The difference between a natural and chemical sunscreen

The difference between a natural and chemical sunscreen

It’s that time of year again, where we’re all starting to restock our sunscreen supplies ready for those hot sunny days. But which sunscreen is the best, what feels good, smells good, has little irritation, and isn’t harmful to the environment? And should we choose a natural sunscreen or do we get a chemical based sunscreen?

To help you out we have put together a summary of 3 of our top NATURAL SUNSCREENS. 

But first let’s briefly touch on the difference between a natural, also referred to as a physical sunscreen, and a chemical sunscreen.

Chemical vs Physical

Both are designed to protect the body from UVA and UVB rays from the sun. The UVA rays are the ones responsible for making your skin burn, while the UVB rays can penetrate deeper into the skin and cause long term damage and skin cancer. The main difference between physical and chemical sunscreen is HOW they block out the sunrays. 

The difference between a natural and chemical sunscreen

Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens contain active ingredients that are designed to absorb the UVA and UVB rays, effectively preventing the skin from getting burnt and preventing the rays from penetrating deeply into the skin. 

The downside to the chemical sunscreens are that they can cause allergies or skin irritations for some people. They also tend to contain chemicals that are harmful to the reef and beautiful little sea creatures. 

Physical Sunscreens

Physical sunscreens tend to use natural minerals such as zinc and/or titanium oxide to block out or reflect the rays away from the skin. Put simply, they act as a physical barrier to prevent skin damage.

These sunscreens tend to be better suited to sensitive skin and are generally more ocean friendly. The downside is that they are sometimes thicker or a little more sticky to apply.

SPF Rating

One more thing before we go into the review, I want to touch on the SPF rating. The SPF indicates the level of protection against ultraviolet radiation (UVR). This is the ratio of UVR someone would be exposed to if they weren’t wearing sunscreen compared to if they were wearing it. For example, SPF30 blocks 96.7% UVR and a SPF50 blocks 98% compared to if the person wasn’t wearing any sunscreen at all. 

Both SPF30 and SPF50 sunscreens will provide excellent protection and in Australia, we do recommend getting a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. However it is important to note that no sunscreen has the ability to completely protect the skin. So always remember to apply the 5 points of protection when the UV index is high (Slip, Slop, Slape, Slide, Shade).

Review of our top 3 sunscreens

The difference between a natural and chemical sunscreen

We are Feel Good Inc.

We are Feel Good Inc. has clearly been created by a wave frothing, beach loving, surfy crew. They are a local favourite having been developed right here in the South West of WA. You cannot visit Dunsborough and not hear about or see one of these trendy looking sunscreen bottles. 

Here’s how their story goes… While away on a family surf trip, the spark to develop the brand was ignited as three couples sat around the campfire. The trio were determined to create a range of sun protection products that embodied the Aussie lifestyle. 

They had FOUR clear objectives for their brand

  1. to create something that didn’t leave that post-sunscreen sticky feel. “Because when you feel good, you look good, and life is a whole lot sweeter.” 
  2. To create something that would hold up in the toughest of climates like that of the Australian coastal landscape.
  3. To remove harmful parabens, preservatives and be PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) free. ”No stinging eyes for you when you emerge from the water!”
  4. To create something that wouldn’t damage the reef or our animal friends. They said, “preserving our beautiful outdoors is non-negotiable”. So they ensured their products were oxybenzone and octinoxate free.

And that is exactly what they achieved.


  • Feel: This sunscreen definitely feels good just like its name. Not too thick and not greasy or sticky. It has a runny consistency that is easy to apply.
  • Smell: Comes in a few varieties. The Original and Sensitive sunscreens have a subtle sunscreen smell, nothing too overpowering. The range also has a coconut sunscreen which has a really pleasant coconut scent, making you feel like you are holidaying on a tropical island.
  • Additional Benefits: Contains skin-loving ingredients like Vitamin E and Aloe vera to nourish the skin.

Little Urchin

Here’s a fun fact for you… Sea urchin eggs are very sensitive to light and heat. This has led them to evolve to produce their own sunscreen. They produce a compound called gadusol which can absorb UVB (ultraviolet B) rays and protect them from burning. They are also able to live up to 100 years without showing any signs of aging!

This is just some of the inspiration behind the brand name Little Urchin. The product was made out of the desire of a loving father wanting to produce sun protection products free of toxins and safe for the planet. And this is exactly what he did!


  • Feel: These sunscreens are a little thicker than the chemical ones because they contain zinc. The zinc acts as the physical barrier to the sunrays. Colour turns clear once applied and rubbed in, it doesn’t leave a white coating like some natural sunscreens. It does however leave a little bit of an oily feel which is probably due to the additional skin nourishing ingredients in the formula such as rosehip oil.
  • Smell: Subtle sunscreen smell.
  • Additional benefits: Contains organic green tea, cucumber and rosehip to help nourish the skin. Safe for babies 6 months and over.

Eco by Sonya

Sonya Driver, Founder of Eco by Sonya, tells the story of how her company all began with her sister being diagnosed with a melanoma. In the effort to find her sister a natural tanning lotion one Christmas she quickly learnt that most products were not in fact natural. This led her down the pathway of creating a whole range of Eco Tanning, Sun Care and Skincare products.

Then, in 2011, Eco Tan made Australian history by becoming the first and only tanning brand to be certified organic by the Organic Food Chain under the Australian government.

Eco Sonya’s Natural Sunscreen is a zinc based cream that rubs on clear. As with all her other beauty products, her sunscreen is also all organic and natural ingredients. It is also Reef and water friendly, free from oxybenzone. 


  • Feel: This one truly avoids that sticky white look that a lot of the natural sunscreens produce. It rubs in quickly and doesn’t leave a sticky greasy after effect. It has a runny consistency to allow for easy application but be sure to give the bottle a little shake before applying.
  • Smell: It does have a pretty strong sunscreen smell which is probably it’s only down point.
  • Additional benefits: Contains Vitamin E, Green Tea and Rose Hip for extra skin nourishing effects.  

Slip, Slop, Slap, Slide, Shade

Regardless of what sunscreen you use, the most important thing to remember is, no sunscreen is able to offer complete skin protection. When the UV index is high, it is recommended you use 5 points of protection. This is where our good ‘ol Aussie slogan of SLIP, SLOP, SLAP, SLIDE and SHADE comes into play. 

  • SLIP on a t-shirt.
  • SLOP on SPF 30+ broad spectrum UVA sunscreen.
  • SLAP on a broad brimmed hat.
  • SLIDE on quality sunglasses.
  • SHADE from the sun whenever possible.