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The Insider's Guide to Sunscreen

15 May 2015

Have you ever grabbed a bottle up of sunscreen on your way down the aisle of the grocery store? Did it have a distinct smell and go on kind of greasy? Do you remember when the spray variety of sunscreen came out and you thought it was the coolest innovation?

Today sunscreen has advanced beyond spray application; to get the best protection and product you have to have a basic understanding of the two types of sunscreen.


Chemical is by far the most common type of sunscreen. It's the kind you've picked up at your local grocery store for years. It is made up of several chemicals that are absorbed into the skin and protect your skin by absorbing the energy from the UV rays as they enter your skin.

The bad thing about chemical sunscreens is that once they absorb their peak amount of energy they can’t absorb any more, leaving you unprotected. This is why it is important to reapply your sunscreen throughout the day. 

The other problem with chemical sunscreens is that they take about 20 minutes to properly absorb into the skin, so you need to plan ahead if you’re using this type.


Physical sunscreens are made of minerals that rest on the surface of your skin and reflect or block the UV rays from entering your skin. A NY Times article on sunscreens compared the reflecting power of physical sunscreens “to a mirror or aluminum foil.”

Physical sunscreens also provide broader protection from UVA/UVB rays, unlike chemical sunscreens who have to utilize many different chemicals to get close to the same coverage.

This type of sunscreen is nice because once you apply it, it’s working. Because these types of sunscreen don’t absorb the radiation, they can last all day; however, it is recommended that you reapply it every couple of hours because it get wiped off or shift as you move around.

If you look at the ingredients on your sunscreen and see zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that means that you have a physical sunscreen. Physical sunscreens can be harder to find, so if you have a hard time finding physical sunscreen you can pick some up at your local Simplicity clinic or in our online store. 

Regardless of which of these you choose to apply, you should wear sunscreen on a daily basis to protect against skin cancer.