Chemical sunscreens are easy to apply, found in many make-up/moisturizer combos, and absorb UV rays into the skin.  When this occurs, a chemical reaction takes place; heat is generated and released from the skin.  If you have sensitive skin, acneic skin, skin prone to erythema (redness) or a diagnosis of rosacea, chemical sunscreens may not be the most appropriate for you, as they can exacerbate these conditions.  After application, chemical sunscreens are not effective for at least 20 minutes.

Physical sunscreens can be slightly more difficult to apply, often termed “mineral” sunscreens, have immediate protection and deflect UV rays away from your skin.  These formulas are not quite as sweat/water resistant and may require more frequent re-application. Physical sunscreens are the best choice for patients with sensitive skin, acne, & rosacea.  Active ingredients in physical sunscreens are: Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Oxide. If others are listed, it is categorized as a chemical sunscreen.

SkinMedica Essential Defense, Colorscience Sunforgettable Brush-on powder and EltaMD UV Physical Sunscreen are a few of our favorite physical formulas.

Written by Kerri Otto, PA-C



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