PEDESTRIAN.TV's teamed up with our m8s at Little Urchin to school you on choosing a sunscreen. Btw, Little Urchin do a pretty dece range of natural sunscreen and skincare that's made with no nasties and suits even the most sensitive of skin types. Check 'em out HERE.

We all know sunscreen is absolutely imperative to have on our person every day, no exceptions. Seriously – even as we start entering the cooler (sob) months, there’s no excuse to leave the house without a layer of the stuff on our faces/exposed skin.

What In The World Is The Diff Between A Physical Sunscreen & A Chemical One?

Thing is though, you might be saying “Well. My skin hates sunscreen. What are your thoughts on that?”. This is a fair point. For some of us, sunscreen makes our skin lose it. Completely cook it. Go from normal to an absolute hell-pit in literal days. Why?

Well, you might be using the wrong type of sunscreen. Yes, there is more than one type of sunscreen and I’m not talking simply about SPF levels.

You might have heard the term ‘natural’ sunscreen bandied around. This almost always means a type called a ‘physical’ sunscreen, and they’re often a god-send for folks who find it hard to score a non-irritating sun protection product.

Confused? Come with me, pals. I’ll help you.

WHAT IS A PHYSICAL SUNSCREEN?

What In The World Is The Diff Between A Physical Sunscreen & A Chemical One?

In a nutshell – physical sunscreens use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, which sit on top of the skin and act as a physical “block” for UV rays.

They’re naturally occurring ingredients but the most important factor here is how they work. By sitting on top of the skin, they are literally blocking UVA/UVB rays, meaning the skin underneath is unaffected by their work.

SO WHAT’S THE DIFF BETWEEN THAT AND A CHEMICAL SUNSCREEN?

What In The World Is The Diff Between A Physical Sunscreen & A Chemical One?

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the sun’s rays and changing them to heat (infrared rays), then releasing that heat. The usual ingredients are octylcrylen, avobenzone and octinoxate.

Because chemical sunscreens work within the skin layer, they have been known to cause irritation in some people’s skin.

SO WHICH ONE IS RIGHT FOR ME?

What In The World Is The Diff Between A Physical Sunscreen & A Chemical One?

The fact that they can cause irritation makes chemical sunscreens seem like a bad choice. It’s not that chemical sunscreens are bad, though. In fact, one of their biggest benefits is their consistency.

Chemical sunscreens are usually thinner in consistency than physical because the ingredients allow them to be. They’re not forming a layer on top of the skin and therefore are usually fast absorbed and great under makeup or for giving a matte finish.

Physical sunscreens have had a bad rep for being greasy and thick – although this is also not the case. For example, we trialled Little Urchin’s Natural Sunscreen and found it to be completely wearable under makeup and comfortably through the day.

What In The World Is The Diff Between A Physical Sunscreen & A Chemical One?
Little Urchin Natural Sunscreen SPF 30, $24.95

But physical sunscreens will always have a bit of a thicker consistency because they work as a blocking agent for UVA/UVB rays.

Basically – if you’re finding chemical sunscreens to be irritating for your skin, or you prefer to use natural ingredients that work on top of your skin – go for a physical.

ANYTHING ELSE?

What In The World Is The Diff Between A Physical Sunscreen & A Chemical One?

Always, always check the SPF level, UVA/UVB coverage and water resistant level of your sunscreen. Across the board, sunscreens can vary on all of these points so don’t assume the one you select covers all the bases.

As per the Cancer Council Australia SunSmart guidelines, you definitely want your sunscreen to be broad spectrum (both UVA/UVB coverage), water resistant and at least SPF 30. The less water resistant your sunscreen is, the more you have to re-apply after swimming or sport.

Also important – if you rub your face with a towel or even your hands, especially if wearing physical sunscreen, you should do a re-apply afterward.

Image: Instagram / @littleurchin