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Chemical Vs. Mineral Sunscreen: What’s The Difference?

by: Thea Christie,  February 24, 2021

You need daily sun protection to keep your skin healthy and looking youthful. But, which type of sunscreen should you choose? Sun protection generally falls into one of two categories: chemical and mineral (physical). While both provide sun protection, chemical sunscreens and mineral sunscreens differ in their active ingredients as well as the way they protect against UV exposure. Read on to learn the difference, and discover the benefits of using a mineral sunscreen.

Chemical Vs. Mineral Sunscreen

Sunscreen is essential to keep skin protected from the dangers of sun exposure, including sunburn, sun damage and melanoma. It’s also beneficial in minimizing the aging effects of UV rays, such as fine lines and wrinkles, rough skin and hyperpigmentation.

Chemical sunscreens are often referred to as “absorbers.” Their active ingredients are organic (carbon-based) compounds that absorb UV rays. Through a chemical reaction, these chemical compounds convert UV rays into heat, then release that heat from the skin.

Mineral sunscreens, on the other hand, are “reflectors.” Their active ingredients include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which act as physical blockers. These minerals form a protective barrier on the skin and reflect harmful UV rays before they make contact with the skin’s surface. 

chemical vs. mineral sunscreen infographic

What Is Zinc Oxide?

Mineral sunscreens typically employ zinc oxide as a physical sun blocker of UV rays. Yes, the same zinc your parents slathered over your nose and cheeks in the 80s. Zinc oxide has come a long way since and can now be found in lightweight, layerable formulas that provide the same sun protection but with a natural-looking finish. Here’s a look at zinc oxide’s many benefits for the skin.

Zinc Oxide Keeps Skin Cool

Unlike chemical sunscreens which trap UV rays and convert them to heat, zinc oxide keeps the skin cool and allows it to breathe. It reflects the heat and energy of the sun’s UV rays away from the skin, thereby maintaining the temperature of the skin. For this reason, mineral sunscreen is particularly beneficial in minimizing skin inflammation and redness associated with acne, rosacea and skin sensitivity.

Zinc Oxide Provides Physical Sun Protection

While zinc itself can be found in nature, zinc oxide is actually created by combining the mineral zinc with oxygen molecules. When these two elements are vaporized and condensed, they form a fine powder that sits on top of the skin and provides a protective barrier against UVA and UVB rays. In addition to being a physical blocker, zinc oxide acts as a mirror to reflect UV rays before they can penetrate the skin’s surface.

Lilikoi Mineral Defense Collection

Supports Collagen Production

UV exposure is the leading cause of premature aging. Sun damage exposes the skin to harmful free radicals which break down and destroy collagen, a protein that is essential for keeping skin toned, plump and elastic. Zinc serves as a co-factor in collagen synthesis by activating the protein collagenase. This protein triggers collagen production in order to build and repair connective tissue like your skin.

Helps Treat Acne

Zinc oxide is also beneficial in treating acne-prone complexions. Studies show that zinc effectively reduces skin inflammation, inhibits the growth of acne-causing bacteria and regulates sebaceous gland activity. It also has astringent properties which tighten pores and minimize their appearance. 

Mineral Sunscreen Benefits

If you aren’t yet convinced by zinc oxide’s superpowers, here are a few more reasons to add a mineral sunscreen to your daily skin care routine.


Mineral sunscreens are friendlier to the environment – zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are kinder to our planet’s delicate coral reefs. They are a preferred choice for beachgoers and destination travelers who visit oceanside resorts.

Suitable For All Skin Types

Mineral sunscreens are hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic. With their anti-inflammatory properties, they are gentle enough for the most sensitive skin types. And, they are free of pore-clogging silicones, making them a better option for those prone to blemishes.

Broad Spectrum UV Protection

Mineral sunscreens reflect both UVB and UVA rays from the skin’s surface. UVB rays cause sunburn and uncomfortable symptoms such as redness, dryness and itchiness. UVA rays, which penetrate the skin more deeply, are responsible for premature aging and play a key role in the development of melanoma.

Which All-Mineral Sunscreen Is Right For You? 

Defending your skin against sun damage is one of the most effective ways to slow the visible signs of aging and keep your skin looking and feeling healthy. Now that you know the benefits of using all-mineral sunscreens, lets explore our all mineral SPF moisturizers.

Our range of four unique all mineral daily moisturizers with SPF protection are formulated specially for the face and neck. Each formula is free from silicones and brimming with active ingredients to deliver targeted skin benefits and help prevent sunburn. 

Red Currant Protective Moisturizer SPF 40

This mattifying daily moisturizer is complete with a Youth Shield Antioxidant Complex and SPF 40 all mineral protection. This SPF moisturizer offers sun protection and helps with the appearance of wrinkles. Red currant is a source of Vitamin C, an antioxidant with additional bioflavonoids that helps improve the look of fine lines. 

Tropical Vanilla Day Cream SPF 40

Sometimes scents can transport us to a dream destination, and the Tropical Vanilla Day Cream SPF 40 does just that with its fresh, tropical scent. This all-mineral sunscreen is formulated with vanilla, shea butter and SPF 40 all mineral sun protection to revitalize skin and help prevent sunburn.  Shea butter is a hydrating ingredient that is high in triglycerides and fatty acids, making the cream an effective emollient for skin that needs more moisturizing. 

Lilikoi Daily Defense Moisturizer SPF 40

This all-in-one lightweight daily moisturizer is formulated with cocoa seed extract, satsuma mandarin peel and SPF 40 all mineral protection to improve the appearance of skin exposed to blue light stress and pollution. If you’re concerned with exposure to blue light from sitting in front of electronic devices all day, then this moisturizer is for you. Cocoa seed extract is included in this formulation, a blend of cocoa peptides, saccharides and polyphenols to help improve the appearance of skin exposed to blue light stress.

Bright Skin Moisturizer SPF 40

This brightening daily moisturizer contains a Natural Hydroquinone Alternative and SPF 40 all mineral protection. This SPF formula targets the appearance of dark spots and helps prevent sunburn. The Natural Hydroquinone Alternative aids in fading the appearance of dark spots for a smooth, even complexion.

In addition to our SPF moisturizers, we also recommend our Lilikoi Mineral Defense Sport Sunscreen SPF 30, for protection from head to toe. This easy-to-apply sport formulation for face and body is non-greasy and water-resistant up to 40 minutes.

Will you be adding mineral or chemical sunscreen to your skin care routine? Tell us in the comments below and join the conversation on social media. Experience our all mineral SPF moisturizers and Lilikoi Mineral Defense Sport Sunscreen SPF 30 at an Eminence Organics Spa Partner near you.

This article was originally written by Alisha Whitley in April 2019.