Choosing between chemical vs. physical sunscreens: Understanding the difference - Hindustan Times

Choosing between chemical vs. physical sunscreens: Understanding the difference

Apr 08, 2024 03:40 PM IST

Sun protection is not just about preventing sunburn, it's also safeguarding the skin against harmful UV radiations.

One of the most crucial pieces of advice in this weather is using sunscreen. Sun protection is not just about preventing sunburn; it's about safeguarding your skin against harmful UV radiation, which can lead to premature aging, skin cancer, and other dermatological issues. However, with the multitude of sunscreen options available on the market, choosing the right one can be overwhelming. Let's break down the differences between physical and chemical sunscreens to help you make an informed decision.

The difference between physical and chemical sunscreens can help you make an informed decision.
The difference between physical and chemical sunscreens can help you make an informed decision.

Physical Sunscreens:

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Physical sunscreens work by forming a protective layer over the skin, reflecting sunlight away from the skin's surface. They contain ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, making them ideal for individuals with sensitive skin or conditions like rosacea or acne. One of the primary advantages of physical sunscreens is their chemical-free nature, making them safer for use on children and those with sensitive skin.

However, physical sunscreens do have their drawbacks. They often leave a white cast on the skin, which can be aesthetically displeasing, especially for individuals with darker skin tones. Additionally, they are not water-resistant, making them less suitable for activities like swimming or heavy sweating. Moreover, they can interfere with the application of makeup, as they need to be applied as the final layer on the skin.

Chemical Sunscreens:

Chemical sunscreens contain organic compounds like avobenzone and oxybenzone, which absorb UV radiation and convert it into heat, preventing it from penetrating the skin. These sunscreens offer excellent cosmetic appeal, as they blend seamlessly into the skin and can be combined with moisturizers and makeup. They are also water-resistant, making them ideal for outdoor activities.

Some individuals may experience skin sensitivity to chemical sunscreens, particularly those with reactive or allergy-prone skin. There have been concerns about the absorption of chemical sunscreen ingredients into the bloodstream, although many of the compounds used today have been deemed safe by regulatory agencies.

Choosing the Right Sunscreen:

When selecting a sunscreen, it's essential to consider your specific needs and preferences. For individuals engaging in water activities or sports, a water-resistant chemical sunscreen may be the best option. Those with sensitive skin may opt for a physical sunscreen to minimize irritation.

Many sunscreens now offer a combination of physical and chemical properties, catering to a wide range of needs. These hybrid formulas provide the best of both worlds, offering broad-spectrum protection while addressing concerns like white cast and skin compatibility.

Sunscreen is a vital component of any skincare routine. Whether you choose a physical, chemical, or hybrid formula, the most crucial factor is consistency in application. Remember to apply sunscreen generously and reapply every two hours, especially when outdoors. By prioritizing sun protection, you can enjoy healthier, more radiant skin for years to come.

With inputs from Dr. Kashish Kalra, MBBS, MD, a dermatologist, hair transplant surgeon. He is also the founder of Dr. Kalra Skin Clinic and the head of department at Max Superspeciality Hospital.

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    Ruchika Garg writes on food, health, culture, and lifestyle for the Daily Entertainment and Lifestyle supplement, HT City.

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