Physical versus chemical sunscreens
Protecting your skin from the sun goes far beyond simply slathering on sunscreen. While this is undoubtedly a first and important step in your skin-care routine, not all sunscreens are created equal. Some come in higher SPFs, which determine how well they protect your skin from the sun, as well as different sets of ingredients. The two main types of sunscreens are physical and chemical. “Physical sunscreens sit on the top of the skin and deflect or scatter damaging UV rays away from the skin and are mainly made up of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide,” explains Dendy Engelman, MD, New York City-based dermatologist. “Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UV rays, converting them into heat and then releasing, and mainly consist of oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and avobenzone, or a combination of these.” The best way to determine which sunscreen will work best to protect your skin and treat other concerns you may have such as oiliness, dryness, or signs of aging, is to choose a brand that’s formulated for your skin type. Read on to find out which one is ideal for you.
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Those blessed with normal skin can use pretty much any chemical or physical sunscreen for daily use. Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, a Beverly Hills-based dermatologist, suggests looking for a product labeled “broad-spectrum,” which means that it protects against both UVA and UVB. “For days when you are just ducking in and out of the office, SPF 15 can suffice, but otherwise, look for products with SPF 30+,” she adds. “Chemical, lotion sunscreens are usually more cosmetically elegant for everyday use, but micronized physical sunscreens can look sheer on most skin types, too.” Here’s the one spot you should never skip when applying sunscreen.