Three products for a radiant, customizable tan — without UV rays

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Chemical or Mineral Sunscreen: Which One to Use for Your Skin?

Chemical or Mineral Sunscreen: Which One to Use for Your Skin?

Hats, sunglasses, sunscreens... you're undoubtedly aware of the essential need to protect yourself from the harmful effects of the sun. However, with the multitude of choices between chemical and mineral versions, it can be difficult to decide on one or the other. Effectiveness, drawbacks, approach to sun protection, adaptation to your skin type... here is everything you need to know about organic sun filters versus inorganic sun filters.

Chemical filter, mineral filter: what about their differences?

To protect the skin from the harmful effects of the sun, both UVB and UVA rays, there are two types of UV filters used in sunscreens: chemical filters and physical filters. Strictly regulated in Europe, only 27 UV filters are authorized by the European cosmetic regulation, all evaluated by the European Scientific Committee for Consumer Safety (SCCS).

  • Physical filters.

    Composed of an assembly of mineral microparticles, these sunscreens with a particle size of 200 to 500 nm are capable of diffracting and reflecting UV rays in the UVB and UVA spectrum and visible light through a mechanical action similar to an opaque barrier, by creating a film of inert metallic particles.

    Benefits : More tolerant, they are less allergenic than sunscreens containing organic filters and do not cause sensitization reactions. Indeed, it has been demonstrated that sunscreens using only inorganic filters do not penetrate beyond the stratum corneum and the upper layers of the epidermis. Moreover, only mineral sun protection products can be labeled as organic. Finally, these molecules are photostable.

    Drawbacks : Sunscreens composed of mineral filters tend to leave white traces on the skin during application, due to their opaque nature. However, this white appearance disappears gradually during application. In order to improve these organoleptic characteristics of products formulated with physical filters, formulation efforts have been made: mineral filters now exist in nanoparticle form. However, already banned in spray form, the presence of nanoparticles could potentially cause toxic effects on marine flora, particularly on phytoplankton, not to mention the fact that they could cause a trans-epidermal passage phenomenon resulting in potential toxicity.

  • Chemical filters.

    Composed of chemically modified carbon compounds, these sunscreens create a thin filtering film that directly absorbs solar radiation in place of the skin, due to the presence of a chromophore group. They then transform UV light into fluorescent radiation or dissipate it through internal conversion mechanisms, releasing the energy in the form of a small amount of heat.

    Benefits : Being more fluid, they leave less of a "white" effect on the skin for a more uniform application.

    Drawbacks : Due to their mechanism of action, chemical filters can penetrate the skin barrier and thus may pose a minimal risk of allergy (redness, irritation...), especially in individuals with sensitive and atopic skin. Moreover, some UV filters are subject to controversy as they are suspected of acting as endocrine disruptors. However, we lack perspective and studies regarding their potential harm, which remains to be proven. The doubts do not concern all chemical filters. In the meantime, it is better to apply the precautionary principle and avoid suspect compounds, such as theoctocrylene, oxybenzone (INCI: Benzophenone-3), thehomosalate, theavobenzone (INCI: Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane), the sulisobenzone (INCI: Benzophenone-4), the padimate-O (INCI: Ethylhexyl Dimethyl PABA), the PABA, etc. Finally, some chemical filters may also have an impact on the environment: they could be toxic to marine life and corals.

However, whether the cream is mineral or chemical, there is no difference in terms of protection efficacy against UV rays.

Sunscreen approved by the European cosmetic regulationMaximum concentration allowed by the European cosmetic regulation (%)Protection Range (nm)Maximum Absorption Wavelength (nm)Protection Provided (UVA/UVB)
Titanium Dioxide (INCI: Titanium Dioxide)25%290 - 350 nmVariableUVA, UVB
Zinc Oxide (INCI: Zinc Oxide)25%290 - 400 nmVariableUVA, UVB
Avobenzone (INCI: Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane)5%310 - 400 nm358 nmUVA
Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate (INCI: Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate)10%250 - 400 nm354 nmUVA
Octinoxate (INCI: Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate)10%280 - 310 nm311 nmUVB
Octisalate (INCI: Ethylhexyl Salicylate)5%260 - 310 nm307 nmUVB
Octocrylene 10%280 - 320 nm303 nmUVB
Ensulizole (INCI: Phenylbenzimidazole Sulfonic Acid)8%290 - 340 nm305 nmUVB
Octyl Triazone (INCI: Ethylhexyl Triazone)5%250 - 340 nm314 nmUVB
Homosalate7.34%295 - 315 nm306 nmUVB
Bisimidazylate (INCI: Disodium Phenyl Dibenzimidazole Tetrasulfonate)10%320 - 350 nm335 nmUVA
Ecamsule (INCI: Terephthalylidene Dicamphor Sulphonic Acid)10%295 - 390 nm345 nmUVA
Oxybenzone (INCI: Benzophenone-3)6%270 - 350 nm288, 325 nmUVA, UVB
Anisotriazine (INCI: Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine)10%280 - 400 nm310, 341 nmUVA, UVB
Bisoctrizole (INCI: Methylene Bis-Benzotriazolyl Tetramethylbutylphenol)10%280 - 400 nm306, 360 nmUVA, UVB
Para-aminobenzoic acid (INCI: PABA)5%260 - 313 nm283 nmUVB
Mexoryl XL (INCI: Drometrizole Trisiloxane)15%280 - 400 nm303, 344 nmUVA, UVB
Padimate O (INCI: Ethylhexyl Dimethyl PABA)8%280 - 320 nm311 nmUVB
Diethylhexyl Butamido Triazone10%280 - 320 nm311 nmUVB
Tris-biphenyl triazine10%280 - 400 nm310 nmUVA, UVB
Enzacamene (INCI: 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor)4%280 - 320 nm305 nmUVB
Amiloxate (INCI: Isoamyl p-Methoxycinnamate)10%280 - 320 nm289 nmUVB
Ethyl-4-aminobenzoate ethoxylate (INCI: PEG-25 PABA)10%280 - 320 nm308 nmUVB
Dimethicodiethylbenzalmalonate (INCI: Polysilicone-15)10%280 - 320 nm313 nmUVB
Sulisobenzone (INCI: Benzophenone-4)5%250 - 380 nm288, 366 nmUVA, UVB
Camphor Benzalkonium Methosulfate (INCI: Camphor Benzalkonium Methosulfate)5%280 - 320 nm295 nmUVB
Mexoryl SL (INCI: Benzylidene Camphor Sulfonic Acid)6%280 - 400 nm295 nmUVA, UVB
Mexoryl SW (INCI: Polyacrylamidomethyl Benzylidene Camphor)6%280 - 320 nm301 nmUVB

Chemical filter or mineral filter?

Although infrequent and subjective, tingling, redness, and heat sensations are the most common complaints associated with chemical sunscreens. However, individuals prone to photodermatoses and eczema may be predisposed to developing a photo-allergy. As a result, reactive, sensitive, or even sun-allergic skin should opt for sunscreens based on mineral filters (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) as a precaution, as they are generally better tolerated. Delicate and sensitive, sunscreens with solar filters are also recommended for children.

Most of the time, a sun protection product combines both filters to cover the entire solar spectrum. Without nanoparticles, our sunscreen products combine mineral filters with chemical filters for reasons of application comfort and texture.


  • FERGUSON J. & al. New sunscreens confer improved protection for the photosensitive patients in the blue light region. British Journal of Dermatology (2001).

  • CORTING H. C. & al. Sunscreens - Which and what for? Skin Pharmacology and Physiology (2005).

  • NASH J. F. Human safety and efficacy of ultraviolet filters and sunscreens products. Clinics in Dermatology (2006).

  • BENS G. Sunscreens. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology (2014).


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