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Chemical and physical sunscreens: How to choose?

The debate over whether chemical sunscreens are better or worse than physical sunscreens has long been spearheaded by healthcare experts and scientists alike. Unfortunately, both sides of the debate give consumers too much information to make an informed and healthy decision once and for all. With all the health information thrown at us on a regular basis asking us to rethink our relationship to clean skincare , we thought we’d give you the information you need to know how to choose the sunscreen that’s right for you.

We know what it’s like to stand with a blank stare in front of the sunscreen aisle in the store. There are so many to choose from, SPF s ranging from 5 to 60, sprays and creams, mineral and chemical sunscreens . Basically, there’s a lot more on the shelf that you need to worry your mind with. 

Let’s start with some of the basic information you should know when choosing the sunscreen you’re going to put on your face and body daily:

What’s the difference between physical and chemical sunscreens ?

First things first: you’ll notice that some brands and sellers often alternate between saying physical and mineral sunscreen . Fear not: They’re one and the same thing. So we’ll be using them alternatingly here.

The main difference to keep in mind between mineral and chemical sunscreen is that they’re not made the same way and they function differently as UV filters. 

As integral members of clean skincare lines, mineral sunscreens (as the name suggests) are made from minerals. Generally speaking, physical sunscreens are made from zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, two naturally-occurring minerals that provide full-spectrum protection from ultraviolet (UV) light for your face and body

The main differentiating factor between physical and chemical sunscreen s is that physical sunscreen sits on top of the skin. So, think back to the last time you went to the beach and saw somebody lathered in a white coat of cream. Odds are that person was wearing a mineral rather than a chemical sunscreen

(Odds are also that this person was not wearing the best physical sunscreen, since countless brands, including Ghost Democracy, sell quick-absorbing , lightweight and invisible mineral sunscreen specifically to ensure no white cast .)

What does it mean then for physical sunscreen to sit on top of the skin? Well, it means that mineral sunscreen applies a sort of protective shield over your skin. This shield, made 100% from mineral ingredients (like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide ) then reflects UV rays away from the skin to keep it healthy and protected

Chemical sunscreen , on the other hand, works in just the opposite way. Typically made with ingredients such as avobenzone , octinoxate , octisalate , homosalate , and oxybenzone , chemical sunscreens set up an environment in which your skin absorbs the UV rays. Not only is your skin absorbing ultraviolet rays, but it is also converting them with the help of these chemical ingredients. So while chemical sunscreen s do keep your skin protected with SPF , they do so in ways that may not actually be good for your overall health in the long run.

Pros and cons?

Before choosing which sunscreen you want to opt for, you should weigh your options seriously. Naturally, there are obvious pros and cons both for chemical and mineral sunscreen .

Chemical pros

Remember those people on the beach with the white cast of sunscreen on their bodies? Well, with chemical sunscreen , which is traditionally manufactured to be easily spreadable, you may be able to keep your skin protected with no white cast . And since it’s easier to spread than average mineral sunscreens , you’ll need to use less of it to cover your body . Not only will you need less of it, but it’s also easier to combine with different products. That’s why you’ll see chemical sunscreens advertised as skincare boosts in addition to UV filters.

Chemical cons

Chemical sunscreens make sure that your skin absorbs UV rays and transforms them into heat. The result of this? Inflammation and irritation prone skin. Not only do ingredients like avobenzone , octinoxate , octisalate , homosalate , and oxybenzone increase your chances of skin reactions, they also increase your chances of exposing yourself to other illnesses, including skin cancer in extreme cases. That’s mainly because chemical sunscreen s require loads of ingredients to achieve protective SPF

Mineral pros

Mineral sunscreen is great in that it provides full-spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide make sure that your skin is instantly protected from noxious sun rays — and this applies to anyone in the family, so you can safely apply mineral sunscreen to the face and body of your little ones too. And since they’re made with silicone-free , non-toxic , non-greasy , and non-chemical formulas, mineral sunscreens protect your skin from heat-activated skin conditions like rosacea.

Mineral cons

Because mineral sunscreen works as a literal shield, it can rub off more easily and frequent reapplication is required (but you want to keep reapplying anyway to stay protected ). With reapplication comes an increased chance of white cast, but Ghost Democracy products are manufactured both to ensure no white casts and to be quick-absorbing .


Our recommendation: mineral sunscreen

Now that you have a better picture of what chemical and mineral sunscreen do to your body , what would you choose? Because you have to reapply sunscreen to your body often, wouldn’t it better to do so with a product that ensures protected , hydrated , and fresh skin? 

Mineral sunscreen is the product of choice here at Ghost Democracy because we design it so that you can add it to your clean skincare collection without having to worry about its noxious effects. Designed to have a smoothing effect on your body , our physical sunscreen leaves no chalky residue and no white cast.

Plus, if you grasp all the benefits mineral sunscreen provides to your body , imagine what it can do to your environment! Chemical sunscreen is manufactured with toxic formulas for the waters you so fondly adore. Mineral sunscreen s are reef-safe , so you can feel at ease catching those waves without endangering the natural landscape.  

Take a look at our collection of non-toxic sunscreen and ensure that you’ll get nothing less than the best physical sunscreen for you, your family, and the environment!

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