Don’t forget to join our rewards program – Earn
Reward Points to spend in-store: Login Now

Free shipping within South Africa for all orders over R1050. Standard shipping is R90.

Unveiled: The Difference Between Physical and Chemical Sunscreen – Which Is Right For You?

We all know the drill: slather on sunscreen before heading out to protect our skin from damaging UV rays. But when it’s time to choose a bottle off the shelf, we’re faced with a perplexing choice – physical or chemical sunscreen? It’s a decision that leaves many of us scratching our heads.

Understanding the difference between physical and chemical sunscreens is crucial, not just for our skin’s health, but also for ensuring we’re effectively shielding ourselves from the sun’s harmful effects. Let’s dive into the world of sunscreens and unravel the mystery behind these two types, making sure we’re all well-informed to make the best choice for our skin.

Key Takeaways

  • Physical vs. Chemical Sunscreens: Physical sunscreens act as a barrier on the skin’s surface, reflecting UV rays away with ingredients like Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, ideal for sensitive skin and immediate protection. Chemical sunscreens, containing compounds like Avobenzone and Oxybenzone, absorb UV rays, converting them to heat, suited for a sheer finish and active lifestyles.
  • Active Ingredients Matter: The choice between physical and chemical sunscreens hinges on their active ingredients, influencing their action mechanism (blocking vs. absorbing UV rays) and suitability for different skin types (sensitive vs. normal/active).
  • Application and Effectiveness Timing: Physical sunscreens provide immediate protection upon application, suitable for those requiring quick sun defence. In contrast, chemical sunscreens necessitate a 20-minute absorption period before becoming effective, favouring those who can plan their sun exposure.
  • Suitability Based on Skin Type and Lifestyle: Physical sunscreens are recommended for individuals with sensitive skin due to their minimal absorption and lower risk of irritation. Chemical sunscreens are preferred for an active lifestyle, offering a lightweight feel and enduring protection against sweat and water.
  • Advantages of Each Type: Physical sunscreens also offer moisturising properties and a longer shelf life, while chemical sunscreens boast a lightweight formula, broad-spectrum protection, and are appropriate for vigorous or aquatic activities.
  • Importance of Informed Choice: Understanding each sunscreen type’s specific benefits helps make an informed decision, ensuring optimal skin protection against harmful UV rays while considering personal preferences and lifestyle needs.
Kao Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF50 PA++++

How sunscreens are classified

In our journey to demystify Sunscreen choices, it’s key we dive into how these protective barriers are classified. At Seoul of Tokyo, we emphasize the importance of selecting the right Sunscreen protection for your skin type, which channels back to understanding the fundamental differences between physical and chemical sunscreens.

Physical sunscreens, often hailed in the realm of Japanese & Korean skincare, act like a shield. They sit on the skin’s surface, deflecting the sun’s rays away. The main active ingredients found in these formulations are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They’re revered for their immediate protection upon application and are less likely to cause skin irritation, making them a staple in Sunscreen products targeted at sensitive skin. However, the challenge has been their tendency to leave a whitish cast, though newer technologies have vastly improved their aesthetic appeal.

On the flip side, Chemical sunscreens absorb into the skin, creating a chemical reaction that absorbs UV rays, converting them into heat, and releasing them from the body. These sunscreens are typically easier to apply without leaving any residue. They have been the go-to for those seeking a sheer finish, popular in many Sunscreen products on the market. Despite their convenience, they require about 20 minutes to effectively sink in and start working, and there’s ongoing debate regarding their impact on internal body temperature and pigmentation issues.

Our curated selection at Seoul of Tokyo offers a variety of Sunscreen protection from revered Japanese and Korean skincare lines. Each product is carefully selected to cater to different needs, from physical barriers that offer robust protection without the heaviness to innovative chemical formulas that protect without compromising on comfort.

Understanding these classifications helps us, and our audience, navigate the overwhelming world of sunscreens. With informed choices, we can all embrace products that not only protect but also nourish and suit our skin’s unique demands. Discover our range at Seoul of Tokyo to start your journey towards effective and suitable Sunscreen protection.

Physical Sunscreen

What is Physical Sunscreen?

When we explore the vast array of Sunscreen protection options available at Seoul of Tokyo, we’re drawn to the unique qualities of physical (or mineral) sunscreen. Unlike its chemical counterparts, physical sunscreen acts as a literal barrier on the skin’s surface. It’s composed of natural minerals, primarily zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These ingredients are less likely to cause irritation, making them a superb choice for sensitive skin. Dive into the curated selection of Japanese & Korean skincare sunscreens on our product page, and you’ll find that physical sunscreens are a staple for anyone prioritising gentle yet effective sun protection.

How Does Physical Sunscreen Work?

Physical sunscreen works by sitting atop the skin and reflecting or scattering UV rays away. Unlike chemical sunscreens, which absorb into the skin and convert UV rays into heat, physical sunscreens prevent these rays from penetrating the skin altogether. This immediate barrier means you’re protected the moment you apply it, with no wait time required. For those who spend time outdoors or have heat-activated skin conditions like rosacea, this type of sunscreen can be particularly beneficial. The sun’s rays are not just reflected; they’re also not transformed into heat on the skin, reducing the likelihood of irritation.

Benefits of Physical Sunscreen

The advantages of opting for a physical sunscreen from our selection at Seoul of Tokyo are manifold:

  • Ideal for Sensitive Skin: Given its natural ingredients, physical sunscreen is significantly less likely to cause skin irritation compared to chemical formulas. This makes it an outstanding choice for those with sensitive or easily irritated skin.
  • Immediate Protection: One of the most significant benefits is that physical sunscreen offers immediate protection against the sun’s rays. There’s no need to wait for it to sink in or become effective. It works the moment it’s applied, fitting perfectly into any hurried morning routine.
  • Moisturising Properties: Especially for those of us with dry skin, the thicker, more moisturising nature of physical sunscreens can be a boon. It not only protects our skin from the sun but also keeps it hydrated throughout the day.
  • Long Shelf Life: With a longer shelf life than chemical sunscreens, physical sunscreen products ensure that you’re getting the most out of your investment, reducing the frequency of replacements.

In the quest for the ideal Sunscreen product, it’s clear that physical sunscreens hold a special place. They not only offer robust Sunscreen protection but also cater to those with sensitive skin or specific skin conditions. Our handpicked collection of Japanese & Korean skincare sunscreens showcases some of the best physical sunscreen options on the market. Whether you’re prioritising gentle ingredients, immediate protection, or moisturising benefits, our selection ensures you have access to the top choices for staying safe in the sun.

Chemical Sunscreen

When exploring the wide range of sunscreen products available on the market, it’s essential to understand the differences between physical and chemical sunscreen. At Seoul of Tokyo, we pride ourselves on offering a diverse selection of Japanese & Korean Skincare products, including top-tier sunscreen options designed to meet various needs. In this section, we’ll delve into what makes chemical sunscreen unique, how it works, and its benefits.

What is Chemical Sunscreen?

Chemical sunscreen, a staple in our sunscreen protection lineup, contains organic (carbon-based) compounds, such as avobenzone, octinoxate, and oxybenzone. These ingredients penetrate the skin and offer protection by absorbing UV rays. Unlike physical sunscreens that reflect UV radiation away from the skin, chemical sunscreens absorb the rays and transform them into heat, which is then released from the skin. This method of protection is particularly favoured for its ability to blend seamlessly into the skin without leaving a white cast, offering an invisible shield against the sun’s harmful effects.

How Does Chemical Sunscreen Work?

Understanding the mechanism behind chemical sunscreen is crucial for choosing the right sunscreen products. Upon application, the active ingredients in chemical sunscreen create a thin, protective layer that absorbs the sun’s UV radiation. The absorbed energy undergoes a chemical reaction, converting UV rays into heat, which is then dissipated harmlessly away from the skin. This process helps in protecting the skin from sunburn and other UV-induced damage. For optimal effectiveness, it’s recommended to apply chemical sunscreen at least 20 minutes before sun exposure. This gives the product ample time to be absorbed into the skin and start working its protective magic.

Benefits of Chemical Sunscreen

Chemical sunscreen offers a plethora of benefits, making it a popular choice among our Seoul of Tokyo customers. Some of the key advantages include:

  • Lightweight Formula: Most chemical sunscreens have a lighter consistency compared to physical sunscreens. This makes them easier to apply and more comfortable for daily wear, especially under makeup.
  • Broad-Spectrum Protection: Many chemical sunscreens provide broad-spectrum coverage, guarding the skin against both UVA and UVB rays. This comprehensive protection is essential in preventing premature ageing and maintaining skin health.
  • Appeal for Active Lifestyles: Thanks to their quick-absorbing nature, chemical sunscreens are ideal for those with active lifestyles. They stay put and continue to protect the skin even when sweating or swimming, provided they are reapplied as directed.

By offering a selection of chemical sunscreens within our Japanese & Korean skincare range, we ensure that our customers have access to products that not only safeguard their skin but also feel great to wear every day. Whether you’re seeking a light, non-greasy formula for daily use or a water-resistant option for outdoor adventures, our lineup at Seoul of Tokyo has got you covered.

Axis-Y Complete No-Stress Physical Sunscreen

Key Differences Between Physical and Chemical Sunscreen

When exploring options for sunscreen protection, it’s crucial to understand the pivotal differences between physical and chemical sunscreen. Both types play an integral role in shielding your skin from harmful UV rays, but they operate in distinct ways. At Seoul of Tokyo, we’re passionate about providing you with a variety of sunscreen products, including those from the revered realms of Japanese & Korean skincare that cater to your specific needs.

Active Ingredients

Physical sunscreens harness minerals like Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide as their active ingredients. These minerals rest on the skin’s surface, acting as a barricade against the sun’s rays. On the other hand, chemical sunscreens contain organic compounds such as Avobenzone, Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, and Homosalate. These ingredients absorb UV radiation, converting it into heat, which is then released from the skin.

Sunscreen TypeKey Active Ingredients 
PhysicalZinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide
ChemicalAvobenzone, Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Homosalate


The application process varies between the two types of sunscreen. Physical sunscreens offer immediate protection upon application, making them a practical choice for those who need instant coverage. Conversely, chemical sunscreens require approximately 20 minutes to fully absorb into the skin before they start to work effectively. This characteristic makes chemical sunscreens more suited for individuals who can plan their sun exposure ahead of time.

Protection Mechanism

Physical sunscreens, often referred to as mineral sunscreens, protect your skin by reflecting UV radiation away. This mechanism helps prevent sunburn, premature ageing and minimizes the risk of skin cancer by acting as a physical block. Chemical sunscreens, in contrast, work by absorbing the UV rays and converting them into heat, which is less harmful to the skin. This process allows for a more invisible form of protection, which can be preferable for daily use under makeup or for those seeking a lighter feel on the skin.

Whether you’re looking for a sunscreen that sits on top of your skin to physically block UV rays or one that absorbs and neutralizes the radiation, Seoul of Tokyo has you covered. Our carefully curated selection of sunscreen products, including top-tier Japanese & Korean skincare items, ensures that everyone can find their perfect match for effective sunscreen protection.

Which One Should You Choose?

Deciding between physical and chemical sunscreen options can feel overwhelming, but understanding your skin type and lifestyle can guide your choice. Seoul of Tokyo offers a diverse range of sunscreen products, including those formulated with the unique benefits of Japanese & Korean skincare philosophies, catering to various preferences and needs.

For those with sensitive skin, physical sunscreens might be the way to go. These sunscreens sit on the skin’s surface, reflecting UV rays away without absorbing into the skin. This minimizes the risk of irritation for those with sensitive or reactive skin. Our selection includes options that blend seamlessly without leaving the dreaded white cast, making them a favourite for daily wear.

On the other hand, if you’re always on the move and need a sunscreen that can keep up with your active lifestyle, chemical sunscreen products offered by Seoul of Tokyo might be your match. Ideal for those who don’t mind a slight wait before sun exposure, these sunscreens absorb into the skin and begin to protect after about 20 minutes. They’re perfect for creating a lightweight, invisible shield that feels comfortable and doesn’t interfere with your sweat or swimming – making every outdoor adventure worry-free.

Remember, the key to effective sunscreen protection is in the application and reapplication process. Following the product’s instructions is crucial, especially regarding water resistance and coverage areas. This ensures you’re fully protected, whether you’re enjoying a leisurely day outdoors or involved in water activities.

Both physical and chemical sunscreens have their places in our routines, and with Seoul of Tokyo’s carefully curated selection of Japanese & Korean skincare products, finding your ideal sunscreen solution has never been easier. We aim to meet various skin care needs and preferences, ensuring everyone can find a sunscreen that feels great on their skin and fits seamlessly into their lifestyle.

COSRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF50 PA+++


We’ve explored the nuances between physical and chemical sunscreens, highlighting how each caters to different skin types and lifestyles. At Seoul of Tokyo, we understand the importance of finding the right sunscreen that not only protects your skin but also feels comfortable throughout the day. Whether you have sensitive skin that benefits from the gentle protection of physical sunscreens or lead an active lifestyle and prefer the seamless absorption of chemical variants, our range has got you covered. Remember, the key to effective sun protection lies in the application and timely reapplication, ensuring your skin remains shielded against harmful UV rays. Trust us to guide you towards making an informed choice for your skin’s health and well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a physical or chemical sunscreen based on my skin type?

If you have sensitive skin, you might prefer physical sunscreens as they sit on top of the skin and reflect UV rays, usually causing less irritation. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, absorb into the skin and may be better suited for those with non-sensitive skin or for active lifestyles due to their lightweight feel.

How does Seoul of Tokyo cater to different sunscreen preferences?

Seoul of Tokyo offers a wide range of sunscreen products to suit various skin types and lifestyle needs. Their selection includes mineral sunscreens for sensitive skin, which reflect UV rays without causing irritation, and chemical sunscreens that absorb quickly, providing a lightweight shield ideal for active individuals.

Why is reapplication of sunscreen important?

Reapplication of sunscreen is crucial to maintain effective protection against UV rays. Even the best sunscreen wears off, especially with sweating, swimming, or towel drying. Proper application and timely reapplication ensure continuous protection, regardless of whether you’re using a physical or chemical sunscreen.

Can I find a sunscreen that doesn’t irritate sensitive skin?

Yes, Seoul of Tokyo offers sunscreens specifically formulated for sensitive skin. These are usually physical (mineral) sunscreens that reflect UV rays without directly interacting with the skin, minimizing the risk of irritation.

What makes sunscreen suitable for an active lifestyle?

For those with an active lifestyle, chemical sunscreens are recommended due to their quick-absorbing nature and lightweight shield against UV rays. These sunscreens are less likely to rub off with sweat and physical activity, providing reliable protection during outdoor activities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Free shipping within South Africa

On all orders above R1050, standard shipping within SA is R90

Easy 10 days returns

If you're not satisfied, contact us and return in original condition for a refund

Authentic products

Sourced directly from brands and authorised disributors

100% Secure Checkout

3rd party payment through Payfast - MasterCard / Visa