In 2016, one consumer report found that almost half of the 1,000 sunscreen-using respondents said they look for a natural product when looking for sunscreen. In this case, a “natural” sunscreen refers to a sunscreen that uses minerals instead of chemicals, and these are commonly referred to as “physical,” or “mineral” sunscreens.
Mineral sunscreens are classified as “physical sunscreens” because they aren’t absorbed into the skin, but instead, create a physical barrier on the top of the skin. They act as a mirror to deflect harmful UV rays. Unlike chemical sunscreens, which need time to absorb into the skin to offer full protection, mineral sunscreens provide instant protection. The two minerals most commonly found in physical sunscreens are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
Zinc Oxide is often found in diaper rash formula, speaking to its ability to soothe and protect skin. Titanium dioxide, is often found in cosmetic concealers because a thin application provides high opacity.
Because chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin, the real question is how will your skin react to chemicals like oxybenzone, padimate O, avobenzone and homosalate? Mineral sunscreens aren’t absorbed into your skin so they're less likely to irritate it.