Most people are aware of the importance of using sunscreen to prevent UV damage, sunburn, and ameliorate the increased risk of skin cancer. However, not everyone is aware that there are two main types of sunscreen, each with its own pros and cons. Understanding the difference in types and making an informed decision could significantly differentiate your comfort and satisfaction with your sunscreen.
Physical sunscreens sit on top of the skin and use mineral ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to form an external shield that deflects the sun’s harmful UV rays. The advantages of these types of sunscreens are that they work as soon as they are applied and because they stay external to the skin, they are less likely to cause irritation. They are also safe to use during pregnancy as well as on infants. Because these sunscreens sit on top of the skin, there are some downsides. Physical sunscreens can be thicker and feel heavier after application. They also tend to rub off or wash away with sweat more easily and will need to be re-applied more often. They can also leave a more visual residue and can make the skin appear chalky.
Chemical sunscreens are a thinner alternative that do not stay external, using ingredients to soak into the skin where they will convert UV rays into heat that dissipates away from the body. The thinner nature of chemical sunscreens makes them spread easier for quicker application and a smaller amount is required for adequate protection. But unlike topical sunscreens, chemical sunscreens require 20 minutes after they are applied to be effective. Another consideration for chemical sunscreens is that because the compounds actually enter the skin, there is a greater chance of irritation.
Which Sunscreen Should You Choose?
Either type of sunscreen is beneficial and effective in protecting your skin from UV rays, but a person should weigh the pros and cons when choosing one type of sunscreen over the other or when choosing a sunscreen that incorporates both physical and chemical ingredients. A person with more sensitive skin may want to pick a physical sunscreen. Acne and rosacea are two examples of skin conditions that have the potential to be exacerbated by a chemical sunscreen. People with darker complexions may prefer chemical sunscreens, wanting to avoid the chalky appearance of the topical varieties. However, if a person is not worried about the downsides of either choice, both types of sunscreens can be used together to provide the skin simultaneous protection. Some manufacturers sell combination sunscreens with both topical and chemical sunscreens in the same bottle, providing the best of both worlds.
Wearing any sunscreen is more important than choosing the correct sunscreen. Check the expiration date on your bottle and remember to apply your sunscreen correctly and in an adequate amount. Your skin needs UV protection to avoid damage. Also remember to wear sunglasses and a hat and keep track of how long you’ve been in the sun, taking regular breaks in the shade. These preventative measures, in combination with sunscreen, are the best way to keep your skin happy and healthy.
At Queen City Plastic Surgery, we offer a carefully curated selection of medical-grade sun protection as part of an overall skincare regime. Our esthetician is happy to talk with you about skincare that best meets your needs.
To book a consultation for any of your skincare or plastic surgery questions, contact Queen City Plastic Surgery offices at 704-751-4595 or use our simple online form. Our conveniently located Charlotte office welcomes patients from throughout the region and across the country.