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Article: Physical vs Chemical Sunscreens

Physical vs Chemical Sunscreens

Physical vs Chemical Sunscreens

What is SPF? Do I have to apply it every day? Which sunscreen should I use? Which sunscreen suits my skin type? Sunscreen is a hot topic in the summer, with many questions about SPF, daily use, and choosing the right type for you. We're here to help!

First of all, let’s acknowledge that both sunscreen types have different names associated with each of them. Physical sunscreens (also known as mineral or inorganic sunscreens) are infamous for the pasty white cast it leaves behind. However, it is to be noted that many Asian sunscreens in the market now are proving that notion wrong. Physical sunscreens are recommended for those with super sensitive skin because zinc oxide and titanium dioxide tend to be gentle on the skin. Chemical sunscreens (also known as organic sunscreens), on the other hand, usually offer a thinner and more watery texture. The general separation between the two is that physical sunscreens sit on top of the skin while chemical sunscreens absorb into the skin. If we want to be super nuanced, physical sunscreens also absorb and get turned into heat. According to Michelle Wong, who many of you may know as LabMuffin Beauty Science on YouTube, “About 95% of the UV that mineral sunscreens block gets absorbed and converted to heat, with about 5% contribution from back-scattering or reflecting”.  There are also hybrid sunscreens which contain both chemical and mineral filters. Using a hybrid sunscreen allows for you to maximize the benefits of both sunscreen filters. There are a lot of Asian sunscreens on the market that offer a hybrid sunscreen formula.

As we further progress in this age of technology, sunscreen technology is simultaneously advancing. There is a lot of information on sunscreens and sometimes the popularized differences between physical and chemical sunscreens are not necessarily the most accurate. While it can provide a beginner a baseline understanding between the two, the reality is that physical and chemical sunscreens are not as drastically different as you think.


Mineral sunscreen filters include:

  • Zinc Oxide
  • Titanium Dioxide

Chemical sunscreen filters include:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Avobenzone
  • Octisalate
  • Octocrylene
  • Homosalate
  • Octinoxate


Let’s take a deeper look at the oo35mm inventory for these sunscreens:


Recommendations for mineral sunscreens:

SKIN1004 Madagascar Centella Air-Fit Sunscreen


Skin Type: Oily

This is actually a favorite of mine in the oo35mm sunscreen inventory! SKIN1004 features 100% centella in their skincare products so it’s great for people who are sensitive, prone to redness, and acne prone. Their physical sunscreen is tinted which is perfect for days you want to go makeup-free. I also love how the tint also blurs the appearance of my pores.


Isntree Hyaluronic Acid Natural Sun Cream


Skin Type: Dry

This is the mineral sunscreen counterpart of the popular Isntree Watery Sun Gel. Formulated with 8 types of hyaluronic acid, it is a lightweight sunscreen that is not pasty, ultra hydrating, and leaves no white cast. 


Axis-Y Complete No-Stress Physical Sunscreen

Axis-Y Complete No-Stress Physical Sunscreen

Skin Type: All, Sensitive

One of our newest additions, the Axis-Y Complete No Stress Physical Sunscreen is a sensitive skin holy grail sunscreen. It visibly calms and melts into your skin upon application. For a more in depth review, check out this product review!


Recommendations for chemical sunscreens:

A.H.C Natural Perfection Fresh Sun Stick


Skin type: Oily

The A.H.C sun stick has been around for a while! It does not leave a greasy finish. Green tea and centella extracts serve to calm the skin. This sun stick is also waterproof!


Beauty of Joseon Ginseng Moist Sun Serum


Skin Type: Combination/Normal

The newest addition to Beauty of Joseon’s sunscreen collection is a lighter weight consistency more suitable for those with combination to normal skin. It leaves the same dewiness similar to the Beauty of Joseon Rice and Probiotics Sunscreen. Rather than rice as the feature ingredient, this sunscreen focuses on the anti-aging benefits of ginseng. 


Recommendations for hybrid sunscreens:

Purito Go-To Sunscreen


Skin Type: Dry, Sensitive

Similar to the Soft Touch Sunscreen, the Purito Go-To Sunscreen features centella as a main ingredient and comes out very lotion-like. The finish, however, is more hydrating and leaves more of a dewy finish. 


Tocobo Cotton Soft Sun Stick


Skin Type: Oily

Another sunscreen stick recommendation! This is even more mattifying than the A.H.C Natural Perfection Sun Stick, so oily skin types will love the silky smoothness of this sun stick. A key ingredient in the Tocobo sun stick, melia azadirachta extract, along with various herbal extracts serves to soothe.



Now after all of that-- which sunscreen is better for you? Should you choose mineral or chemical sunscreens? Personally, I believe that finding the perfect sunscreen for you takes rounds of trial and error. If you know your skin is super sensitive, you may want to start off with a physical sunscreen. The sunscreen that works best is the one you find yourself constantly reaching for because it does not irritate your skin and feels/blends in effortlessly. I hope this post guides you to make an informed decision towards your next holy grail sunscreen.



  1. Why Do I Need to Apply Sunscreen Before Sun Exposure? | Lab Muffin Beauty Science
  2. Zinc Sunscreens Don’t Work Better: Every Myth Busted | Lab Muffin Beauty Science
  3. Metal Oxide Sunscreens Protect Skin by Absorption, Not by Reflection or Scattering | Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine
  4. Review of Sunscreen and the Emergence of Non-conventional Absorbers and Their Applications in Ultraviolet Protection | International Journal of Cosmetic Science


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