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Chemical vs Mineral Sunscreens

You probably already know the importance of using sunscreen on a daily basis. But now, there's a new dilemma: what's the difference between Chemical and Mineral sunscreens, and which is better? We'll discuss in this blog post and have you feeling like a sunscreen connoisseur in no time.

In case you don’t know.

Essentially, sunscreen is truly a must and we should be applying it everyday to avoid sun damage. It doesn't matter whether or not you are outside during the day or not. UV Rays can penetrate through windows, so it can still harm your skin if you are not protected even indoors. Also, remember screens? Those rectangle things we look at all day, the blue light they emit, is not ideal either so… just think of that.

Now that we established the importance of sunscreen, we can now move on to the next step.

Chemical and Mineral Sunscreens

Chemical Sunscreens

Now, this is the fun part. Chemical sunscreens are made with compounds like Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Octocrylene, Octisalate, Homosalate and Avobenzone among others, which absorb UV rays and turn them into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin so that UV rays are not absorbed. They are usually easier to spread and leave no white cast.

The concern with chemical sunscreens is that, one, Oxybenzone and the other chemicals similar to it are absorbed into your bloodstream, and have been found to be endocrine disruptors. And if you are wondering why this is a big deal, the endocrine system is made up of glands, and these glands produce hormones. Hormones control nearly all the processes in our body. And not only that, but studies have found traces of these chemicals in blood, urine and even breastmilk, and these traces have been found weeks after the sunscreen was used. And not only that, they are also not the best option for those with sensitive, rosacea prone, and dry skin types.

As if that were not enough, they are a menace to reefs, coral, and other marine organisms, including fish. For this reason alone, there are several coastal cities, and states that have been banned sunscreen containing these chemicals to protect marine life. But really, they are also doing us a favor.

Mineral, or Physical Sunscreens

Mineral Sunscreens, also known as physical sunscreens, use non-nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Why non-nano, you ask? Non-nano in a nutshell means it won't be absorbed into the skin. There are not enough studies yet whether to determine that nano particles of these ingredients would cause any harm to our bodies internally, but to be safe, most mineral sunscreens go for non-nano. They work by sitting on top of the skin forming a shield that scatters the UV rays away from it, and there is no chemical reaction involved. Because it sits on top of the skin, it can leave a white cast, we'll touch on this a bit later. But they are a great option for those with sensitive skin, but they have to be reapplied if you get sweaty or wet.

Now speaking of the white cast issue, Mineral sunscreens have come a long long way and even though they might need some additional rubbing, when using them the white cast is so slight you barely notice. Personally, I would rather have a slightly visible white cast if that means I'm getting protected from the sun without worrying about chemicals absorbing into my bloodstream. And in any case, there are a lot of options that offer tinted versions to avoid this very problem. 

Luisa C applying AKT Therapy's Elemental Sun Balm, a mineral sunscreen
AKT Therapy’s Elemental Sun Balm is giving my skin the perfect amount of color while still giving it protection with its SPF 30 mineral goodness.

A few things to note before moving on

One note that would be nice to include here for everyone to think about sunscreens in general, even mineral ones, is that cream sunscreens seem to be a better option instead of their powder and aerosol/spray versions, simply because it may be dangerous to inhale or ingest these ingredients. Studies are being proposed to research this matter further, but for now “the EWG strongly discourages the use of loose powder makeup or spray sunscreens using titanium dioxide or zinc oxide of any particle size.” We don’t even want to know (but can imagine) what kind of havoc chemical sunscreens would be wreaking if ingested.

And one other very important thing to mention is that there are Mineral sunscreens in the market that can still contain other harmful ingredients like parabens and fragrances, which is perhaps, a topic for another blog post.

How to recognize a chemical sunscreen from a mineral one?

The easiest way to tell if a sunscreen is chemical or mineral, is read the ingredients list. I wish there was an easier way to tell but since a lot of companies love their greenwashing, some will add all kinds of misleading terms on their packaging to make you think the product is really cleaner than it is. Some mineral (remember, also known as physical) do say on their packaging that they are mineral susncreens, but chemical ones rarely note that on their packaging.

So, to make it easy and quick, check the back of the product where the ingredient list is. Usually, at the very top you'll see the Active Ingredient. This is where you will either see Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Octocrylene, Octisalate, Homosalate and/or Avobenzone, which will make said sunscreen chemical, or, Zinc Oxide or Titanium Oxide, which will make it a Mineral, or Physical Sunscreen.

With all this knowledge you now have, I bet you are now running to check your sunscreens to make sure they are safe for you and your family, probably tossing a few bottles, and maybe getting some new ones before your vacation.

And of course, I am sharing and spreading the word about this because safe sun protection is the basis of their products and why we love AKT Therapy so much! So grab your Elemental Sun Balm, your D-Luxe Daily Bronzer, and embrace the sun with confidence.

So there you go. Do you feel like a sunscreen connoisseur already?


AKT Therapy Elemental Sun Balm with SPF 30


AKT Therapy D-Luxe Daily Bronzer with SPF 30

Luisa C (Living Ananda)

Written by Luisa (@living_ananda)
“I like to blog about sustainability and natural way of life. To me, that encompasses everything from clean beauty, sustainable fashion, wellness, natural products and conscious consumerism. You'll find me at home most days enjoying a cup of matcha latte or with a kombucha in my hand in Chandler, AZ where I live with my husband and Lola, my Shih Tzu baby.”

AKT Therapy