The difference between chemical and physical sunscreens

PROTECT: Ultimately, what's most important is wearing your preferred sunscreen and not forgetting to reapply. Photo: Shutterstock

PROTECT: Ultimately, what's most important is wearing your preferred sunscreen and not forgetting to reapply. Photo: Shutterstock

As summer is fast approaching and sun protection becomes front of mind for everyone, Dr Scott McGregor, skin cancer and cosmetic physician, and We Are Feel Good Inc. co-founder, answers some questions about physical and chemical sunscreen formulas.

What is a chemical-based sunscreen?

Chemical sunscreens are widely used to make broad spectrum sunscreens - that is, using a combination of filters to block UVA + UVB rays. They are technically considered organic, as the UV filters used are organic chemicals (substances that contain carbon).

What is a physical-based sunscreen?

Physical (mineral) sunscreens generally use zinc oxide as their UV filter. Zinc oxide is an excellent broad spectrum filter, covering almost the full range of UVA and UVB, but not to the same extent as a well formulated chemical sunscreen using multiple filters. Think of using zinc as using a sheet rather than a blanket to protect from the cold, both cover the whole body, but one gives more complete protection.

Do both physical and chemical sunscreens offer the same protection?

Chemical and physical filters work in exactly the same way, by absorbing UV rays from the sun and converting they to heat. They only vary by how effectively they do this.

What formula would you recommend for someone looking to try a new sunscreen?

There is no doubt that the best protection, or most complete protection from UVA and UVB radiation is achieved using multiple filters. This could be a combination of organic (chemical) filters, or a mix of organic filters with zinc oxide, or organic filters with titanium. We Are Feel Good Inc. has a variety of combinations as we understand that everyone is different and there is no one size fits all in the sunscreen world. At the end of the day, the best sunscreen is the one you want to wear!

This story The sunscreen to choose this summer first appeared on The Canberra Times.