Physical, Chemical, Mineral, Chemical-free, Broad-spectrum, SPF… What Does It All Mean?

Arguably the most important product in your skincare routine is a good daily sunscreen, and the best sunscreen is the one that you love and will want to use every single day. These days, there are options for truly every preference:
+ stick or powder
+ lotion or spray
+ physical or chemical or a blend
+ water-resistant
+ repairing
+ moisturizing or mattifying
+ sheer or tinted
With the endless possibilities, choosing one can be overwhelming, but we’re here to help!

Here are our tips for choosing the best sunscreen for you and your family, taking into consideration your individual preferences!

First, let’s get our facts straight:

+ There are two categories of active ingredients available for use in sunscreens. These are the ingredients that help prevent UV radiation from reaching your skin.

++ Physical,  also called “chemical-free” or mineral, sunscreen ingredients include Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. These inorganic, mineral compounds sit on top of your skin and block and scatter UV rays before they can penetrate your skin.

++ Chemical sunscreen ingredients (like Avobenzone and Octisalate) work by
absorbing the UV rays before they can damage your skin.

++ While physical sunscreens may be less likely to cause skin irritation than chemical sunscreens, both types have been tested as safe and effective and many sunscreens use a blend of both types.

+ SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. This number tells you how long the sun’s UVB rays would take to redden your skin if you apply the sunscreen exactly as directed compared to the amount of time without sunscreen. So, if you use an SPF 30 product properly, it would take you 30 times longer to burn than if you used no sunscreen.

+ So what SPF should I use? Our doctors recommend choosing a sunscreen that’s SPF30 or higher with at least 5% zinc oxide. For some, the word “zinc” conjures images of thick creams that leave an unsightly white residue, but thankfully there are many sheer or tinted options available today.

+ Always reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours, or more frequently if you’re swimming or sweating. If possible, find a spot in the shade or under an umbrella, and always wear a wide-brimmed hat to shade your face from the sun.

+ Apply 1oz, about a shot glass full, to your entire body. Most people apply less than half that amount, translating into reduced protection. With proper reapplication, a family of 4 should use one 4oz bottle of sunscreen per person during a long day outdoors.

+ UV rays can penetrate clouds, glass, and some clothing very easily, so using sunscreen on your entire body every day, regardless of the weather forecast, will provide you with an extra layer of defense against damaging exposure.

+ Sunscreen technology has advanced beyond the typical lotion. There are many great brands like Mott50, Coolibar, and Athleta that offer UPF clothing that blocks the sun’s rays. The protective fabric adds an extra layer of defense and keeps you looking stylish.

+ If your summer plans include lots of sun exposure, consider taking an oral supplement in addition to your sunscreen application. Isdin SUNISDIN Supplement contains antioxidants that help your skin protect itself from free radicals and sun damage.

Below, we list the sunscreen products we’re loving right now, and you can visit us online or in-person to discover our entire collection of sun protection products!

Tried-and-True or Brand New, These Sunscreens Are Our Top Picks:


++ EltaMD UV Restore Broad Spectrum SPF 40, 2oz, $36.50 (or tinted, $38.50)
15% Zinc Oxide, 2% Titanium Dioxide
Brand new from EltaMD, this is a daily, all physical, anti-aging, and revitalizing facial sunscreen perfect for all skin types! The oil-free formula (which also comes in a tinted version) protects against UV, HEV, IR, and pollution. A blend of Ginger Root, Saccharide Isomerate, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Squalane works to improve skin tone and texture and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while brightening, soothing, and restoring skin’s moisture and suppleness.
*not water-resistant

++ EltaMD UV Active Broad Spectrum SPF 50+, 3oz, $29.
19% Zinc Oxide, 4% Titanium Dioxide
This full-body, physical sunscreen provides serious protection against UVA, UVB, and HEV (blue light) exposure and is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. Perfect for active lifestyles and suitable for the entire family, 6 months and up!

++ EltaMD UV Sheer Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ , 1.7oz, $30
15% Zinc Oxide, 10% Octocrylene
Another new one from EltaMD: this untinted, light and airy facial sunscreen is perfect for any skin type or skin tone and will not leave a white cast! The oil-free, hydrating formula absorbs super quickly and won’t leave you feeling greasy or shiny. Antioxidants provide protection against free-radical damage, while Hyaluronic Acid and Squalane hydrate and soothe skin.
*Water- and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

++ SkinBetter SunBetter Broad Spectrum SPF 56 Sunscreen Stick , 20 g, $55
10% Zinc Oxide, 5% Titanium Dioxide
This silky, weightless sunscreen stick from SkinBetter Science offers 100% mineral protection from UVA/UVB, HEV, IR, and pollution with a sheer, matte finish. Excellent for recreational and on-the-go use for any skin type!
*Water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

++ skin1765 Protect50+ Sunscreen, 4oz, $46
6% Zinc Oxide, 7.5% Octinoxate, 5% Octisalate, 7% Homosalate, 5% Oxybenzone
This daily moisturizing sunscreen with antioxidants can be used for both the face and body and is suitable for normal, combo, and dry skin types. The high concentration of Green Tea Polyphenols adds a slight tint, but it goes on completely translucent.
*Not water-resistant.

++ skin1765 Lip Renew AM SPF 30 , 8ml, $62
2.8% Zinc Oxide, 1.5% Titanium Dioxide
This lip treatment from skin1765 contains a blend of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Ferulic ester to protect the lips from free radical damage, and Argan oil helps to keep your lips moisturized and soft. Wear this untinted formula alone or under your favorite lipstick.

*Not water-resistant.

Visit us in-person, online, or text or call us at 773.276.1100 today!