Sunscreen: Chemical vs Mineral SPF

Posted by Carmen Queen Bee on

Are you confused about all the different sunscreens available?  And what is the difference is between Chemical SPF and Mineral SPF?  You're not alone....Read on!


What's the difference?  The Active Ingredients ***

Chemical sunscreens are also known as the “Classic” sunscreens and the ingredients are considered "drug" ingredients.  

Mineral sunscreens contain mineral compounds and are considered "natural" ingredients.

Chemical Sunscreen Mineral Sunscreen
  • Oxybenzone* 
  • Avobenzone
  • Octisalate
  • Octocrylene
  • Homosalate
  • Octinoxate* 
  • Zinc Oxide
  • Titanium Dioxide
 * see Environment section below


How do they work?

Chemical Sunscreen Mineral Sunscreen
  • ABSORBS UV rays and then dissipates it as heat. 
  • SHIELD or physical barrier on your skin that reflects and scatters UV rays. 


Chemical Sunscreen Mineral Sunscreen
  • Thinner in texture
  • Easier to apply and spreads better
  • Available as a lotion or even spray format 
  • Thicker in texture
  • Often harder to apply
  • Available as a lotion or a solid stick (like deodorant)
  • Can leave a white cast


We all shower and bathe and as a result, all sunscreens end up down the drain and our oceans and waters.  Chemical sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate are harmful to coral reefs.  

NANO (micronized) sized MINERAL ingredients are also bad for the environment.  They can also harm coral reefs and sea creatures.  Regular Mineral sunscreens (not nano sized) are considered reef safe.

Beginning January 1, 2021, Hawaii has banned any sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate.


Is higher SPF better?

High is not always better.  SPF15 blocks about 93% of UV rays.  SPF 30 blocks out 97% (clearly not double).  Health Canada recommends an SPF 30 at least...but going higher than SPF 50 isn't recommended.  An SPF 60 does NOT mean you can stay in the sun twice as long as an SPF 30.  The reapplication time is the same regardless.

In Canada, Mineral sunscreens are actually capped at SPF 50, that's why you don't see Mineral sunscreens at an SPF 60 or 75.


Health Canada

Health Canada must approve all sunscreens prior to sale.  We have different regulations than the USA.  These are Canada's MAXIMUM allowable percentages:

Chemical Sunscreen Mineral Sunscreen
  • Oxybenzone - 6% 
  • Avobenzone - 3% 
  • Octisalate - 5% 
  • Octocrylene - 10% 
  • Homosalate - 15% 
  • Octinoxate - 7.5% 
  • Zinc Oxide - 25% 
  • Titanium Dioxide - 25% 


Are Sunscreens Safe?

Well, I guess it depends on what you consider "safe."  Health Canada has approved all these ingredients within a certain range.  However, there has been discussion that CHEMICAL sunscreens and NANO-sized MINERAL ingredients get absorbed into the body.  

Some of CHEMICAL ingredients ( the O's - Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate and Octocrylene) can affect horomone levels in your body, disrupting reproduction and metabolism.**


So there you have it.  I hope that helps you make an informed decisioned when purchasing your next bottle of sunscreen!!


Coming soon: Think Baby Mineral sunscreen !!!  


Sources include:
Health Canada

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