Tag: sun safe


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?

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