Sunscreen is one of the most important beauty products for protecting and promoting healthy, youthful skin. Not only does it protect against premature ageing, but most importantly, it helps prevent skin cancer. It is an absolutely essential product in Australia all year round but especially in our hot summer months. Understanding the difference between physical and chemical sunscreens can help you decide which sunscreen product is right for you.
How do chemical sunscreens work?
The majority of sunscreens for sale in Australia are chemical sunscreens, they work by absorbing the sun's rays
using chemicals such as Oxybenzone, Octocrylene, 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor and Butyl Methoxy Dibenzoylmethane. These chemicals have been shown to be absorbed into the bloodstream
whilst multiple studies have detected Oxybenzone in urine.
How do physical sunscreens work?
Physical sunscreens generally use the active ingredients, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to create a physical barrier on the skin that blocks and scatters
both UVA and UVB rays. According to dermatologist Dr Sejal Shah
, zinc oxide is photostable and "has one of the broadest UVA coverages of all the sunscreen ingredients currently available, as well as UVB coverage”.
The physical barrier means zinc oxide is not absorbed and according to researchers can be safely applied in repeated doses without the risk of local toxicity
. Physical sunscreens are traditionally thicker and whiter than chemical sunscreens, but with developments in green technology newer formulations are able to achiever a sheer finish.
Some physical sunscreens also contain nutrient-rich botanicals and added antioxidants to prevent free radical damage. For example, the 100% Natural Sunscreen Lotion from Simple as That contains Green Tea and Rosehip Oil that moisturises and provides antioxidant protection and Red Raspberry Seed Oil which provides natural protection against UVA and UVB rays
Are physical sunscreens as effective as chemical sunscreens?
Living in the Australian climate we take our sun safety seriously and don’t want to swap to a more natural alternative if it means compromising our sun protection. Therapeutic sunscreens are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Association
(TGA), this means that physical sunscreens have been tested and measured for their sun safety against the same guidelines as chemical sunscreens.
According to dermatologist Dr David Harvey, physical sunscreens may also be a better choice for those with sensitive skin conditions such as acne and rosacea as they are generally less irritating
, whilst zinc oxide's ability to block visible infrared light and produce less heat than physical sunscreens can benefit those with melasma
and other pigmentary skin issues.
Are physical sunscreens reef safe?
Many places including Hawaii and parts of Florida have banned chemical sunscreens containing Oxybenzone and Octinoxate as they have been shown to contribute to coral bleaching
. Physical sunscreens utilising non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are safer for coral reefs and the marine environment than chemical sunscreens. Mother SPF Natural Physical Sunscreen
is a 100% reef-friendly option available here at Maruko Beauty.
Are there any other ways of protecting myself from the sun?
Whichever sunscreen option you choose, always remember to reapply, wear protective clothing, avoid high-risk sun exposure and seek shade! It is also important to wear SPF after certain skincare treatments, which may make your skin more photosensitive, such as some chemical exfoliants and retinol treatments.
Another tip is to apply a Vitamin C serum in the morning prior to applying sunscreen. Studies have shown that the antioxidant properties of Vitamin C can protect the skin from photodamage caused by ultraviolet rays and can boost the efficacy of sunscreen. We recommend Wildcrafted Organics Wild Plum Illuminating C Complex.