel unsafe when it’s incomplete.

    • Jenny says:

      The filters in The Beet Shield are actually pretty common in Asian/European sunscreen. If your skin is reacting adversely to other sunscreens, it might not just be the filters, but also the inactive ingredients. They could’ve included some skin sensitizing fragrance or comedogenic emollients in there.

      Also zinc oxide is the only physical filter that will protect against the full UVB/UVA spectrum, so yes you need it in a physical sunscreen. TiO only protects against UVB and a small part of UVA filters, so you can actually have a physical sunscreen without it and still be ok.

      As for which sunscreen is best, ymmv and it depends on the formula as a whole, not just physical vs chemical. I know many people with sensitive acne prone skin but prefer chemical sunscreens instead.

  3. Amen to all of these, Jenny! I kept telling friends and family ‘natural is NOT necessarily better!’ too.

  4. This was so helpful, thank you for sharing these. I have been a little curious about the whole reef safe claim, any chemical could harm the reef! xo

    Gemma | Makeup Muddle

  5. Lisa Autumn says:

    Oh girl I learned so much! Thank you! x

    Lisa | lisaautumn.com