Is Mineral or Chemical Sunscreen Better? What My Dermatologist Told Me

I asked my dermatologist, is mineral or chemical sunscreen better? Here’s what I found out.

For years, I was dedicated to Supergoop! sunscreen. Their Play sunscreen was my daily go-to. It’s a nice, liquid consistency that goes on completely clear. I had no complaints…until I came across a few articles online that mentions the benefits of mineral sunscreen. I’d honestly never even considered the difference.

But there is an actual difference in the way they function. Mineral sunscreens use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to form a broad spectrum filter that block UV rays. Chemical sunscreens use chemicals to block UVA and UVB rays, including oxybenzone, octinoxate, homosalate, avobenzone, and others. It’s worth noting that both types work they just work differently.

So why does it matter which you use?

Is Mineral or Chemical Sunscreen Better?

The diplomatic answer is that the best sunscreen you’ll wear. And that’s true. All sunscreen is better than no sunscreen. My husband almost always wears chemical sunscreen because it doesn’t turn his beard blue like mineral sunscreen often does. If that’s what it takes him to wear sunscreen every day, that’s great.

But, if we want to get into the nitty gritty of it, mineral sunscreen is the better choice.

The filters in mineral sunscreen have been deemed safe by the FDA. They don’t pollute our waterways the way that chemical sunscreen runoff might. And some studies indicate chemical sunscreens may contain hormone-disruptors (key word is may!).

But these risks, along with mineral sunscreen’s broad spectrum qualities, do add up to mineral sunscreen being the safer and better option — if you’ll wear it. Mineral sunscreen does tend to leave a white cast which, for some people, is a deal breaker. Luckily, there are a few that seem to mitigate that issue.

Is Mineral or Chemical Sunscreen Better - mineral vs. chemical sunscreen

My Favorite Mineral Sunscreens

There are a few mineral sunscreens I rotate between, and there are many more I would use if that’s what I had on hand, but my reliable favorite is Elta MD. This mineral sunscreen comes in SPF 46, which is great for everyday (I’d go as high as possible, but this will suffice!). I also love Curology Everyday Sunscreen, which is a slightly lower SPF at 30. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 is a drugstore classic that I’ve used on and off for years. CeraVe 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 is one that’s a little tougher to rub in, but that has me convinced that it’s a thicker, better for true outdoor days sunscreen (don’t take that as medical advice!).

And, while these are my favorites and my go-tos for mineral sunscreen, remember what really matters when deciding on chemical vs. mineral sunscreen is, will you wear it every day?


1 Comment

  1. February 15, 2024 / 12:03 pm

    Agreed, Elta is the best mineral I’ve come across! For chemical, I love Biore’s watery essence sunscreen.

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