physical vs. chemical sunscreen

Well it seems like warm and sunny weather is finally upon us and with that comes out the sunscreen. I am trying to make sure that I am incorporating sunscreen into my routine every single day. This is complicated a bit by the fact that I have decided to go completely cruelty free and most of the traditional sunscreen brands do not fit that model. While researching sunscreens however I started to learn so much more and that not all sunscreens are the same and some may be doing more harm to us and the world than others.

Something I have never heard of before was the fact that there are two main types of sunscreen; physical and chemical. First off, what are these two and what are the main differences?

Physical Sunscreen (also known as mineral sunscreen) Chemical Sunscreen
Active Ingredients
  • Zinc Oxide
  • Titanium Dioxide
  • Avobenzone
  • Oxybenzone
  • Homosalate
  • etc.
How It Works
  • Creates a barrier on your skin between it and the sun
  • Absorb UVB and reflect UVA
  • Creates a chemical reaction in your skin to prevent UV rays from reaching it
  • Absorb UV rays and turn them into heat
  • Doesn’t harm coral reefs
  • Protect against entire UV range
  • Easy to find in stores
  • Can last longer without reapplication
  • Texture can be nicer
  • Can leave a white cast on the skin
  • Harmful to ocean and ocean life
  • Can irritate skin

These were all factors that I took into consideration when deciding what type of sunscreen that I would like to be using in my daily life and I chose to go with a physical sunscreen. I didn’t want what I put on my skin to be adding to the death of sea life and coral reefs that ingredients such as avobenzone do and I also liked that physical barrier that physical sunscreens have on my skin rather than creating a chemical reaction. Cruelty free brands are also more likely to have physical sunscreens (though chemical versions do exist with generally less harmful active ingredients) so they have been easier to find for me.

I am currently using this sunscreen from Goddess Garden, but have only been putting it to the test for about a week so I can’t give you a full review as of yet, but I haven’t been burned which is a pro. Here is a list of some of the other cruelty free sunscreens I have found here in Canada, both chemical and physical, that you can check out for yourselves.



Before this year I never assumed that sunscreen would be harming the environment and places like Hawaii have even started to try and pass laws that sunscreens containing harmful ocean ingredients such as avobenzone are not allowed to be sold there. If these laws and others like it do pass I am sure we will see a rise in companies making physical sunscreens or removing these ingredients from their formulas which is exciting.

So as you enter this summer make sure you are protecting your skin, but think about the rest of the world out there as well.

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