Daily SPF For The Face – Chemical vs Physical

Daily SPF for the face – Chemical vs Physical

I’ve been asked quite a bit over the last few weeks about SPF for the face now that the summer holidays are kicking off (fingers crossed for the sun!).  However, this is a skincare step you shouldn’t just save for the summer months, it needs to be routinely done 365 days a year. 

If adding sunblock to your morning regimen feels like an unnecessary step, consider this statement from the Skin Cancer Foundation: “More than 90 percent of the visible skin changes associated with aging are caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays.” AKA, wrinkles. We all know the effects of sun damage when it comes to skin cancer too.  Skin cancer is now the number one cancer in Ireland with thousands of people diagnosed every year.  But you’re not here for a lecture, you know the harm it can do so how do we prevent damage when it comes to our face?

Firstly, when protecting your face from UVA and UVB rays, the safest thing to do is cover up.  Wear a hat with a rim (think baseball cap) and sunglasses and stay in the shade. But to me, to expect someone to do that all day long isn’t realistic, so the smart thing to do is look to a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 20 to 50.

But first, what is the difference between chemical and physical sunscreen? 

Amid all the jargon, putting it simply, the discussion can be broken down into absorbent versus reflector!

So, what’s the difference?

Simply put, chemical sunscreens are those that contain chemicals – which include ingredients’ such as Octylcrylen, Avobenzone and Octinoxate. Physical sunscreens use natural agents like zinc and titanium oxide.

Chemical sunscreens are the absorbers whereby UV rays enter the skin, are absorbed and come out as infrared rays changing the radiation effect (i.e. UV Rays are turned into heat and released from the skin).  Imagine a sponge (in this case the chemical ingredients) soaking up all the harmful rays and releasing them from the skin.  That’s how the chemicals work.

The physical ones are reflectors and they do just that.  They form a protective layer on the skin and reflect those UV rays that are damaging to the skin cells.  Remember the old thick white gloopy versions in the 80’s where you’d take the whole beach back with you?  Luckily technology is more advanced so formulas are thinner but you’ll still find the thicker versions on the market are more than likely physical barriers.

Which one should you be using?

 It all comes down to personal preference and what your skin prefers.  The important thing is to ensure you’re choosing a high broad-spectrum protection (UVA & UVB) that works for you.

Here are 4 of my favourites:

This has fast become my favourite way to use SPF properly while incorporating it into my makeup routine (the lazy girls version!). It is hailed as “your skin but better” and I totally agree.  It gives a medium (some say full but I don’t) buildable coverage, contains an anti-aging serum, all while protecting your skin against the harmful effects of the sun. A great product if you’re in a rush.

This cream suits all skin types, whether you have oily, dry, combination or normal skin.  It’s fairly lightweight, doesn’t clog pores and absorbs quickly into the skin.  With UVA & UVB filters, it provides a good level of sun protection too and contains anti-ageing properties to help fight fine lines and wrinkles. Ingredients such as aloe vera and kiwi fruit keep your skin moisturised and it’s also packed full of useful vitamins and nutrients.  Really nice to use on a daily basis under makeup. 

La Roche-Posay products are a favourite with many of you out there including myself.  This sunscreen is lightweight, has a broad-spectrum coverage that’s scent-free and won’t clog pores.  As would be expected, it’s great for sensitive skin but targeted more at normal to combination skin.  Be warned, a little goes a long way with this one and it soaks into skin quickly, leaving you with a shine-free complexion so don’t go too heavy handed if wearing under foundation. As with all of this brand’s products, it contains La Roche-Posay thermal spring water, which helps fight anti-ageing.  There are tinted options in the Anthelios range also if you’d prefer.

This skin perfecting tint is a lovely lightweight way to use sunscreen while getting protection from UVA, UVB, thermal & infrared radiation.  It’s lovely to use under your foundation as it has a blurring effect so acts like a primer too.  It’s also lovely worn alone especially on hotter days.  It has factor 30 sun protection including antioxidants and elastin regenerators to repair UV stressed skin.  You’re really getting a 360-degree product here.  To top it off it has a subtle hint of jasmine, hyacinth and rose essential oils. Victoria Beckham is a big fan so….as I’ve said before, if it’s good enough for Vicky!! 

Maria McKenzie

Maria McKenzie



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