Wear sunscreen. If there ever was a piece of beauty/skincare advice that needed to be reiterated, this is it. Especially so if you live in Australia a.k.a. skin cancer ground zero. Not all sunscreens are created equal, however, and since learning about the difference between chemical and physical sunscreens I've made a point to stick to physical sunscreens wherever possible. That said, my personal view is that any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen at all.
When it comes to physical and chemical sunscreens there are some very noteworthy differences. Physical sunscreens contain mineral ingredients and sit on top of the skin to deflect UV rays. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, work by absorbing and scattering UV rays. Physical sunscreens also generally have a much thicker consistency than chemical sunscreens and require more effort to blend in. For more of an in-depth explainer I suggest reading this.
You'll probably notice that a lot of physical sunscreens are also labelled as 'natural' sunscreens. I'm very wary of greenwashing and if you want to verify a product's natural or organic claims it's best to do your research. I'm assuming since most physical sunscreens contain mineral instead of chemical ingredients that this equates to them being natural. Up until a few years ago, the range of physical sunscreens was quite limited in Australia. Compared to the range of chemical sunscreens, it still is, but these days physical sunscreens are becoming more readily available. These are a few that I'm currently using, and my thoughts on each product.
Cost: $19.99 for 75g or $32.00 for 150g (I usually buy a few when they're half price/on sale)
Where to buy: most supermarkets and pharmacies
Invisible Zinc is one of the more recognisable physical sunscreen brands around. In the past I've used the SPF30+ but decided to give the SPF50 a go this time around. It has that classic zinc/sunscreen smell which I don't mind but it might not be to everyone's taste. Like most physical sunscreens, it does require a bit of effort to blend in. I prefer wearing this sunscreen as a base under my makeup (tinted moisture or a BB cream, concealer, blush) as it gives a matte effect and my makeup tends to stay put when I wear it. Perfect for sweaty summer days. I find that it tends to leave a residue behind, so I have to be extra vigilant removing it otherwise my skin can feel chalky afterwards.
Cost: $19.90 for 100g or $34.50 for 200g
Where to buy: online and selected pharmacies and health stores
If you prefer your sunscreen without that classic sunscreen smell then MooGoo's natural sunscreen is worth a try. The fragrance is very mild and kind of oat-y/reminds me of almond milk. It applies relatively easily and doesn't leave a noticeable chalky residue. I like to apply this sunscreen to my body and my face when I don't intend on wearing any makeup (I have, however, worn it underneath makeup and it was fine). The SPF40 is a bit unusual as I'm used to seeing sunscreens labelled as SPF30+ or 50 but generally anything above SPF30 is good (see this explainer on SPF).
Cost: $15.95 for 100g
Where to buy: online and selected pharmacies
I hadn't previously heard of this brand but spotted it in a pharmacy while I was doing a last minute grab for beach supplies. This sunscreen is probably my least favourite of the three. It has a lighter consistency and is much easier to apply than the other two, however, I found that on occasion white flecks would appear on my skin while swimming or sweating. The first time it happened I thought I didn't leave enough time between application and activities but it's happened a few times now. I also tried wearing this sunscreen under makeup and felt that my makeup slid off. While it's an effective enough sunscreen, I feel that there are others that are much more up to the task.
First and foremost: all three sunscreens do their job. Sure, their SPFs differ but each product has the highest SPF rating for their respective brands. I've worn them in a range of situations from the beach to exercising to general everyday activity and have not been sunburnt once. That said, I do take care to stay out of the sun and cover up where I can. I personally prefer the Invisible Zinc and MooGoo sunscreens and will stick to using a combination of these products for the time being. Other physical sunscreens I'm keen to check out include those by Wotnot, and Coola.
Do you use physical or chemical sunscreens? Which do you prefer?