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Difference between physical and chemical sunscreens, and where to buy the best ones

We’ve already established that sunscreens are a crucial part of any skincare routine. Whether you’re sixteen or sixty, slather on some sunscreen to prevent signs of ageing caused due to sun damage. But did you know that there are types of sunscreens? And no, we aren’t talking about the SPF. Sunscreens can be broadly divided into physical and chemical sunscreens. Here is everything you need to know about them. Plus, our recommendations for both physical and chemical sunscreens are available in India.

What are physical sunscreens?

The most obvious difference between the two types is that physical sunscreens typically sit on the skin and reflects the sun’s rays. Composed of fine particles of minerals like zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, the physical sunscreens are usually creamy and often leave a white cast.
Pros: The thick consistency of physical sunscreens make it easier to recognise its presence on skin, ensuring you apply it evenly and timely reapply it.
Cons: The same texture can also be a source of irritation for some and might not be suitable for oily or acne-prone skin. It is also believed to be less effective against damaging UVA radiation than its chemical counterparts.

Recommendations:

Re’equil Sheer Zinc Tinted Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 Pa+++

physical and chemical sunscreens
A sunscreen that’s widely recommended by our beauty bloggers, the Re’equil Sheer Zinc Tinted Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 Pa+++ (Rs 795) is a great pick. It is oxybenzone-free aka it’s less likely to irritate your skin or harm the coral reefs. This physical or mineral sunscreen has a dry, tinted texture that evens out your skin tone and doesn’t leave the much-dreaded white cast.

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Kama Ayurveda Natural Sun Protection SPF 21 PA++


physical and chemical sunscreens

Don’t be quick to dismiss natural skincare brands when it comes to sunscreen options. The Kama Ayurveda Natural Sun Protection SPF 21 PA++ (Rs 1,350 for 60gm) comes with non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide and no chemical filters. A 99.3% natural sunscreen, it’s got a balmy finish.

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Clinique SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Fluid for Face


physical and chemical sunscreens

If you’re looking for a no-fuss product, consider the Clinique SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Fluid for Face (Rs 2,850 for 30ml). The product might be on the more expensive end of the spectrum. This mineral sunscreen blends and absorbs beautifully, leaves no white cast, add a hydrated glow to your skin, and most importantly, has a high SPF power. Do you really need more reasons?

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What are chemical sunscreens?

Majority of sunscreens recommended by dermatologists and found on beauty shelves belong to this category. They absorb UV rays, converts them into heat and then, releases it from the body. Chemical sunscreens with their gel-like texture contain active ingredients like avobenzone, octinoxate, and oxybenzone.
Pros: Minimum product and maximum impact. Chemical sunscreen provides effective protection without having to slather excessively. Light-weight and non-sticky it’s suitable for every day and year. Affective against both UVA and UVB rays that cause premature ageing.
Cons: Chemical formulas and filters can sometimes cause skin allergies and potential free radical damage from long-term use.

Recommendations:

Born Ethical – Skin Comforting Day Creme SPF20

physical and chemical sunscreens

A mild moisturising sunscreen that not only provides sun protection but also repairs sensitive skin. The Born Ethical Skin Comforting Day Creme SPF20 (Rs 895 for 20gram) has the goodness of butterbur extract, balloon vine extract, rosemary oil and black currant oil. Anti-inflammatory and calming properties make it a great pick for those prone to rashes, irritation, rosacea, acne rosacea and inflammation.

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Avène Very High Protection Cream Spf 50+

physical and chemical sunscreens

If you’re looking for a strong SPF, then invest in the Avène Very High Protection Cream Spf 50+ (Rs 1,750 for 50ml). Effective against a broad spectrum of UVB-UVA rays, this paraben-free sunscreen is widely recommended by dermatologists due to its efficacy. It comes with an airless pump tube so that you get just the right amount for application.

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Biore Uv Aqua Rich Watery Gel Sunscreen Spf 50+ Pa++++

Not a fan of creams and lotions and looking for a strong sunscreen that gives you the correct coverage, turn to the Biore Uv Aqua Rich Watery Gel Sunscreen Spf 50+ Pa++++ (Rs 1,596 for 90gm). The watery gel composition glides on your skin and absorbs quickly. It can be used as a makeup base or for swimming due to its non-comedogenic formula.

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Header And Featured Images: Courtesy Shutterstock

Akshita Nahar Jain
Sr Associate Editor
Akshita Nahar Jain has worked with various publications, including Elle, Harper’s Bazaar Bride, and Time Out Delhi, and written extensively on fashion and lifestyle. A sucker for alliteration and stylish sitcoms, she enjoys scrolling the web for less travelled destinations.