Sunday? Sun Day! or, Hey! What’s In This Stuff?

There are so many sunscreens on the market. Do you just grab the one that’s on sale? The one with highest SPF? Or the same brand you’ve always used? You’ve thankful it works, but have you thought about how it works? You may discover there’s a better one for your skin type.

First, chemical versus physical sunscreens:

Chemical: absorbs into skin and then absorbs UV rays;

Physical: stays atop skin to block the sun’s rays

Physical is what gives those with brown skins that ashy look and feel heavy. There’s many on the market nowadays that alleviates that unpleasant aspect. While there’s some controversy surrounding certain ingredients in chemical sunscreens—some have been potentially linked to cancer and chemical disruption—many dermatologists say there’s no cause for concern. Most important? Wearing an SPF that offers broad-spectrum protection, shielding against both UVA and UVB rays.

Zinc Oxide

Physical or chemical: Physical
Great for: Calming sensitive skin. Zinc oxide is a natural anti-inflammatory, quelling redness and irritation while protecting against UVA and UVB rays. This is wouldn’t be your go-to when applying makeup, but great for a day outdoors.

Titanium Dioxide

Physical or chemical: Physical
Great for: Natural, non-irritating broad-spectrum protection. Titanium dioxide is typically blended with zinc oxide to achieve a higher SPF. This is where you most often see the ashy cast on darker skins; the best option is to wait 5 -10 minutes after applying before applying foundation, BB cream or tinted moisturizer.


Physical or chemical: Chemical
Great for: Non-greasy, weightless protection without the white cast of some physical formulas, though it can be irritating to sensitive skin. Often, oxybenzone is blended with other sunscreens to provide broad-spectrum protection.


Physical or chemical: Chemical
Great for: Pairing with an under eye cream—its feather-light, easy-to-blend texture ensures you don’t tug on the delicate skin there. When mixed with zinc oxide, it delivers broad-spectrum protection.

Octisalate and Octocrylene

Physical or Chemical: Chemical
Great for: Providing sheer protection that layers well under your go-to products. Like octinoxate, these chemical agents are lightweight and easy to blend.


Physical or chemical: Chemical
Great for: Providing UVA and UVB protection that’s ultra sheer. While most sunscreens won’t cause acne (added fragrances and oils are the culprit behind most SPF-induced breakouts), this chemical often appears in formulas for your face because it won’t clog pores or look greasy.


Physical or chemical: Chemical
Great for: Working in tandem with other sunscreen ingredients to provide higher-than-average SPF protection and achieve the broad-spectrum seal of approval.

I hope this helps!


5 thoughts on “Sunday? Sun Day! or, Hey! What’s In This Stuff?

  1. Hi Rene! Thank you so much for sharing. I’ve had to learn this during a training in Sephora when I started with them years ago and I think it’s helpful for everyone to know. ❤ I don't mind chemical or physical sunscreens, I love to try different ones… What are your favorite sunscreens?

  2. What a handy guide! I’ve never stopped to think about what type of sunscreen I’m buying. I usually just pick up SPF35 or slightly higher and go. This makes me see sunscreens in a whole new light. Thanks for posting this! xx

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