Here’s Why Mineral SPF is the Ideal Companion to Chemical SPF

We’re hard-pressed to find a skincare topic more polarizing than chemical versus mineral sunscreens. Mineral sunscreens are loved for causing less irritation but have a bad rap for leaving an awful white cast (especially on more melanin-rich skin tones). Chemical sunscreens are beloved for their sheerness and bendability but are disliked simply because it’s made from “unnatural” ingredients. 

But rather than siding with team mineral or team chemical, Vitality Institute skincare experts make the case for keeping both mineral SPF and chemical SPF in your skincare arsenal. Keep reading to find out why, but first, let’s get your burning SPF questions answered.

Do I still need SPF on rainy, overcast days?

We get this question a lot, and the answer is yes. Gray skies do not equate to skipping the SPF skincare step. Why? Because the sun rises every day and brings its UV rays along for the ride. According to the World Health Organization, up to 80 percent of UV rays can penetrate through clouds, strike your skin, and trigger premature aging. 

To keep photoaging and signs of premature aging like fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and post-inflammatory inflammation away, sunscreen – whether mineral or chemical – is a daily must no matter the weather. Remember: UV rays are strong enough to penetrate windows made of glass—meaning it can surely penetrate clouds that are made of water drops.

Are mineral sunscreens better?
As the adage goes, the best sunscreen is the one you’ll wear. Both mineral SPF and chemical SPF provide essential protection against UV rays. And while some prefer mineral over chemical and vice versa, we’ll soon let you in on the secret that you should be using both, depending on your different circumstances. 

Are chemicals in SPF bad for the health of my skin?

The skincare industry’s focus on touting “chemical-free” formulas almost has more importance than the actual ingredients. Unfortunately, this is incredibly misleading. While the word “chemical” may stoke thoughts of toxins and hazardous, consider this: Everything is a chemical. Water, salt, and that invisible stuff you’re breathing right now are chemicals our bodies need to function properly and stay alive. 

On the flip side, many minerals can be deadly (asbestos, anyone?) and many plants are toxic (hello, poison ivy). The deception that “natural” is synonymous with “safe” is encouraging cosmetic chemists and dermatologists to speak out against so-called “clean beauty” and “natural is better” claims. A love of minerals doesn’t have to equate to demonizing chemicals. 

What are the differences between chemical SPF and mineral SPF?

First, the active ingredients

Mineral and Chemical SPFs are typically distinguished by the different sunscreen filters they use. Octinoxate, avobenzone, oxybenzone, octisalate, and homosalate are common chemical sunscreen filters that can be used alone or together in product formulas. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the two most common active ingredients in mineral sunscreens. They can also be used together or individually.

How they work on your skin

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing and converting UVA and UVB rays (broad-spectrum defense) into heat that then releases from skin. Due to this fact, chemical sunscreens should be applied 15 minutes before sun exposure so they have time to absorb and react with your skin. Chemical sunscreens are typically popular with darker skin tones because they leave minimal white cast on the skin. They’re also known to be much lighter, more wearable under makeup, and less drying than their mineral counterparts. The only caveat is that it can cause some irritation on more sensitive or acne-prone skin.

Mineral sunscreens, also known as physical sunscreens, sit on the skin and reflect UVA and UVB rays (broad-spectrum defense) upon contact with skin. Because they don’t need time to absorb, you typically don’t need to wait as long before sun exposure. Mineral SPFs are more popular amongst those who have acne-prone or sensitive skin because they rest on top of the skin, which makes them less likely to trigger irritation. The caveat is that mineral sunscreens tend to be thicker, more drying, and leave a thick white cast, especially on melanin-rich skin.

Mineral and chemical sunscreen: the ideal companion

As you can see from the differences listed above, both mineral and chemical sunscreens have very different pros and cons. Instead of going for one or the other, having both at your arsenal can provide a better SPF experience for you and your skin. 

Because chemical sunscreens are traditionally ultra-lightweight, this makes them a better layering partner under makeup to avoid that “cakey” feeling and pilling under foundation. Not wearing makeup and love having that hydrated dewy glow finish? Chemical sunscreen is your best friend.  

Mineral sunscreens are your go-to when you just can’t wait for UV defense to kick in. (Remember, mineral sunscreens start blocking rays as soon as they’re applied.) It’s also your best bet during times of intense sun exposure and re-application, or if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin. And, even the best mineral sunscreens may have a reputation for being a touch drying, but this can benefit fans of a demi-matte finish. 

Chemical sunscreens and mineral sunscreens are both prescribed post-treatment to patients who’ve been treated with lasers, chemical peels, microneedling, and injections. While they are both great options for protecting your healing skin, the same rule applies: If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, reach for the mineral SPF.

Discover a New Mineral Sunscreen Without the White Cast 

As outlined above, mineral SPFs are known to leave a thick, chalky white cast on darker skin tones… until now! VI Derm is excited to introduce its NEW Mineral Sheer SPF 50 Broad Spectrum Sunscreen, a mineral formula that blends seamlessly on ALL skin tones. This pillowy, practically weightless texture contains zero added tints—but is loaded with hydrators, antioxidant Vitamin E, and barrier-protecting Caprylic Triglyceride, while keeping skin moisturized, nourished, and protected. Use this Mineral Sheer SPF 50 alongside our VI Derm Chemical SPF 50 for your best sunscreen experience yet. 

References for this information: 

Consumer Experts Website, Sunscreens

Riordan Clinic Website, Journal Articles