Physical vs. Chemical/Organic vs. Inorganic - What Does All This Mean?

Physical (Mineral) Sunscreens = Inorganic UV filters (zinc oxide & titanium oxide).
Chemical Sunscreens = Organic UV filters, aka everything else.


Each of these terms when referring to sunscreen, can be confusing. Are you ready? 

Chemical sunscreens are widely used to make broad spectrum sunscreens - that is, using a combination of filters to block UVA + UVB rays. They are technically considered ‘organic’, as the UV filters used are organic chemicals (substances that contain carbon).

Physical (mineral) sunscreens use zinc oxide as their UV filter. They are known to cover less (only slightly) than what a chemical sunscreen would, but still provide broad spectrum coverage. Please refer to our blog ‘What is Micronised Zinc?’ to learn more.

Chemical and physical filters work in exactly the same way, by absorbing UV rays from the sun and converting them to heat. They only vary by how effectively they do this (tip: combinations will always work better).

Think of the different UV filters used like music notes. They each work in their own way to cover different levels of UV rays, just like music notes represent the pitch, speed and rhythm of a song.

Now let’s talk ‘organic’.

The sunscreen market is saturated with products that use claims such as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’, but are they really? These terms can be extremely misleading when used in reference to sunscreen.

‘Organic’ is often misrepresented. This term actually refers to chemical sunscreens. The only way a physical sunscreen could call itself organic, is by using organically sourced ingredients, other than its ‘actives’. In Australia, the use of the term ‘organic’ is highly regulated by the ACO (Australian Certified Organic association). Yet, a product containing 70-95% organic ingredients can still claim to be ‘organic’. Physical sunscreens typically contain anywhere from 20-25% zinc oxide in their formulas, so technically get away with the claim ‘organic’. 

And unfortunately, there is no such thing as a ‘natural’ sunscreen. While our formulas are unique and have allowed us to remove many unnecessary ingredients commonly used in sunscreen, it is important to note that all sunscreens must contain some form of chemical, whether it is organic or inorganic (i.e zinc oxide) that has been altered in a laboratory to block UV rays. For this reason, our sunscreens are not ‘natural’.

But which one’s right for me?

Let’s chat about the difference between Baby Mineral SPF 50+ & Sensitive Sunscreen SPF 50+.

The difference comes down to the type of UV filters used. Our Baby Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+ is a physical (mineral), zinc only sunscreen, whereas our Sensitive Sunscreen SPF 50+ is made using a combination of ‘organic’ filters. This is really about providing options for different tastes and skin types. 

Baby Mineral has minimal ingredients and as mentioned, only the one UV filter. It is possible to react to any ingredient in sunscreen, so fewer ingredients means the lower chance of having adverse reactions, like skin irritation. 

Zinc only sunscreens will always feel a little bit ‘heavier’ on your skin when compared to chemical sunscreens. But if you have very sensitive skin, like a toddler or baby, then you may not be too fussed about the ‘feel’ so much. 

Our Sensitive Sunscreen SPF 50+ is still suitable for those with delicate skin. It uses a combination of organic UV filters in order to provide maximum broad spectrum coverage. Combination filters potentially give a more complete UV coverage compared to zinc only, and tend to feel nicer on the skin.

So, to summarise, Baby Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+ and Sensitive Sunscreen SPF 50+ are both dermatologically tested and suitable for sensitive skin, it just comes down to choice around feel and ingredients.

In the end, it is up to you. The best sunscreen is the one that you feel good about wearing every day. No one sunscreen is going to suit everyone, so we like to give a little choice (and try to explain the differences).

Shop our Sensitive Range!