Why I’ve switched from chemical to physical sunscreen.

You can’t speak to any dermatologist or beauty editor without them mentioning (“becoming hysterical and evangelical”) about how important sun protection is.

I am not exempt. Use it daily! Take it all the way down to your boobs! Re-apply! Use enough to actually get the SPF worth! No, your makeup’s token SPF 12 is not enough to protect you! Don’t eat it! And so on.

One of my biggest rules has been to apply your sunscreen (chemical, broad spectrum) on clean skin, underneath all your other skin care and makeup.


Not because any of the sunscreens I used are ineffective or did me wrong, but I now use a physical sunscreen, and I apply it after my serum and face cream, and underneath my foundation or BB Cream.

This change came about after researching chemical Vs physical sun protection, and a wonderfully engaging chat with a very intelligent and knowledgable skin care expert I’ve enlisted to get rid of my pigmentation (more on that and her, soon).

And so, I now use broad spectrum physical sunscreen on my face/neck/chest every single day. To prevent burning. To stop sun damage. Premature ageing. And halt that bastard, pigmentation, in its tracks. Also, it allows me to bypass all of that re-application shit (unless I wet my face or sweat) that is so tricky with chemical sunscreens and wearing makeup. I will often use a BB cream or foundation with chemical sunscreens on top of this, that is to say, I am not making a stand against them, but for my primary sun protection on the face and chest? Physical sunscreen.

Of course, which sun protection you use is entirely up to you, it’s your face and your wallet and your skin. Here are some facts about chemical and physical sunscreens to help you make The Right Decision.


Especially since we live in the kind of ridiculous country that insists on having extreme UV. Also because without it we burn, and get skin cancer, and our immune system suffers and our beautiful skin becomes lined and spotted. Yes, we should get about 15 minutes (depending on the time of year/UV strength/your skin) of sun exposure per day for Vitamin D and general happiness, as many miserable Brits will attest. The best way to get it and not soil your lovely skin is to expose the arms, in my opinion.


(Or one of the many hybrids which utilise both, of course.)

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing (or sometimes scattering) UV rays. Physical (or mineral) is when the UV is reflected off the skin, and doesn’t absorb into the skin at all.

Chemical sunscreen is far easier to find and use than physical, and is probably what you’re using currently.

– Chemical sunscreens must go directly onto clean skin, and take 20 minutes to work. They are reputed to be better at the UVA (ageing) protection, while physicals are better at UVB (burning) protection, but as long as you’re using broad spectrum, you’re covered. (Or, choose a hybrid with some chemical sunscreens and some zinc oxide.)

– They rely on chemicals like Octylcrylene, Avobenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate, OxyBenzone, and Homosalate and Helioplex to absorb or scatter the UV rays your skin is exposed to. There is growing concern that some of these chemical filters used can generate free radical damage (“bad”), and some are even thought to be endocrine disruptors, which means they’re messing with your hormones. I would avoid OxyBenzone personally.

– Also, and this is very important if you’re on a mission against pigmentation, WHICH I DEFINITELY AM, chemical sunscreens can actually trigger pigmentation. Fuckers!

– Because chemical sunscreens are resistant to sweat and water (unlike physical sunscreens) they are best for a day of swimming, or the beach or sweaty sportsy playing. But, since the sun can break down their effectiveness (some up to 90% in one hour!) you MUST re-apply often. If you’re wearing makeup and don’t want to remove to start again, use a clever mineral powder on top of your makeup, like DermaQuest DermaMinerals On-the-Go Finishing Powder SPF30.

Debate continues on the long-term safety of using chemical sunscreen. I personally have switched to physical because it’s stronger, more natural, and most crucially, is a better bodyguard against pigmentation. Ms. Sarah Wilson has written about her choice to ditch chemical sunscreen here for those interested.

And then there is physical or mineral sun protection, which relies on zinc oxide or/and titanium dioxide to physically block the UV from getting to the skin.

– You remember zinc from your childhood, right? Horrible, shitty stuff that had zero spread and was thick and unappealing on numerous levels, not to mention usually hot pink or green. But just like Miley Cyrus, zinc has come a long way. Modern versions use micronized zinc, which means they’re transparent and won’t make you look like a Geisha each time you apply. Some even more advanced sunblocks use nanoparticles, but I’d avoid those. Just til we know more.

– Physical sunscreens are unlikely to cause irritation, (think of them as the mineral makeup of sun care) which is why all of the organic sun care brands are physical. If they do make you break out, it’s likely the titanium dioxide, not the zinc oxide.

– Physical sunscreens go on TOP of all your other skin care, just before makeup. They start to work immediately and require no application, unless water or sweat or tears or a spray of Fanta interferes with your original application. You can layer physical on top of chemical (pretty amazing protection assured) by using mineral makeup or touch up powders like the one mentioned above.



For those who want glow: Invisible Zinc Tinted Daywear SPF 30 $27

The original and one of the best. I’m a loooooong time fan and have welcomed it back with loving, slightly freckled arms. Doubles as my tint/makeup. I like the dewy finish, but I’m a dry-skinned dame and can handle it. Others might like to set with powder.

For those who want dry-touch: BECCA Mineral Face and Body Sunscreen, $39

A great dry-touch version that looks and feels like a chemical sunscreen.

For those after a moisturiser and sun block: Aspect Hydra Shield SPF 15, $55.95

Doubles as a moisturiser, but I wear on top of my face cream for extra hydration. Lightweight and lovely.

For those who want a matte finish: Coola Mineral Face SPF 30 Matte Finish $40

I’ve not tried as I despise a matte finish, but this gets excellent reviews from the organic and shiny communities.

For those who hate the feel of zinc, Cosmedix Reflect SPF 30, $72.60

Quite the superstar in the physical sunscreen world, being one of, if not the only spray versions. Created for post procedure, (so not hands were required) this is a cocktail of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide and antioxidants.

Which do you use? Chemical or physical? Why?

Responses to this drivel: 115 Comments
Responses to this drivel ( 115 )
  • Susie

    Thanks Zoe, I’ve found it difficult to get a simple, balanced view on sunscreen, I always suspected my sunscreen was making my pigmentation worse and I work outside so reapplying often enough is difficult. Will happily try switching and see how that works for me. Love your work!

  • Simone

    Invisible Zinc all the way Zo, it’s the only one that doesn’t make me break out!

  • Nikki

    I loved the Becca stuff last year, and will likely use again this year… the coverage wasn’t as good as a regular tinted moisturiser, but I usually put another TM on top anyway… and it didn’t make me as shiny as IZ does. But IZ takes the proverbial cake for beach days, nothing gets past that stuff.
    as a side note, I can’t BELIEVE that chemical might be making my pigmentation worse!! such feelings of betrayal right now…

    • Nikki

      Flip, I just read Sarah Wilson’s article! As we speak, I have a pile of sunscreens next to me, ready to be thrown out. Zinc Oxide products only from now on, I say.
      Thanks for the link Zoe!

  • Holly

    Hey Zoe, just wondering about the Kiehls BB cream and what it is? Im guessing its a chemical one, but can’t find the details online. Thoughts?

  • Jodie

    I am super gostly fair sensitive prone to breakout skin and need sunscreen everyday as having correction on pigmentation. How I needed this post yesterday and you may have read my mind, 1 day too late but still happy to see this. On my beauticians recommendation I purchased dermalogica super sensitive shield ultra calming and chemical free, will see how I go but might try Cosmedix one next time. Thanks Zoe

  • LouAna

    Hey Zoe just wondering why you suggest product so low on SPF? 50 is the new standard. Don’t give me 15+. The arguement on 50+ being only just a bit better then 30+ doesn’t wash with me, stores just want us to buy up their left over 30+ stock. I was so egarly awaiting 50+ availablity but everyone is just sitting on 30. I want 50+ Can you recommend a 50+

    • Jemma

      SPF 30+ is the highest rating that is allowed to be advertised on products in Australia. I think that has something to do with preventing people from thinking that the higher the SPF rating the better the protection, which isn’t strictly true. So many products that say SPF 30+ might actually be rated higher in other countries.

    • fruity

      You CAN now get SPF 50 in Australia, but as our TGA is so tough, it’s taking a while for products to be permitted to use the SPF 50 label, (even those that are registered as SPF 50 overseas already.) I LOVE SPF 50, and it’s obvious to go as high as possible, but keep in mind you don’t get “20 more” protection points, it’s more of a time thing. I will do full post soon. For now, as an example, keep in mind that SPF 15 blocks 94% of UVB rays, while SPF 45 blocks 98%.

      • LouAna

        A lot of products have had to be reformulated to be inline with the new 50+ standard… As i said above, stores are holding back the 50+ ones to off load their 30+. I’ve been using banana boat faces 50+ and cetaphil 50+ (I bought them both earlier this year).

        I burn very easily and quickly Zoe, 15+ just don’t cut it for me.

    • Tracey

      Louana… When a sunscreen is over a 30spf it then becomes a chemical sunscreen .. And it is true that there really isn’t much difference with a 15% to a 30% .. the difference is the time between reapplying when in full direct sun.. So no one has tried to bluff you ..

    • Katie

      It’s all about the +. 10 years ago in Australia we could only buy 15+. We were still using products then that were SPF 50, but they weren’t allowed to be advertised.
      In general, products aren’t being reformulated to be SPF 50+, they’re just being relabeled. The Banana Boat SPF 30+ that you buy in Australia now is the same SPF 50+ that you’ll be buying in a few weeks time. It’s always been 50+; the new regulations just mean they’re allowed to advertise it.
      The other thing that you need to consider is that there’s a prescribed amount of sunscreen that you should be using to get the 50+ protection. Using the correct amount of SPF 15 is better than using a sparing amount of SPF 50+.
      And in some circumstances, using SPF 50 on your face can be quite damaging, as far as breakouts and irritation is concerned. For the more sensitive skin on your face it can be better to stick to an SPF 15. And if you’re planning to spend more time in the sun, not even SPF 50 does the job of a wide brim hat.

      • Lucy

        What Katie says is absolutely correct – we’ve had higher spf formulas on the market for years – it’s just that the TGA didn’t allow Australian companies to advertise it as being that. And it does come down to minimal difference in protection and mostly about time between applications. Go for gold on higher spf formulas if that’s what you’re after, but for sensitive skin like my own, I prefer to stick to 15+ or 30+ broad spectrum (which is key – blocking both UVA & UVB rays) – and reapply more regularly.

  • Emma

    Hi Zoe, thanks so much for this! I’m a learn to swim teacher so I’m in the water constantly – can I just check, are there any physical sunscreens that are waterproof? I want to get rid of my pigmentation too, but I’m in the water so often I’m using chemical sunscreen alllll day long.

  • Nikki @ Styling You

    I have to be super careful with physical sunscreens as I react badly to zinc in some products, especially daily use. And by badly I mean angry, red, itchy welts that took some hard core treatment to bring down. Not many people talk about sensitivity to zinc so I was caught unawares.

    • Kylie Johnson

      Me too Nikki. I have such a bad reaction that I need steroids to bring it down. I have invested in big sun resistant parasols and hats…

  • Emily

    Do these physical sunscreens require a more heavy duty cleanser to remove them?

    • Jemma

      I double cleanse when I wear zinc based sunscreens. First with a cleansing balm (like Emma Hardie or Clinique take the day off), then with a normal cleanser 🙂 I find it gets everything off.

    • Danielle

      I’ve been wearing Invisiable zinc every day for several months now and I’ve never had any problems with removing it at the end of the day.

  • lara

    I unfortunately find the Invisible Zinc Tinted day Wear awful. It is SO thick and incredibly greasy feeling. It smears off on everything like your mobile and clothes and makes you look like you’ve been sweating profusely because of the sheer amount of shine it gives you. This is coming from someone with dry skin, too! I find setting it with powder still makes it a thick, oily mess.

    The only sunscreen I can really deal with that isn’t too oily or thick is the Olay one that’s spf30+….it’s a mix of physical and chemical sunscreens

    • Maddy

      I had the same experience with IZ! And I use the Olay SPF 30+ too (the sensitive version). It’s the only one that doesn’t break me out (I always get pimples on my chin from wearing sunscreen 🙁 )

    • Court

      Invisible zinc makes my face itch really badly, it doesn’t leave red marks or anything but its just incredibly uncomfortable, I had to throw it away. I’ve been using Clinique city block basically daily about 15 years and my skin is fairly freckle free. I’ve been buying it from Overseas as they have 40+. I’ve recently been using neutrogena with helioplex 50+ if I’m going to be in the sun for a while, and it’s quite good too. I know neither of these are physical suncreens but they work well for me.

  • Sarah

    Does anyone else have problems layering products over sunscreen? I’m currently trialling the Ultraceuticals CC cream but find its really hard to get it to blend properly when I use it on top of a sunscreen.

    I’ve tried leaving 20 min or so between sunscreen and CC cream but it doesn’t seem to help.

    • Jodie

      Yes I have the same problem it all just moves when you try and put makeup on its very frustrating

    • Bec

      I had the exact same problem! I’ve switched to Kosmea’s Moisturising Lotion SPF30+, which has a zinc-based sunscreen and is absolutely gorgeous under make-up. It kind of dries matte but not too matte (if that makes sense??) – it’s so great I don’t even use primer with it, and my skin (including pigmentation) is looking so much better. I can’t get enough of the stuff! It’s also full of rosehip goodness.

      • Sarah

        Thanks Bec! My moisturiser ran out this morning so I’ll give the Kosmea one a try.

        And that’s why I love this website – such a friendly vibe and so much useful information.

  • Tanya

    I was TOTALLY eating out of the palm of your hand and sold on the idea of IMEEDIATELY switching to physical (I too am waging a vigorous war against pigmentation) until the Miley Cyrus comparison…..

  • Lealea

    Oh man, now I’m even more confused!
    I get a very shiny t-zone and I currently use glycolic acid in my skin care regime so I definitely need sunscreen. I have freckles, sun spots and hormonal chin congestion.
    I am still trying out all the foundations that you suggested to find one that controls the shine but isn’t too matte because it makes the tiny hairs on my face looks like a beard! Now I have to add this to the ever growing list.

    Zoe, I would like to request that you please come to my house, rummage through my skin care, make up and shoes (if you like?) to help me with this endless quest to find the right products.

    You will provide the expertise and I will provide home-baked treats, champagne and endless compliments. How could you possibly say no?

    • fruity

      Lealea something like the Aspect Hydra Shield will be great for you. Use serum on clean skin, then face cream if you need one (but no AHAs during the day please!) and finish with the Hydra Shield. THEN makeup.

  • amy

    When i was in the US in June, I bought some mineral suncsreen powder (spf45) from Sephora – it was by Peter Thomas Roth and in a yellow tube with a built in applicator brush. Life changing ladies! an invisible veil over your makeup and you are set! I had never heard of such a (dreamy) product until I saw a girl applying some on the subway and asked her what it was.

  • Bonnie

    Are all invisable zinc ones physical? Doing some research for my dad – not sure he’ll appreciate the tinted one!

  • Beth

    Any tips where I can get the DermaQuest finishing powder from?

  • Ali

    I use physical only on my face as well – I get one from BurnOut in the USE – the Eco-Sensitive sunscreen which is just zinc oxide. I like that it’s not as greasy as chemical sunscreens which always seem to make my skin irritated. Would love to know what new things you’re doing for your pigmentation Zoe! I’ve had IPL and stay out of the sun always, use sunblock every day, but it just keeps coming back! :/

    • Sarah

      Same. Pigmentation is the work of the devil. I feel like I am on an endless journey trying new products to get rid of it and nothing works.

      The only thing that has reduced it was a fairly strong chemical peel but the down time to recover from that was 4-5 days and I cant keep taking time off work.

      Zoe – please update us!

  • Nellie

    Does anyone know whether Dermalogica Age Smart range is a physical or chemical sun protection? I use their primer and moisturiser (both lovely) but also have pigmentation issues. Hate to think I was shelling out big dollars only to make it worse!

    • kirsty

      hi nellie…i too rely on the age smart 30spf in summer…just a a quick look at the back of a sample pack…mentions titnanium dioxide..hope that helps…
      being shelling out $$ for vit C to help pigmentation…will start reading the labels from now on!!…thanks zoe for the post…and really glad to see you answer our questions…much apprectated

  • Corinne

    I’m confused! I use the Mecca Save Your Face – is it chemical or physical? I have been applying it over my moisturiser, before foundation. Thanks Zoe

  • Sara

    Zoe, I would love to know what your current skincare routine consists of at the moment? I really need a great recommendation for a night moisturiser. I am also a dry/dehydrated skin dame and need something rich and lovely xx

  • Kate

    I have spent a small fortune on trying to get rid of the very obvious pigmentation on my forehead and under my eyes for years. It started when I went on the pill as a teenager and then was made worse after having two babies. After mush research and consulting experts I have had to accept that it is very hard, if not impossible, to get rid of. I had some small improvement with IPL and Clear and Brilliant laser therapy but nothing gets rid of it completely. I now focus on good zinc sunscreeen and good makeup.

  • Kiss & Make-up

    Thanks for this post! I have been fighting hyperpigmentation for years now, and I am shocked to read that chemical sunscreen can actually WORSEN it :-O I will definitely switch to a physical sunscreen now.

  • Isobel

    Invisible zinc is brilliant, I got a free sample from the dermatologist I went to for my Acne.

  • Acacia

    Great post Zoe and perfect timing for me! I am allergic to chemical suncreen and am going to thailand next week. So today i bought invisable zinc to use on my body and clinique city block 25+ to use on my face which can also double as a primer! Double duty bonus!

  • Penny

    Just wondering where you can find the Coola sunscreen in Australia? Thanks.

  • Maya

    In theory I’ve always wanted to love physical sunscreens, seeing as I tend to lean towards natural skincare, but the cost is such an issue for me! I find a lot of the ‘Nivea-priced’ physical sunscreens are just horrible – so thick and stay quite white. Has anyone had a positive experience with a hip-pocket friendly physical sunscreen?

    • Allison

      I feel that the Invisiable Zinc tinted sunscreen is reasonably priced for such a good product… watch for when Priceline have it on sale, usually 30% off. It really is one of those products that you will find worth it. I use it every single day, sometimes twice a day, and it last me 3 to 4 months. Thats potentially less than 10 dollars a month…

  • Shannon

    Should I use a face cream without SPF before applying the physical sunscreen? I have very dry skin so I think I need to keep this step in!

  • Beth

    Thanks Zoe! Great recommendations. Wondering your thoughts on the broader Aspect range? I’m using the Aspect Retinol Brulee serum of a night – coming into summer I’m super conscious of the sun while using this product. Would the Aspect hydra shield be a strong enough sunscreen for me to use during the day if I’m using retinol brulee of a night? Thanks! 🙂 Bethany

  • Michelle

    I’ve ordered the Becca one … and would love a recommendation for a moisturiser to wear under it. Have combination skin and get a shiny t-zone so something light. Does anyone have a fave?

  • Lucy @ Love Luc Blog

    IZ makes me break out so bad. I used it all over when I lived in Croatia, and i had the worst skin.. not to mention it was hard to rub in and made me overheat cause so sticky. I use Peter Thomas Roth Mineral Powder (love the brush to apply) as well as John Plunkett’s Superfade UV Day Shield (as I am currently using John Plunkett’s Superfade face cream). It works in conjunction with the Superfade… Have you tried Superfade Zoe? It works a treat at fading pigmentation- totally recommend it (nothing else seems to work for me).

    Great post, and best of luck in your Pigmentation fading quest 🙂

    Lucy xx

  • Steph

    I’ve recently tried the Paula’s Choice Tinted Moisturiser SPF 20, which uses physical sunscreens and has been great for my combination skin. I also use my Olay Total Effects SPF 15 underneath and it’s not too heavy. I love my NARS tinted moisturiser, but as it’s getting warmer it’s feeling a bit heavy for me. Also, the SPF rating of 30 isn’t recognised in Oz…

    • Sinead

      SPF 30+ is 🙂

      There’s no difference in the formulation of products. You can buy products overseas with labels saying 50, 70, etc, but over here they still say 30+. It doesn’t mean that they protect you less 🙂

  • Sinead

    I had an appointment with my dermatologist the day this blog post came out, so I went in bursting at the seams with questions for her.

    She honestly doesn’t think there’s a great difference between physical and chemical sunscreen for the majority of people. Because I’m an extremely pale non-freckled redhead, I have a lot of trouble finding the right foundation match. Everything is always too dark, too orange, or too yellow. As a result I can’t use any of the award winning tinted sunscreens (like invisible zinc), BB or CC creams because nothing is a match, and a lot of physical sunscreen makes my still-on-Roaccutane-after-nine-years skin break out like nothing else. The discovery of the Nivea Day Cream moisturiser with SPF 30+ (chemical) has been a godsend.

    I was pretty confused, but she told me that chemical will protect my skin just as well, and is a much better choice for me. According to her, the decisions that a lot of people make regarding physical>chemical is based on a lot of pseudo-science. It sounds good, but doesn’t hold under scrutiny.

    Then again, I don’t have issues with pigmentation (I suppose the one advantage of being pasty?? haha.) Either way, it’s chemical for me.

    Oh and as a little sidenote – I asked her about AHAs. I’ve been using the new Neutrogena daily face scrub with AHAs in it (the green cucumbery one), and I was worried about my sun exposure risk. My dermatologist rolled her eyes and said that you will need something like 14% AHAs to have any measurable risk, and most products have a maximum of 4%. In a lot of cases, it’s the cosmetic companies protecting themselves against litigation.

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  • Helen

    Thanks for this post Zoe. I’d just gone out and purchased a chemical sunscreen but after reading this I found the invisible zinc range on sale at Coles. I have just endured and recovery from major surgery ( has taken over a year for recovery) to remove my left lung as it was found to have a large tumour caused from a disruption to my endocrine system. I am definitely not saying its caused from chemical sunscreen however something interfered with it resulting in the growth of it. ( it’s a very rare type of tumour and having one in ur lung happens in .5 in 100,000 people, so it’s not common however from my experience I am very aware of trying to avoid anything that interferes with our endocrine system. ) So after reading this I purchased the invisible zinc 30+ to use on the rare days I am well enough to go out. Thanks for the update and am looking forward to ur post about pigmentation. As I said I’m definately not suggesting my experience was caused through chemical sunscreens but I’d rather avoid anything that interferes with our endocrine system. I may not go out very often.. But I do spend much time on my face care. It’s my special time and something I enjoy. Wish I had a budget to indulge in high end products but still get great satisfaction with my ‘drug store’ products!

    • Helen

      After re reading everyone’s comments I sure hope I don’t have issues with the invisible zinc as my non existant beauty budget ( as i cant work now since the surgery) doesn’t allow me to chuck out another product! The powder one in the brush looks fantastic but have my fingers and toes crossed that the one I got works for me!!

  • Mrs P

    Physical for me. I’ve got relatively oily skin and live in a humid climate and have sworn by invisible zinc products for years. I wear it everyday in one form or another and find it super long lasting and it doesn’t clog my pores.

  • Annalisa

    Yay! I use the invisible Zinc every day and mix it with my mineral tinted moisturiser. It’s the perfect coverage 🙂

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  • MissF

    Fruity is the ultraceuticals not physical?

  • Dana

    I have had issues with any type of sunscreen always leading to heaps of tiny red, itch bumps. My face actually gets hot and I have to wash it off straight away. I have just started using some of the Aspect range and it’s been fantastic – the cleanser is amazing and the extol and c serum plus the pigment punch for my pigmentation is really helping. The only problem, I need to protect my skin in the day with sunscreen which then makes for breakouts. Even though it is really rare and most people don’t believe it, after reacting with itchy red bumps and a fever to mineral make up and zinc and titanium dioxide based sunscreens it has to be chemical sunscreens for me. It is a shame as the physical ones are much better as far as not disrupting your endocrine system but zinc oxide especially in it’s purest form does not agree with me. Mineral make up, bronzers they all cause the same thing. If anyone can recommend a good non zinc based suncream that doesn’t break them out please be my guest 🙂

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  • Elyse

    Hi Zo,

    You have converted me from chemical block out to using Invisible Zinc and am feeling great knowing that there is a much smaller chance of me looking like a leather handbag later in life. I was just wondering how you remove your zinc at the end of the day?
    I have been using body wash to try and remove it however the zinc is still visible after I dry off. Any suggestions on how I can completely remove the zinc each day?



  • Amanda

    Just a note on physical ingredients – nano labelling is patchy, and not required, titanium dioxide (and zinc oxide to a lesser extent) are both photo catalysts depending on their form and can initiate free radical formation, and there may be an inhalation of nano particle issue with the spray on sunscreen (which is probably more of a worry than absorption of nano particles through the skin).

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  • M

    Hi Zoe,

    I’m using Mecca’s To Save Face Sunscreen and it contains oxybenzone(1.5%) which is apparently a no-no ingredient. Is the concentration of this ingredient enough to still cause damage?

  • Susu

    Can you explain again why physical sunscreen doesnt need to be re-applied often? So once in the morning and im good to go for the whole 8-hour outdoor day?

  • SD

    I made the connection years ago that chemical sunscreen was making my pigmentation (freckles in my case) worse. If I applied it but didn’t expose my face to the sun or it didn’t turn out to be a sunny day my freckles would get darker. I no longer have that problem since I switched to physical sunscreen and wear Dermalogica Ultra Sensitive Tint SPF30 in winter and Skinceuticals Physical Fusion Defense SPF50 in summer.

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  • Dragons World Hack

    What’s up, ϳust wanted to tell you, I loved this article.
    It was inspiring. Keep on posting!

  • Annie

    Thanks for this post Zoe. I am 40 and have just had my second basal cell carcinoma (BCC)removed from my face. My first was at 27. I used to be so worried about freckles, wrinkles and looking pretty 🙂 Now I have a scar on my forehead and just pray I stay alive! and don’t get any more skin cancers. I have also had two friends who have had melanomas removed- obviously these are much more serious than the BCCs. It is seriously scary to live in Australia with fair skin. So -two questions – can you recommend a 50+ physical sunscreen? And, do you have any recommendations for kids’ products? (Congratulations on becoming a mum very soon!). I worry about my three kids (5,3 and 1). I am a religious zealot about putting sunsreen on their faces. I worry about the chemicals but I worry more about skin cancer. According to the Cancer Council, the most dangerous time for UV damage to our skin is when are UNDER 15 years of age. Any tips would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for you research and good advice! Keep up the good work x Annie

  • The difference between physical and chemical sunscreens and which one you should use | Just Herbs™ :: Luxurious and safe Ayurvedic skincare that works!

    […] zinc oxide,” says Australian beauty blogger and editor Zoë Foster Blake in a very informative blog post. Below, we’ve drawn out the differences between physical and chemical sunscreens in the table […]

  • J bailey

    Hi, this is a great forum and thank you to everyone who has contributed so far, I’ve found it really informative! I am a redhead with very freckly skin and don’t leave the house without sunscreen on year round. I have planned a trip to the Greek Islands in summer and instead of feeling excited my focus is more about the extra pigmentation and freckles my holiday will bring! (Even while lathering up with sunscreen, wearing a hat and covering up!) My question is would it be beneficial to wear both a physical sunscreen and a separate different brand chemical sunscreen, just to cover all bases? Thanks in advance!

  • fruitybeauty | Stuff I’m loving, using and doing as a pregbot.

    […] doing all this preventative pigment work and using acids is SUNSCREEN. And please make it a physical one. Many […]

  • suzie

    Because I am taken immunosuppressants I am very exposed to skin cancers & have to wear sunscreen all the time. My Doctor has saiud that titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are definitely the important ingredients for a sunscreen product. I am really sick of feeling & looking so greasy though. 1/2 tsp is the required amount for face & neck which is quite a lot really. Apart from looking greasy I have had a lot of staining on clothes, particularly white clothes. I understand it is the dioxybenzone & oxybenzone that cause this. What are the recommendations for one that definitely isn’t greasy ( I have tried so many that say they are not but in fact are) & that don’t contain either of the staining chemicals. Any suggestions greatly appreciated. Also where in Australia can you buy the coolamattemineral. That sounds like it is not greasy. I see some one else has already asked that question but I couldn’t find a reply to it anywhere.

  • Clare

    Hi Zoe, just wondering what sunscreen you plan to use on your bub? My littlest gets a terrible reaction from sunscreen

  • fruitybeauty | The difference between AHAs and BHAs.

    […] you MUST USE SUNSCREEN EACH DAY. Must! And please try to ensure it is photo-stable also. (So, use a physical/mineral one with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide ideally. And avoid avobenzone, which is not […]

  • Sally

    Hi Zoe, you said above that physical sunscreens start to work immediately and require no application…. do you mean require no re-application? I’m confused but want to not be confused as I am also fanatical about sun protection!

  • Jivanee

    Hey Zoe,

    Im a dark skin gal (usually a tan or medium tan when it comes to makeup) and I really want a physical sunscreen with zinc oxide that won’t make me look like a ghost. Ive tried invisible zinc which is said to ‘dry clear’ and is photo stable but i look so ashy and makeup on the top just doesn’t match my skin properly. Any suggestions as to what I could try to get max protection without the frosting? xx

  • Cassandra

    Great post Zoe. Recently ( October ) Arbonne released a newly formulated kids sunscreen which is a physical blocker ( zinc-oxide). I switched my entire family over to this product and I also wear it under makeup. So far so good 🙂 have you tried this product ? 

  • Morning, Noon and Night | Dark Blue Stripes - Australian Fashion & Lifestyle Blog

    […] chemical counterparts.  Not to mention absence of skin irritation and that ghost look. The awesome Zoe Foster Blake’s lowdown on physical versus chemical is pretty great too.     NOON: Or more […]

  • Cyra | Gastronomic Nomad

    Thanks so much for these recommendations! I was super bummed as I got a new organic suncream from the local health food store and just came back from a 2 week beach holiday with the worst skin ever. 

    I’ve never had that before with zinc based suncreams but your info has given me a little more insight into this. For starters, it definitely wasn’t invisible zinc. I am going to give the Invisible Zinc range a go!

  • Gilanin

    Nothing to do about sunscreen. What’s up with the scrolling? It made it difficult (annoying) to read.

  • 10 Reasons I love Kimberly Sayer Ultra Light Facial Moisturizer with SPF 30 | A Review |

    […] why I think physical sunscreen is better than chemical in this review. For further reading see: Why I’ve Switched from Chemical to Physical Sunscreen (great information) and for in depth data breakdown of chemical/physical ingredients read […]

  • Hey you! Protect yo skin! | wild nagaloe

    […] Zoe Foster Blake has an awesome article about the benefits of physical versus chemical sunscreen here. If you’re too lazy to click over to that, basically the difference is that chemical […]

  • mike

    TIZO 3 SPF 40 is an excellent mineral sunscreen. is matte, I have oily acne-prone, but this sunscreen doesn´t break me out.

  • Alexandra West

    Hi Zoe

    I’m an independent consultant with Arbonne and we released in April our new sun protection line – all physical.

    I stumbled across your article because I wanted to be educated on the difference in our product and I thank you tremendously for making it really clear!

    I’m using the sun screen as we speak as I go out to sit in the sun on my lunch break and I have to say it feels much better than most I have tried.  I’m not oily or greasy when going back to work so this formula really is great!

    Thanks for the info x

  • mel

    Woolworths Select Clear Zinc Sunscreen – $9!
    “Zinc oxide the only active ingredient”

  • Rosemarie Sandvik

    Got pigmentation on my forehead and under my eyes for years. It started ^ years ago. I have dry skin.Would like any good help .

  • Laura

    Thank you so much for this! I shamefully admit that I only started wearing face sunscreen a couple of months ago. I struggled to find one that didn’t make my skin breakout, so when I found one that was oil free and non greasy and was good under makeup I was stoked! Although for the last couple of months I have been getting this recurring dry itchy and flaky skin on my eyelids and under my eyes and around my mouth. I’ve been racking my brain trying to work out what could be causing it, then I read this yesterday and today it hit me that it’s probably the chemicals in the sunscreen. For now I am only using Go-To cleanser and face cream, but once my skin settles down I will be purchasing and using only physical sunscreen! Thank you Zoe, you’re a lifesaver!

  • Darlon goldsby

    I use Revision intelligence matte anti-aging tinted moisturizer with sunscreen – SPF 45.  It has titanium dioxide and zinc oxide along with Octinoxate and Octisalate Is this a physical sunscreen ?  

  • rob

    I use skinceuticals physical fusion sunscreen. It’s tinted and super lightweight and most often used by people recovering from cosmetic surgery. I love it. I have heard from some other people that because it has a ‘one size fits all’ tint to it that it can make darker skin tones look ashy, unfortunately.

  • Products I’m using: Part 2 Everyday Face | Jessincase

    […] It’s thick, so you don’t need a hell of alot, and I put it on after my moisturiser has absorbed. I know I link alot to Zoe Foster Blake’s article’s, but as I’ve said before, she’s my guru and where I get most of my information! I also feel like it’s a touch rude of me to claim this knowledge as my own, and while it may seem like I’m being lazy, I just feel like you as a reader would benefit from reading her advice first hand. Read why this is my sunscreen of choice here. […]

  • Sara Abdelsalam

    Very useful info. Thank you so much!
    I use Untrasun for Depigmentation and whitening. But still suffering. I was thinking to get a physical sunscreen as Medik8.

    I have a question: can I wear the Bellapierre BB cream (mineral makeup) on top of the physical sunscreen, or mix it together and wear the whole mixture?

    Thanks a lot!

  • how an australian girl defends her skin against the sun |

    […] A face sunscreen should be nice and light, and shouldn’t clog the pores. It goes on after you’ve cleaned your face, and before makeup. But beware, chemical sunscreens soak into the skin and you will have to reapply them- physical sunscreens are generally a lot easier. Zoe from ZoTheySay wrote a really good post about it that you can find here. […]

  • Gosia.L

    Hi Zoe (or anyone else who would know).
    What sunscreen would you recommend for your baby/toddler/children?
    Thank you!

    • Jackie

      Moo Goo make a great physical sunscreen that I use on my kids. Their customer service is also excellent if you have any questions.

  • Bianca

    Hi Zoe + others, 

    I’d like to buy the Becca one you mentioned in the article but I’m having trouble finding any Australian stockists, or online ones. Can you please tell me where I can buy it?


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