Mineral Vs Chemical Sunscreens

Mineral Vs Chemical Sunscreens: Which Is Best For Your Skin?

If you’re like me, you care about what you put on your body. And that includes sunscreen. For years, I was slathering on whatever chemical sunscreen was on sale. I never gave much thought to the ingredients or their effects. But when I started reading about potential health and environmental issues, I had a wake-up call. I wanted to be confident that I was choosing the best option for my health and the planet, so I dug deeper into the debate surrounding mineral vs chemical sunscreens.

Choosing the right sunscreen can be confusing, especially with all the technical terms. Let’s break it down together and explore how they work and why it matters. This will help you pick the best one for your skin. To help you along, I’ve also included some of my favorite mineral sunscreen picks.

How Sunscreens Typically Work

Most sunscreens work by protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can cause sunburns, premature aging, and skin cancer. But, when considering mineral vs chemical sunscreens, it’s crucial to understand the different methods they use to achieve this protection. Think of chemical sunscreens as “absorbers” and mineral sunscreens as “blockers.” This refers to how they interact with those sneaky UV rays trying to damage your skin.

Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UV radiation into the skin and then transforming it into heat, which is released from the skin. They typically use organic chemicals containing carbon as their main active ingredients. Some of these ingredients include:

Because chemical sunscreens need to be absorbed into the skin, you’ll have to wait about 20 minutes before heading out into the sun. If you forget, you risk getting a sunburn.

Mineral Sunscreens

Mineral sunscreens (or physical sunscreens) act like a shield on top of the skin. They work by creating a physical barrier that reflects UV rays away from your skin’s surface, rather than absorbing them. You’ll typically find zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in their ingredient list.

Think of mineral sunscreens like tiny little mirrors reflecting the sunlight off your skin. These start working as soon as you put them on, so no more waiting around to get sun protection.

Mineral Vs Chemical Sunscreens: Breaking Down the Big Decision

Mineral Vs Chemical Sunscreens
Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

Both chemical and mineral sunscreens provide sun protection. However, certain differences make one type more appealing depending on your skin type and priorities. Let’s break down those considerations:

Skin Type and Sensitivities: Are You Prone to Breakouts or Have Sensitive Skin?

If you have acne-prone skin, you’ll probably fare better with mineral sunscreens. Their non-comedogenic formulas are less likely to clog your pores. If you have sensitive skin, opting for mineral sunscreen over chemical ones might be the better choice. The ingredients in mineral sunscreens are generally better tolerated. They’re also usually free of fragrances, dyes, and other potentially irritating additives.

UV Protection: How Well Do Each of the Sunscreen Types Block Harmful UVA and UVB Rays?

Both mineral and chemical sunscreens are good options for sun protection. It depends on their specific formulations and the way they block harmful UVA and UVB rays. For full spectrum protection, make sure to select a sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection. This indicates that it effectively blocks both UVA and UVB rays, guarding against sunburns and long-term damage.

A good mineral vs chemical sunscreens analogy is to think of those active UV filters like different music notes. Individually, they tackle specific UV ranges, just like music notes blend to create a beautiful melody. They come together harmoniously to offer balanced sun defense.

Environmental Impact: Does One Type Affect Marine Life or the Planet?

reef safe sunscreen
reef safe sunscreen

According to a 2015 study, “we found that oxybenzone induces coral bleaching by lowering the temperature at which corals will bleach when exposed to prolonged heat stress. We also showed that oxybenzone is genotoxic, meaning that it damages coral DNA as well as induces severe and lethal deformities. Most alarmingly, we determined that oxybenzone also acts as an endocrine disruptor.”

This harm is particularly harmful to our delicate marine life. This has led certain areas with fragile coral reefs (think Hawaii) to restrict sunscreens containing harmful chemicals like oxybenzone.

Mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are thought to be more environmentally friendly. When you apply sunscreen, remember that it can run off your skin and into the ocean if you are swimming. Always choose a reef-safe formula.

Health Concerns: Have There Been Any Documented Adverse Effects of Certain Sunscreen Types?

Some people are worried that the chemicals found in chemical sunscreens can be absorbed into the bloodstream. They also worry that the chemicals might cause harmful effects. I know that personally freaked me out.

Several studies, like a 2019 study, found that blood absorption is occurring. This is especially true after just a single use. This prompted the FDA to launch investigations into possible links with long-term health issues.

Mineral sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide have been deemed safe for human health by the FDA. For many folks like me, this leans the scale in favor of the more natural option when weighing mineral vs chemical sunscreens. Choosing a sunscreen that is safe for your skin is very important, but always wear protective clothing as well.

Application and Aesthetics: Which Blends Better? Does It Leave a Residue or Cast on Your Skin?

Let’s talk aesthetics: mineral sunscreens often leave a white residue, especially noticeable on darker skin tones. However, they’re a favorite for kiddos as you can see exactly where you applied it. It’s tough to miss a spot with that telltale white cast. They also provide instant protection and can be reapplied over makeup (for those on-the-go touch-ups). But more modern and tinted mineral sunscreens are able to blend in to the point you can’t even tell you are wearing sunscreen. Check out Skorcha’s Organic Face Sunscreen – Tinted Mineral.

Now, while chemical sunscreens are known for being super blendable and generally disappear on the skin, leaving no cast, there’s a trade-off. They may cause more skin irritation. Finding mineral sunscreens with an “invisible finish” or opting for tinted formulas can help overcome the white cast challenge. Some sunscreen products are very sheer, making it difficult to see where you have applied it. It’s advisable to apply sunscreen liberally, ensuring complete coverage, to avoid sunburn.

Exploring My Top Choices for Mineral Sunscreens

Because of my concerns, I transitioned from chemical sunscreen to mineral. Here are some of my trusted favorites:

Obviously the top of the tree is our very own organic face sunscreen with kakadu plum and hyaluronic acid.

organic face sunscreen

Skorcha Face


5 star rating
5 star rating
5 star rating
5 star rating
5 star rating


Hydrating, antioxidant-boosted natural face sunscreen crafted for adventure and endurance sports.

  • COOLA Mineral Body Organic Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50: You really can’t go wrong with COOLA’s mineral sunscreen lotion. Its formula ticks all the right boxes: it’s hydrating, non-greasy, and blends in with a subtle, sheer finish. Plus, they’ve got this down to a science with super hydrating options perfect for long days by the pool.
  • SALT & STONE Natural Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30: Athletes and outdoorsy folks will love this option. This mineral sunscreen lotion from SALT & STONE was specifically crafted for intense workouts or a sweaty day outside. What really sets this brand apart for me is their commitment to using ethically-sourced, all-natural ingredients, so I can sweat it out while respecting the planet.

These are just a few great mineral sunscreen products. When it comes to mineral vs chemical sunscreens, research is always evolving. That means there are tons of options out there that might work even better for your specific needs. So keep trying different ones out. And let me know what gems you find.

Why Are So Many Experts Pushing Us To Switch to Mineral Sunscreen?

Mineral sunscreen has quickly become a frontrunner in skincare for many reasons. Most dermatologists recommend switching from chemical sunscreen to mineral due to several factors. These factors lean heavily toward their natural approach. While studies have not confirmed any definite risks associated with chemical sunscreens, there is enough information surfacing to make many folks want to choose natural products as much as they can.

You can avoid prolonged sun exposure by seeking shade whenever possible, particularly during peak UV hours. Here are some compelling reasons to switch:

Endocrine Disruption Concerns

Chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate in chemical sunscreen have raised some eyebrows among the medical community. A concern many folks share about chemical sunscreens is potential disruption of hormone function. This is concerning, but let’s stay focused on what research HAS shown:

For many folks (myself included.), this feels like more than enough reason to say: “See ya later” to chemical sunscreens. Especially when those potent ingredients are linked to hormone activity. So many folks prefer to stay away from any risk associated with endocrine disruption altogether. This is why people want to switch to mineral sunscreen.

Skin Irritation Potential

Another area of concern lies in the potential for irritation caused by chemical sunscreens. Because those chemical UV filters have to be absorbed into the skin to do their work, the process may cause some irritation for individuals. It’s a double-edged sword, really. You need that absorption for the chemicals to block the UV rays. But, those same chemicals may become unwelcome guests if your skin isn’t too keen on them. Chemical filters can also increase photosensitivity, making those with rosacea or skin sensitivities more susceptible to flare-ups.

Absorption Levels of Chemicals

With those health issues in mind, one study took a closer look at the extent to which those pesky chemical sunscreen ingredients seep into our bloodstreams. A 2020 study, focusing on 6 commonly used ingredients, discovered that their blood concentrations went WAY over the accepted limit after a SINGLE APPLICATION. These results reinforce the call for additional studies to examine their long-term effects.

For me, while we wait for those future studies, opting for natural minerals makes the most sense. Especially since their active ingredients, like zinc oxide, have consistently been found to have negligible blood absorption. If you are worried about the white residue, you can choose a tinted sunscreen formulation.

Decoding “Organic” in the Realm of Sunscreens

It’s easy to get confused by those labels slapped on sunscreens. This is especially true when they scream “natural” or “organic”. You might think mineral sunscreen products should be called “organic,” right?

But in reality, mineral sunscreens aren’t technically considered organic, at least in the conventional sense. They don’t contain carbon-based compounds, so they’re actually inorganic. Chemical sunscreens containing carbon-based ingredients fall under the umbrella of “organic.” This is because they ARE formed from those carbon-containing chemical filters.

Even though minerals are derived from natural sources like ores and rocks, it takes processing in a lab to make them suitable for use in sunscreen products. Ultimately, neither type of sunscreen can truly be labeled “all-natural.” This is because all commercially available sunscreens have gone through some laboratory modifications to make sure they’re safe and do their job right.

Beyond Mineral vs Chemical Sunscreens: The Best Sunscreen for Your Skin

Both mineral and chemical sunscreens have strengths and weaknesses. They’re both effective at shielding your skin from the harmful rays, so ultimately the best option depends on what matters to you. Are you mainly worried about hormone disruption? Maybe an eco-friendly option that avoids chemical filters altogether is best. Or are those mineral sunscreens with a white residue giving you anxiety? That’s totally cool, too.

Mineral SunscreenChemical Sunscreen
Protection MechanismCreates a physical barrier on top of the skin that reflects UV rays.Absorbs UV rays into the skin, converts them into heat, then releases it.
Active IngredientsZinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide.Oxybenzone, Avobenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Homosalate.
Onset of ProtectionImmediate.20 minutes after application.
Environmental ConcernsGenerally considered reef-safe.Some chemicals are linked to coral bleaching and other environmental harms.
Health ConcernsSafe for human health; ingredients generally recognized as safe and effective by the FDA.Potential endocrine disruption, although studies are still inconclusive.
Skin SuitabilitySuitable for sensitive skin and acne-prone skin.More likely to cause irritation, although modern formulations are much milder.
ApplicationMay leave a white cast, especially on darker skin tones.Generally, easy application, blends into skin with no residue.
Water ResistanceCan vary, but often not as water resistant as chemical sunscreens.Generally has good water resistance, usually for up to 80 minutes.
CostTypically more expensive.More affordable options available.

Here’s my hot take: mineral sunscreens, with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, are great for the health conscious or those wanting a more natural, earth-friendly choice. Just keep in mind, any sunscreen is better than none at all. But if your skin rebels at the touch of mineral sunscreen or you can’t find one that doesn’t give you a ghost-like sheen, maybe the world of chemical sunscreens holds the answer. As you read through this table, remember to prioritize choosing the type that works best for your skin type. Your skin will thank you.

FAQs About Mineral vs Chemical Sunscreens

Which is Better, Mineral or Chemical Sunscreen?

The short answer is: it really depends. While mineral sunscreens offer certain health and environmental benefits, some people might find chemical sunscreens better suited for their individual needs. This is especially true when considering their blendability and water resistance.

Do Dermatologists Recommend Mineral or Chemical Sunscreen?

Most dermatologists recommend mineral sunscreens as a safer, more natural option. This is especially true if you have concerns about those chemicals in chemical sunscreen being absorbed into your body and potentially affecting your endocrine system. Always apply sunscreen after other skincare products to provide sun protection.

Is La Roche Posay Sunscreen Mineral or Chemical?

La Roche-Posay makes both mineral and chemical sunscreen formulas.

Why Should You Switch to Mineral Sunscreen?

There are some compelling reasons to ditch chemical sunscreens for their mineral counterparts:

  • They are generally recognized as safe and effective by the FDA, specifically zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
  • Many contain fewer irritating ingredients, making them a better option for folks with sensitive or acne-prone skin.
  • They provide instant protection because they create a physical barrier that instantly blocks those damaging UV rays.
  • Mineral sunscreen ingredients like zinc oxide also boast anti-inflammatory properties, so they’re super gentle on sensitive or easily-irritated skin. Plus, those same soothing powers work wonders for calming conditions like rosacea.
  • They have a lower potential for environmental damage, especially compared to their chemical counterparts containing oxybenzone.


With the potential concerns regarding hormone disruption, skin sensitivity and environmental impacts associated with chemical sunscreens, choosing to embrace mineral sunscreens seems like the wisest choice. This is especially true if you prioritize a more natural approach. Many dermatologists support this switch, too. So next time you’re caught in the aisle scanning those shelves packed with different sun protection choices, remember all the valuable information we’ve explored here about mineral vs chemical sunscreens. And hopefully, I’ve been able to provide some insights and a sprinkle of confidence as you navigate the tricky terrain of choosing a sunscreen. Stay safe, stay protected, and let me know about those sunscreen wins you find along the way.

Mick Wadley

Mick Wadley – Founder of Skorcha

After a decade in the scorching sun as a roofer and going door-to-door in sales – I was forced to take my skin health seriously following a skin cancer scare before the age of 30.

So began my passion for suncare, which is both effective and natural. Crafted for adventure and endurance sports, Skorcha formulas are non-greasy, have no eye sting and absolutely no bullshit (100% Organic).

My goal is to share what I’ve learned about skin health and safe ingredients, inspiring happier, healthier lives through adventure, organic goodness and conservation!

Help us plant a mangrove tree with every Skorcha product sold to protect fragile marine ecosystems and support underprivileged communities around the world.

Statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Products sold on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Information provided by this website or this company is not a substitute for direct, individual medical treatment or advice. It is the responsibility of you and your healthcare providers to make all decisions regarding your health. Skorcha recommends that you consult with your healthcare providers regarding the diagnosis and treatment of any disease or condition.