Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreen: Which Sunscreen Should You Choose?

Whether opting for a mineral, chemical or hybrid formula, applying sunscreen is a crucial step in your daily skincare and sun care routine. But if shopping for SPF has left you confused as to which product will offer all-round protection and be compatible with your skin’s specific needs, our guide to choosing the best sunscreen is here to help. Discover the difference between mineral and chemical sunscreen, the pros and cons of each formula, and find out which products are best for your skin type and lifestyle. 

Table of Contents:

What is Mineral Sunscreen? 

Mineral sunscreen, also known as physical sunscreen, utilizes a mineral-based formula to help protect against sun damage. Two of the most common ingredients in mineral sunscreen, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, work by creating a barrier on the skin that blocks and reflects UV rays from the sun. 

Pros & Cons 


  • Starts providing protection as soon as it is applied 
  • Often recommended for children, pregnant women and those with sensitive skin 
  • Can be applied on top of makeup and other skincare products 
  • Hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic 


  • Can sometimes leave a white cast 
  • Can rub off and rinse off more easily so more frequent application is often needed 

What is Chemical Sunscreen? 

Chemical sunscreen protects against UV rays through a chemical reaction, allowing light into the skin rather than physically blocking. The chemicals in the sunscreen partially absorb UV rays into the skin, before converting them into heat which is released from the skin. 

Pros & Cons 


  • Considered easier to apply as it leaves no white residue often associated with mineral sunscreen 
  • Tends to be more lightweight and sheer, making them suitable for oily skin types 
  • Typically more water- and sweat-resistant 
  • Can be more options available in the form of oils, serums and sprays 


  • Can take up to half an hour for effective sun protection after application 
  • Sometimes unsuitable for sensitive skin types 

How to Choose the Best Sunscreen for You 

When it comes to choosing the best sunscreen for yourself, you need to consider your skin type and lifestyle. This may influence your choice of mineral or chemical sunscreen, the application format and the feel and finish of the formulation.  

Acne-prone, Oily and Sensitive Skin Types 

For acne-prone, oily or sensitive skin types, a mineral sunscreen is the best choice as UV-blocking agents in chemical sunscreen can often cause breakouts and flare-ups.  

We recommend the EltaMD UV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF41. The natural mineral-based sunscreen offers chemical-free UV protection, while providing a sheer tint to help even the look of redness and blemishes. Lightweight and oil-free, the formula is ideal for those with sensitive and breakout-prone skin types. 

Dry Skin Types 

If you have dry skin, consider a sunscreen with additional skincare benefits. Many sunscreens are enriched with hydrating skincare ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin or ceramides, meaning skin is moisturized and protected simultaneously. You may also want to consider using a mineral-based sunscreen as these can be layered over additional skincare products, such as your existing moisturizer or serum. 

We recommend the SkinCeuticals Physical UV Defense SPF 30 Mineral Sunscreen which offers both UV protection and all-day hydration for dry skin types. The mineral formula utilizes glycerin and shea butter to deliver a comforting and nourishing texture. 

Dark Skin Tones 

If you have a deeper skin tone, you may want to avoid mineral sunscreens as they are recognized to leave a white cast when not rubbed in properly. However, if your skin concerns mean chemical formulas will cause you to break out, opt for a tinted mineral sunscreen. 

A favorite for its fast-absorbing texture and invisible, matte finish, the award-winning La Roche Posay Anthelios 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid provides high broad-spectrum sun protection without leaving a heavy, greasy or white residue. 

Active Lifestyles 

If you are someone who has an active lifestyle, whether that be enjoying sports, outdoor activities or working out in the gym, a chemical sunscreen can often be a preferred choice. A chemical sunscreen tends to have a more water-resistant and transfer-resistant formula, meaning it stays put even when sweating or in wet weather. 

We recommend the La Roche Posay Anthelios 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen Spray, a water-resistant formula with a 360-degree spray-on format. Combining the weightless feel of a mist with the lasting comfort of a lotion, the sunscreen spray is perfect for on-the-go top-ups. 

SkinStore Editors

SkinStore Editors

Writer and expert

Our team of beauty experts cover everything from skincare to makeup, picking out the most effective products from the best brands and latest trends. Stay up to date on everything beauty with the SkinStore blog, and find all your essentials in one place.