Comparing and contrasting the two types of sunscreen – physical and chemical

One of the greatest factors for premature aging is exposure to the sun. While we all know that sun spots and skin discoloration is an obvious side effect, we don’t acknowledge that exposure to the sun can also cause wrinkles, dullness, and loss of skin elasticity. All pretty serious, all pretty hard to turn back once it starts happening. And, the reality is, though the face is the main culprit, areas like your chest are just as prone to aging as your face.

The science behind it? UV rays penetrate skin cells to cause DNA damage, which leads to the production of free radicals. They lead to the breakdown of collagen, elastin, and other key proteins, all of which are important structural components that keep skin functioning properly and looking young.

There are two key ways to combat the effects of UV ray exposure as preventative measures.

First: you are what you eat. Many fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, flavonoids, and polyphenols, all which help to repair and protect our bodies from free radical damage.

Second and most importantly, the most proactive way to fight the effects of UV ray exposure is by wearing sunscreen – 15 SPF at minimum – everyday, all year long.

But the most proactive way to fight the effects of UV ray exposure is by wearing sunscreen. When deciding what type of sunscreen to use, it is important to know the different types of sunscreen: Physical and Chemical.

Physical sunscreens protect from UV rays by blocking or deflecting the sun’s rays. The two physical sunscreen screen active ingredients are titanium oxide and zinc oxide. Zinc oxide however is the better choice for sensitive skin types as it less likely to cause breakouts due to its skin calming benefits.

PROTECT YOURSELF: The Five Best Zinc Oxide Sunscreens

The downside of physical sunscreens is that they are usually thicker in consistency and can leave a white cast over the skin, especially on darker skin tones. They also can wipe off easier than chemical sunscreens. However, physical sunscreens start working immediately, whereas chemical ones can take around 20 minutes to reach optimal protection.

Now let’s talk about chemical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens function by causing a chemical reaction that absorbs the UV rays and releases its energy via heat. This chemical reaction process also means that chemical sunscreens tend to be irritating to the skin. Nevertheless, they provide more consistent coverage and have a more liquid-like texture that is colorless and odorless. If you want a more through comparison of physical and chemical sunscreens, then check out this chart.

Whatever type of sunscreen you decide to use, make sure it covers both the UVA and UVB spectrum. You should wear sunscreen everyday as UV rays are present even on rainy and cloudy days. Sunscreen should be your last step after moisturizing, or there should be SPF in your daytime moisturizer. Remember to reapply sunscreen if you are sweating a lot, have extended sun exposure, or come in contact with water.

Are you going to pick the perfect SPF for your skin type on the first try? Likely not. Depending on your skin’s sensitivity, oil balance, and skin color, it may take a few tries to find the lotion that feels light enough for daily use. Whatever type of sunscreen you decide to try, just make sure it has both UVA and UVB spectrum.

Remember, this is all meant to be an easy preventative step in your daily routine.


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