What Even Is Mineral Sunscreen? Dermatologists Explain This Popular SPF
Trying to find the best sunscreen for your skin type requires a fair amount of trial and error. The market is flooded with options, and it’s difficult to know which formulations provide the most reliable protection without causing other issues like breakouts or irritation. One thing to know is that sunscreens are often made with either chemical or mineral active ingredients, and you might be surprised to find that one may be a better fit for your skin and lifestyle than the other.
Mineral sunscreens reflect UV radiation off the skin’s surface using ingredients like zinc and titanium to physically block harmful rays from being absorbed into the skin, said Dr. Brandan Camp, a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology. Conversely, Dr. Azadeh Shirazi, a board-certified dermatologist at La Jolla Dermatology, said that chemical sunscreens “work by absorbing the sun’s rays, then converting them into heat that is released from the skin to protect against sun damage.” While these ingredients are widely considered safe and non-toxic, they have not been studied as extensively as mineral sunscreens, she said.
“Chemical sunscreens may feel more elegant — they rub in nicely and don’t leave a white cast behind,” said Shirazi, however, she went on to say that they can cause more irritation, particularly for individuals with sensitive skin. “I suggest using mineral SPF if you are prone to skin reactions,” she said. Camp noted that mineral sunscreens are also a great option “for those with concerns about the absorption of chemical sunscreen ingredients into the body,” like people who are pregnant or those with other sensitivities and health issues.
Both experts recommended using a minimum of SPF 30 on a daily basis for baseline sun protection, and Camp noted that the American Academy of Dermatology also recommends using a product that offers both broad-spectrum protection and is water-resistant.
When on the hunt for a good mineral sunscreen, look for physical blockers that are formulated with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. “Some products may include additional ingredients to help moisturize skin or offer antioxidant properties, such as hyaluronic acid and vitamin E, respectively,” Camp said.
Below, we rounded up a selection of mineral sunscreens inspired by our experts’ guidance. They come at a range of price points and can be purchased at popular retailers like Amazon, Sephora and Target.
Wearing SPF daily is a vital part of any skin care routine and in fact is the single best weapon against typical signs of aging, from sun damage to wrinkles, dark spots and beyond. Pick one up and keep your skin looking and feeling its best for years to come.
Elta MD UV Clear broad spectrum (SPF 46)
According to Camp, this sunscreen is technically a mineral and chemical sunscreen because it is formulated with both zinc and octinoxate. It also has skin care-friendly ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and vitamin E. It’s great for acne-prone and sensitive skin.
Supergoop Mineral Sheer screen (SPF 30)
“This is a 100% mineral sunscreen product that offers SPF 30 protection,” Camp said. “The labeling also includes information about protection from UVA radiation, PA (protection grade of UVA), which many sunscreens do not report.” It also shields the skin from blue light. It’s completely sheer so you don’t have to worry about a white cast and has a lightweight finish that won’t weigh your skin down.
Dr. Loretta Universal Glow sunscreen (SPF 40)
A personal favorite, this Dr. Loretta sunscreen is ideal for anyone who wants a mineral sunscreen but with a lightweight, silky smooth finish you typically only get from chemical SPFs. Zinc, antioxidants and botanical extracts provide protection from sun damage while also helping to improve the look of fine lines, dark spots and other signs of aging, leaving skin soft, smooth and nourished. I’ve found that it layers beautifully with other skin care products as well as makeup, doesn’t pill and gives skin the perfect amount of glow without feeling oily.
Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Face mineral sunscreen (SPF 50)
“This lightweight, non-greasy product provides SPF 50 protection and contains zinc oxide as the active ingredient,” Camp said. It’s specially formulated with antioxidants to be water-resistant, is naturally sourced and dries down quickly without leaving a greasy finish.
Paula’s Choice Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense broad spectrum (SPF 30)
Made with pure zinc oxide, botanicals and antioxidants like bisabolol, willow bark and resveratrol, this sheer sunscreen can help to blur the appearance pores and reduce shine, evening out skin tone and helping calm redness or irritation. It’s perfect for someone who prefers a silky matte finish.
CeraVe hydrating mineral sunscreen (SPF 50)
Camp recommended this CeraVe classic, saying that “This facial SPF sunscreen contains zinc and titanium to protect skin from the sun, as well as ceramides to preserve the health of the skin barrier.” It’s a great combination of both skin care and sun protection.
Tatcha The Silk Sunscreen mineral broad spectrum SPF 50 PA++++
Want to go a little fancy? This gorgeous sunscreen from luxury skin care brand Tatcha is made with zinc oxide and red algae extracts that protect the skin from harmful rays, blue light and pollution. It also contains hyaluronic acid and niacinamide to hydrate and even out skin tone and texture, and silk extracts to support the skin’s natural moisture barrier and act as a smooth primer for makeup. It leaves skin feeling silky-smooth and soft.
SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 mineral sunscreen
You can’t go wrong with SkinCeuticals products — they’re all about skin health and radiance. This tinted mineral sunscreen not only provides broad spectrum protection, but it gives skin a radiant, even glow without leaving a white cast or oily residue. It’s lightweight and water-resistant, making it perfect for a day at the beach.
Ilia Super Serum skin tint (SPF 40)
Talk about a multi-tasking product! This serum provides coverage and drenches the skin in nourishing ingredients like a regular serums do, all while protecting the skin from sun damage. It has a dewy finish and can help to mitigate dryness, acne, redness, wrinkles and more. It’s a great option for those who want a bit more coverage but have sensitive skin.
Malin + Goetz mineral sunscreen (SPF 30)
For an ultra-clean, soft finish, try Malin + Goetz’s mineral sunscreen. It has a water-resistant formula that is instantly absorbed and provides trustworthy sun protection. I was reticent about the relatively low amount of SPF, but my partner recently took it with her to Australia for a few weeks and came back with zero sun damage.
La Roche Posay Anthelios Mineral ultra light sunscreen (SPF 50)
I love this water-resistant French pharmacy staple and find myself loading up on it every summer. It’s packed with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide and specially formulated for sensitive skin like mine. It’s one of the few SPFs that won’t clog my pores and cause breakouts. It doesn’t leave a white cast on my olive-toned skin, though it might on more melanated complexions. It has a soft matte finish and is full of skin-nourishing antioxidants.