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There are two categories of sunscreen.
Physical or mineral sunscreen ingredients (including the minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) block and scatter the rays before they penetrate your skin.
Chemical sunscreen ingredients (like avobenzone and octisalate) absorb UV rays before they can damage your skin.
Physical sunscreens sit on top of the skin and block rays at the surface whereas chemical sunscreens absorb them, like a sponge. Chemical sunscreens tend to be thinner and, therefore, spread more easily on the skin, making them more wearable for daily use.
What is SPF? The sun protection factor or SPF is a relative measure of how long a sunscreen will protect you from ultraviolet (UVB) rays. The chief cause of reddening and sunburn, UVB rays tend to damage the epidermis, skin's outer layers, where the most common forms of skin cancer occur.