The 5 Best Mineral Sunscreens
This is not groundbreaking advice, but it bears repeating: You should be wearing face sunscreen every day (yes, even if you’re staying inside!). A more nuanced consideration is whether that sunscreen should be of the chemical or mineral variety. To learn more about the best mineral sunscreens — the less common option on the market, but, in certain cases, the better one — I spoke to Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, a Miami-based, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta skin care, and Dr. Orit Markowitz, Director of Pigmented Lesions and Skin Cancer at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
But first, let’s define our terms. “Mineral sunscreens contain zinc oxide, either alone or in combination with titanium dioxide, as the active ingredient,” explains Dr. Ciraldo to Bustle. “These ingredients reflect ultraviolet light so it literally bounces off the skin.” (Dr. Markowitz compares this effect to a mirror that staves off UV light before it can penetrate your skin.) On the other hand, the active ingredients in chemical sunscreens “absorb ultraviolet rays into their molecular structure,” says Dr. Ciraldo.
So: Why choose mineral sunscreens over chemical sunscreens? Few reasons. First, and maybe most importantly, Dr. Markowitz says that chemical sunscreens can absorb into your bloodstream, which mineral sunscreens won't do. Also, mineral sunscreens don’t contain some common ingredients found in chemical sunscreens that are harmful to the environment, like oxybenzone and octinoxate.
Beyond that, where you come down on the mineral vs. chemical debate is a personal choice. Dr. Ciraldo says that zinc can calm redness, so mineral face sunscreens can be useful for people who experience irritation or have a naturally ruddy complexion. However, she also warns that the zinc and titanium can leave a white cast on your skin, so people with darker skin tones might have a tough time finding a mineral sunscreen that works for them. (But they’re certainly not impossible to find, and most of the sunscreens on this list blend into a translucent finish.) Along those lines, Dr. Markowitz pointed out that mineral sunscreens “don’t always have the smoothest application,” so they might pill or clump under makeup. But, on the plus side, she also said that they’re “more resistant to rubbing, so they require less frequent application.” A boon for anyone who passionately dislikes reapplying sunscreen, which I assume is most of us.
Obviously, the most important thing is to choose a sunscreen you’re actually going to wear every day — and if you decide that sunscreen is of the mineral persuasion, I’ve got you covered. Scroll on for five of the best mineral sunscreens you can get on Amazon right now.
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1. The Overall Best Mineral Sunscreen (For Most)
My dermatologist recommended this EltaMD mineral sunscreen when I came in with a mysterious rash on my cheeks a few years ago, because rash or no rash, you still have to wear sunscreen — and this one is gentle enough even for people contending with breakouts, redness, rosacea, irritation, and other similar skin concerns. This is still my sunscreen of choice most days. It’s lightweight, oil-free, blends well, and leaves zero white cast, so it works better than most other mineral sunscreens under makeup. But I also go for this non-comedogenic formula on sweaty summer days, when I’m on the beach, or before working out — in the presence of so much dirt, oil, and sweat, it’s comforting to know that your sunscreen isn’t contributing to that long list of things that might clog your pores.
2. The Best Mineral Sunscreen For Dry Skin
Since it’s technically a moisturizer, I wear this mineral-based sunscreen from Image on days when my skin is feeling too dry for my typical sunscreen. (The EltaMD sunscreen isn’t drying, but it doesn’t actually impart moisture.) Along with grease-free hydration, this two-in-one product provides broad-spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays (the kinds that can cause sunburns and skin cancer, respectively). An infusion of vitamin C does all the aesthetic things there is to like about vitamin C — like brightening and helping to even out skin tone — but, more importantly, this powerful antioxidant protects your skin from free radicals like pollution, smoke, and stray UVB rays that can sneak through even the best sunscreens.
3. The Best Mineral Sunscreen For Oily Skin
Along with curbing shine, this COOLA mineral sunscreen is a great choice for people with oily skin for some really good reasons. In this formula, rosehip oil can actually help fight acne-causing bacteria, while shea butter provides non-comedogenic emollient and anti-inflammatory properties. The shea butter also helps this product go on a lot smoother than some other mineral sunscreens, which can get clumpy or grainy, so this’ll work well under your makeup. You can even use this in place of your usual mattifying primer, which I'm sure is lovely, but probably won't give you up to two hours of broad-spectrum sun protection!
4. The Best Affordable Mineral Sunscreen
Dr. Markowitz pointed out that people often opt for chemical sunscreens because they tend to be more affordable than mineral sunscreens. But at about $11 on Amazon, this Neutrogena mineral sunscreen can work for just about any budget. It’s waterproof, doesn’t sting if it gets in your eyes, and really stays put once it’s on, so this is an especially good choice for a workout, a day at the beach or pool, or any other outdoor activities that'll make you sweat. Reviewers say that this one leaves a bit of a white cast on your skin, but you can easily tone that down by mixing it in with your foundation or a tinted moisturizer.
5. The Best Mineral Sunscreen Spray
To provide the rest of your body with a sunlight-blocking mirror-shield, go for this Sun Bum Mineral Sunscreen Spray. There are relatively few mineral sunscreen sprays on the market, but this one is among the best. Beyond not needing to rub lotion in, which is among the banes of my existence, I like this cruelty-free, spray-on sunscreen for the formula’s nourishing natural ingredients: sunflower seed oil, jojoba esters, and soothing aloe all make appearances here. On the downside, this one isn’t totally translucent; but one reviewer says that “it’s 90% more clear than any of the other dozens of mineral creams I've tried.” And that white cast should fade if you rub it in a little!
Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta skin care.
Dr. Orit Markowitz, board-certified dermatologist and Director of Pigmented Lesions and Skin Cancer at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.