Mineral SPF VS Chemical SPF: What’s the difference?

One job as an esty is to remind your clients always to put the health of their skin first, even if it means adding a layer of sunscreen into their daily regimen (which they already should be doing!). Remind them to stay clear of the sun between the strongest hours of 11 AM and 4 PM, wear a wide brim hat when they can, lightweight clothing that can protect from exposure, and lastly, always wear a good SPF.  

The first thing a person who isn’t a skincare specialist does when purchasing sunscreen is usually look at the price tag and grab whatever is on sale. Explain to your clients the different types of SPF, Mineral and Chemical, to increase their SPF IQ and let them decide what works best for them in terms of ingredients. 


This type of SPF is absorbed by the surface of the skin. With a bad rep, the FDA has stated that although the UV filters found in chemical sunscreens cannot be considered safe, they want people to be aware that it doesn’t mean that they’re unsafe to use. 

So How Does Chemical SPF Work?

The use of chemical SPF can still protect the skin, despite the dangerous sound of the name. Absorbing UV rays which help protect the skin, chemical sunscreens convert the rays to heat that the skin releases. 

Best For:

Chemical SPF works well for those without problematic skin conditions or recurring issues.

The Physical Appearance of Chemical SPF

Not as thick as mineral SPF (think the old school sunscreen applied to the nose back in the day), chemical sunscreen won’t leave as much of a heavy residue but a transparent, moisturized appearance due to the fact that it’s absorbed. For those who dislike sunscreen’s oily feeling, chemical sunscreens also come in a “dry oil,” which is light on the skin and a good option for those prone to blemishes.


Mineral SPF is a type that sits on the surface of the skin.

How Does Mineral SPF Work?

Similar to a chemical SPF absorbing UV rays into the skin. Mineral absorbs 95% of those UV rays while reflecting the other 5% and protecting the skin. A barrier is created that blocks the rays; then, its job is to reflect them before contacting the skin.

Best for:

Those dealing with acne-prone skin, sensitivities, or chronic skin conditions would benefit the most.

The Physical Appearance of Mineral SPF

Due to the protective barrier sitting on top of the skin, mineral SPFs containing soothing ingredients such as zinc oxide play the role of a physical blocker. With the cooling temperature that helps keep the skin, this SPF is great for irritation and inflammation.

When it comes to the FDA and their thoughts on which SPF they recommend, those labeled “Broad Spectrum SPF” are what to look for. A broad-spectrum SPF of at least a 15 will help in protecting the skin from UVA and UVB radiation. Those with fair skin and lighter features will be safer wearing at least an SPF 30. To keep healthy and youthful-looking skin, you must keep your skin safe, with added protection from long term and short-term effects of too much sun exposure. 

For more advanced knowledge on ways to pollution-proof skin and reverse Summer skin damage, read the Environmental Stressors Guide in LNE & Spa Magazine.