Consumers Need to Become Sunscreen Savvy

We’re reaching toward our half-way point between summer seasons, which means now is a great time to discuss the need for protective habits. For the past several years, we’ve heard terms like “sun-savvy” used to describe the habits we should all develop around our time in the sun. Now, we are seeing the value of people becoming sunscreen-savvy. Sunscreen is our best defense against undesirable sun damage as well as against skin cancer. Because consumers are advised to wear sunscreen daily, it is necessary that we understand the differences between types of sunscreen. Here, we discuss how physical and chemical sunscreens work, including some pros and cons of each.

Physical Sunscreen

Physical sunscreen may also be referred to as mineral sunscreen. This is because tiny particles of active mineral ingredients are what provide protection from harmful UVA and UVB rays. Some experts say that the mineral zinc oxide is preferable because it may be less likely to irritate the skin than titanium oxide. However, both are good choices for most people.

Benefits of physical sunscreen include:

  • Broad-spectrum protection from UVA and UVB light
  • Immediate effectiveness
  • Good for sensitive skin
  • Unlikely to clog pores
  • Good for people with rosacea because mineral particles deflect heat from the skin

Potential drawbacks include:

  • May rub off with exposure to water or sweat (reapplication may need to be more frequent)
  • May leave white streaks on the skin (tinted products may be preferable)
  • May feel “heavy,” especially under makeup

Chemical Sunscreen

Chemical sunscreens work by transforming UV rays into heat using carbon-based compounds such as avobenzone, octisalate, and oxybenzone. The idea is that these compounds then release the heat from the skin.

Benefits of chemical sunscreen include:

  • Broad-spectrum protection is available but you must check product labels to confirm
  • Thinner formulations may be more comfortable to wear under makeup
  • The thinner formulation is also easier to apply
  • There is greater resistance to sweat and water

Potential drawbacks include:

  • Chemical sunscreen takes about 20 minutes to become effective
  • Skin irritation is more likely, especially with higher SPF
  • Direct UV light can diminish protection levels
  • Does not deflect heat from the skin so may not be ideal for rosacea
  • Some states have begun to ban chemical sunscreens due to the damage they cause to the environment

Dermatologists and consumers alike need to be aware of sunscreen variations and how they may affect the skin, the environment, and sun-protective value itself.

If you are interested in membership with the American Mohs Society or one of our upcoming courses, call 800) 616-2767 for more information. If you are a consumer looking for more information regarding skin cancer and Mohs surgery, visit our Patient Resources page.

Posted in: Skin Care

Leave a response

Get In Touch With Us

Quick Contact

  • * All indicated fields must be completed.
    Please include non-medical questions and correspondence only.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Education & Resources

Office Information

American Society for Mohs Surgery
6475 East Pacific Coast Highway, Box 700
Long Beach, CA 90803-4201
Telephone: (714) 379-6262 or
(800) 616-2767
Facsimile: (714) 362-9540

5.0 stars from 3 reviews