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Chemical Vs. Mineral Sunscreen: What’s The Difference?

You need daily sun protection to keep your skin healthy and youthful. But, which type of sunscreen should you choose? Sun protection generally falls into one of two categories: chemical and physical (mineral). Read on to learn the difference, and discover the benefits of using a mineral sunscreen.

Chemical Vs. Physical (Mineral) Sunscreen

Sunscreen is essential to keep skin protected from the dangers of sun exposure, including sunburn, sun damage and melanoma. It’s also beneficial in minimizing the aging effects of UV rays, such as fine lines and wrinkles, rough skin and hyperpigmentation.

The two categories of sunscreen are chemical and physical. While both provide protection, chemical sunscreen and physical sunscreen differ in their active ingredients as well as the way they protect against UV exposure. Here, we’ve compiled the key points you need to know about each type.

Chemical Sunscreen

Chemical sunscreens are often referred to as “absorbers.” Their active ingredients are organic (carbon-based) compounds that absorb UV rays. Through a chemical reaction, these compounds convert UV rays into heat, then release that heat from the skin.

Physical Sunscreen

Physical sunscreens are “reflectors." Their active ingredients include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which act as physical blockers. These minerals form a protective barrier on the skin and reflect harmful UV rays before they make contact with the skin’s surface.

chemical vs. mineral sunscreen infographic

What Is Zinc Oxide?

Mineral sunscreens typically employ zinc oxide as a physical blocker of UV rays. Yes, the same zinc your parents slathered over your nose and cheeks in the eighties. Zinc oxide has come a long way since, and can now be found in lightweight, layerable formulas that provide the same sun protection but with a natural-looking finish. Here’s a look at zinc oxide’s many benefits for the skin.

Keeps Skin Cool

Unlike chemical sunscreens which trap UV rays and convert them to heat, zinc oxide keeps the skin cool and allows it to breathe. It reflects the heat and energy of the sun’s rays away from the skin, thereby reducing its temperature. For this reason, mineral sunscreen is particularly beneficial in minimizing skin inflammation and redness associated with acne, rosacea and skin sensitivity.

Provides Mineral Sun Protection

While zinc itself can be found in nature, zinc oxide is created by combining the mineral zinc with oxygen molecules. When these two elements are vaporized and condensed, they form a fine powder that sits on top of the skin and provides a protective barrier against UVA and UVB rays. In addition to being a physical blocker, zinc oxide acts as a mirror to reflect UV rays before they can penetrate the skin’s surface.

Lilikoi Mineral Defense Collection

Supports Collagen Production

UV exposure is the leading cause of premature aging. Sun damage exposes the skin to free radicals which break down and destroy collagen, a protein that is essential for keeping skin toned, plump and elastic. Zinc serves as a co-factor in collagen synthesis by activating the protein collagenase. This protein triggers collagen production in order to build and repair connective tissue (like your skin).

Helps Treat Acne

Zinc oxide is also beneficial in treating acne-prone complexions. Studies show that zinc effectively reduces skin inflammation, inhibits the growth of acne-causing bacteria and regulates sebaceous gland activity. It also has astringent properties which tighten pores and minimize their appearance. You can find zinc oxide in several acne treatments, including Eminence Organics Acne Advanced Treatment System.

Mineral Sunscreen Benefits

If you aren’t yet convinced by zinc’s superpowers, here are a few more reasons to add a mineral sunscreen to your daily routine.


Mineral sunscreens are friendlier to reefs; zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are kinder to our planet’s delicate coral reefs. They are a preferred choice for beachgoers and destination travelers who visit oceanside resorts.

Suitable For All Skin Types

Mineral sunscreens are hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic. With their anti-inflammatory properties, they are gentle enough for the most sensitive skin types. And, they are free of pore-clogging silicones, making them a better option for those prone to blemishes.

Broad Spectrum Protection

Mineral sunscreens reflect both UVB and UVA rays from the skin’s surface. UVB rays cause sunburn and uncomfortable symptoms such as redness, dryness and itchiness. UVA rays, which penetrate the skin more deeply, are responsible for premature aging and play a key role in the development of melanoma.

mineral sunscreen benefits infographic

Ready to add mineral sunscreen to your skin care routine? Experience our all-mineral Lilikoi Mineral Defense Collection at an Eminence Organics partner spa near you.

Do you use chemical or mineral sunscreen? We’d love to hear which type of sun protection is part of your skin care routine! Tell us in the comments below and join the conversation on social media.