The Right Sunscreen for Your Skin

Not all sunscreens are right for your skin. This summer, know what kind of sunscreen you should use to avoid uncomfortable burns and reduce your risk of sun-related dangers.

Which type of sunscreen should you be using?


Chemical Sunscreen — contains organic (carbon-based) compounds, like PABA, that create a chemical reaction and work by changing the UV rays into heat by absorbing it, then release that heat from the skin. Brands include: Hawaiian Tropic, Sun Bum, and Neutrogena (spray).

Contain these ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate.

Physical Sunscreen — contains active mineral ingredients, like zinc oxide, that sit on top of the skin and deflect/scatter damaging UV rays. These are often referred to as “physical blockers.” Physical sunscreen brands include Honest Company, Neutrogena (lotion), and Banana Boat.

Contains these ingredients: zinc oxide or titanium dioxide — minerals.

Though most chemical sunscreens are sprays and most physical sunscreens are lotions, it’s important to look at the ingredients to make sure what you’re buying is best for your age and skin tone.

For those with elderly skin: chemical sunscreen.

Spray-on sunscreens are great for hard-to-reach areas and full-body coverage. Make sure to apply evenly until a sheen appears on your skin.

Children of Any Skin Tone: physical sunscreen.

Children’s skin tolerates physical sunscreens better because chemicals can irritate their skin. It’s important to have your child reapply sunscreen regularly, especially if swimming or outside for long periods of time.

Fair and Dark Skin Tones: either chemical or physical sunscreen.

Fair skin toned people should use a 30-plus SPF and reapply frequently (every two hours, right after swimming, or after sweating heavily).

Dark skin toned people don’t need to worry as much about a high SPF, but should use at least 15-plus SPF and pick a broad-spectrum sunscreen. More recently developed physical sunscreens, especially those that are titanium-based, now blend into the skin more easily.