Physical vs Chemical Sunscreen

Sunscreen for the Face

Do not forget to wear sunscreen every day, even when it is cloudy. Facial skin gets constant year-round, sun exposure and as a result of this, our facial skin is the primary area that is most prone to premature wrinkling and sun damage. Look at the sites on your skin that get constant sun exposure like your face and compare your skin to the areas that don’t get much sun.  It is easy to see that the sun is the cause of wrinkles, freckles, and thinning of the skin.

Sun protection on the face is the most important thing you can do to prevent further premature aging.  For women, a mineral based powder and foundation are very effective forms of sunscreens.

mineral powder makeup

The active and main ingredient in powder or liquid foundation is zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These two ingredients are excellent broad spectrum UVA-UVB physical sunscreens. They protect skin nicely and are safe for every day use. Women who wear “makeup” have sun protection that lasts all day because they have a physical sunscreen protecting their skin.  Unfortunately, chemical sunscreens have a shorter life and need to be reapplied frequently. A chemical lotion sunscreen applied at 7:00 am is not going to protect you at 2:00 pm.

When you are going to be playing in the sun and in the water you may want to use a chemical sunscreen. But remember, RE-APPLY SUNSCREEN FREQUENTLY to be effective.  Most people put on about ½ as much sunscreen as they need to get the SPF rating on the bottle.  So, you may want to apply the sunscreen and then re-apply it right away to get closer to the SPF rating on the bottle.  Recently, the FDA has legislated that sunscreens must have full, broad-UVA/UVB-coverage or they cannot be labeled to protect the skin from cancer-causing UVA-UVB rays.

Also, sunscreens used on the face have a tendency to cause acne outbreaks even if they say they are “oil free”. Oil free does not mean acne free!


Mineral Make-up:

  • Physical Sunscreens
    • Zinc Oxide
    • Titanium Dioxide
    • For every day use



  • Chemical Sunscreens (ingredients pulled from a few of the big name sunscreens)
    • Octylcrylene
    • Avobenzone
    • Octinoxate
    • Octisalate
    • Oxybenzone
    • Homosalate
    • Helioplex
    • fragrance 

This article was brought to you by Norris Dermatology and Lasers NW. All rights are reserved by Norris Dermatology. This article was written, edited, and published by Dr. Patricia Norris.

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