When it comes to UV protection, you’d think it would be as easy as slapping on some sunscreen and calling it a day. But in reality, in order to stay truly protected, there’s a bit more to it than that. First and foremost, sunscreen doesn’t last on the skin all day and tends to break down easily throughout the day. Thus it’s important to reapply it every 2 to 3 hours. Secondly, sunscreen shouldn’t be treated as your coat of armour – hats, glasses and seeking should shade should be priorities as well!

But aside from all that, the other important question that always arises is whether a chemical or physical sunscreen works better at protecting your skin and which is the best to go for? So we’re here to settle this age-old debate and simplify all the pros and cons. Here’s the break down:

Physical Sunscreens

They absorb UV rays and convert them into heat, but, on top of that, they deflect some of the rays away from your skin, and act as more of a physical barrier.

They are often thicker and heavier inconsistency and thus sit on top of your skin. However, this also means they can wear off easily, especially when you sweat or come into contact with water, so it’s super important to reapply often and as soon as you finish any water sports or activities.

– Works immediately upon application

– Often leaves a white cast
– Can wear off easily
– Feels thick and heavy on the skin


Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens also absorb UV rays like a sponge, converts them into heat, then releases them away from your skin to prevent damage. The difference is, this is the only way they work and they don’t deflect or scatter any UV rays from your skin at surface level.

They are often thinner in consistency than physical sunscreens and absorb into your skin. This means they tend to feel less sticky or heavy on the skin making them more wearable and suitable for everyday use. On top of that, thanks to this lightweight formulation, they are often packed with other skin-benefiting ingredients (making them a bit more like a skincare product) such as Vitamin E or Niacinamide, which can help to nourish and hydrate the skin.

– Feels lightweight
– Perfect for daily use
– Often contains other skin-benefiting ingredients

– Takes time to absorb and become effective (15 – 30 mins)


Here’s a quick chart to summarise:

Both are effective, both have their pros and cons. But the bottom line is you should go for the formulation that feels the best on your skin and that you’re more likely to reapply often – any SPF is better than no SPF and you’ll want it to feel comfortable, not greasy or sticky, on your skin. That said, we’re big fans of chemical sunscreen, mostly because it feels minimal on the skin yet offers maximum protection! Plus, thanks to its lightweight formulation, it can often feature skin-benefiting ingredients ontop of UV filters like niacinamide or vitamin E.

P.S. have you tried our Sunny Side Up sunscreen mist yet? It’s a super lightweight chemical-based formula that’s totally invisible on the skin – A.k.a the #DreamSunscreen!


About the Author

Obsessed with writing, especially about skincare, lifestyle and fashion. Potato chip enthusiast and lover of live music and old school vinyl records.

View Articles