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When it comes to sunscreen, the absolute most important thing is that you’re using one. And so, to that point, when shopping for sunscreen, it’s imperative that you find a formula you like and are actually going to use. (That is after you make sure it’s a broad-spectrum formula that protects against both UVA and UVB rays and has at least an SPF 30.)
But it’s worth knowing that sunscreens fall into two different camps—chemical options, which absorb UV rays, and mineral (AKA physical) options, which deflect the rays away from the skin. The former has come under some scrutiny as of late, thanks to recent findings concerning the efficacy of chemical ingredients and how much of them penetrate into the bloodstream. The two most commonly used mineral ingredients, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, on the other hand, are two sunscreen ingredients the FDA has deemed to be generally safe and effective. Not to mention that mineral formulas also have the benefit of being much less irritating, especially if your skin skews towards sensitive. Again, we’ll leave the ultimate call up to you since—say it with us—the most important thing is to wear sunscreen every day.
Here, our picks of the best mineral sunscreens to try now.
Best Overall: Senté Pollution Shield Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 46
From a kind of under-the-radar derm brand, we’re big into this one for a whole host of reasons. The whipped consistency feels great on your skin, whether you’re applying it every day, for a beach day, under makeup, over moisturizer, you name it. The universal tint works with most skin tones, and it also has the added benefit of protecting you from pollution, yet another skin saboteur.
Best Budget: Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50
This is an awesome and wallet-friendly pick for anyone and everyone, so don’t be thrown off by the fact that it’s a baby product. Still, because it’s made for babies, it’s fragrance-free and ultra-gentle (so much so that it received the Eczema Foundation seal) and uses only zinc oxide for sun protection. Also per the baby point, it’s tear-free, making it a great for applying around your eyes, an area that’s especially prone to burning and sun damage.
Best Face: Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30
Despite an impressive 20% concentration of zinc oxide, this never leaves your complexion white or chalky (no matter your skin tone), and has a sheer texture that melts beautifully into the skin. Also nice: Along with powerful sun protection, it contains two different types of antioxidants to counteract free radical damage caused by sun exposure. Think of sunscreen and antioxidants as peanut butter and jelly—each is good on their own, but even better when combined.
Check out our guide to the best face sunscreens you can buy today.
Best Tinted: EltaMD UV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41
One of our favorite ‘screen brands, it’s also a fan favorite among dermatologists. We’re into this Elta option in particular; lightweight and silky, it has just enough tint to counteract any possible whiteness, but still blends in with any skin tone and won’t compete with any makeup you put on over it.
Best for Under Makeup: Elizabeth Arden Prevage City Smart Broad Spectrum SPF 50
Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide deliver SFP 50 protection, while polymers form an invisible and undetectable shield on your skin to block out skin-damaging pollution particles. Incredibly lightweight, this feels almost more like a tinted moisturizer than a sunscreen, and layers beautifully under any kind of other skincare products or makeup. Plus, the subtle tint and glowy finish it imparts is perfect for days when you want to go sans makeup (but still give your skin a little something).
Take a peek at some of the other best zinc oxide sunscreens you can buy.
Best for On-the-Go: Colorescience Sunforgettable Brush-On Shield SPF 50
Stash one of these in your purse, your desk drawer, your car…you get the picture. The powder protector is not only perfect for travel (no spills here) but also makes reapplication easier than ever. (FYI, You really should be reapplying your sunscreen every two hours, which we know seems like a lofty goal, but trust us, this makes it surprisingly attainable.) Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide protect from not only UVA and UVB rays, but also blue light, the light emitted from the screens of electronic devices, which can also be damaging to the skin. Oh, and it also comes in four different shades.
Still can't decide on what you want? Our round-up of the best sunscreens can help you find what you're looking for.
Best Body: BeautyCounter CounterSun Tinted Mineral Sunscreen Mist SPF 30
For body protection purposes, we much prefer sprays over creams—they just make it so much easier to get widespread coverage. The only problem? Up until recently, most sprays were chemical formulas. Happily, there are now a few mineral options available, including this newbie. Plus, it's a tinted option that comes in two shades. And because the can is powered by air rather than an aerosol, you’re minimizing your impact on the environment, too.
Best for Dark Skin: Isdin Eryfotona Actinica Ultralight Emulsion Broad Spectrum SPF 50+
Don’t worry, we won’t ask you to say that three times fast. One of our perennial go-to's, this formula uses straight-up zinc oxide for powerful protection and also contains DNA repairsomes, ingredients that also help reverse previous sun damage (ideal if you maybe haven’t been so on your sunscreen game in the past). Best of all, it’s incredibly lightweight and melts into your skin, without leaving behind any kind of tell-tale residue, even on darker skin tones. Give it a good shake before applying, then prepare to be amazed by how quickly and easily it disappears.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Avene Mineral Ultra-light Hydrating Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+
By definition, any mineral sunscreen is going to be a better bet for the easily-irritated set, since minerals are more inert and less likely to cause any kind of allergy or reaction than chemicals. That being said, if you really want to up the ante, this guy has the added benefit of being infused with thermal spring water full of anti-inflammatory and soothing minerals to help quell any redness. Think of it as a chill pill for stressed skin.
Best for Dry Skin: C’est Moi Gentle Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
Despite how light and silky this feels, it packs a hydrating punch, thanks to the addition of both shea and cocoa butter. Also nice: The clean formula is free of a long list of potentially questionable chemicals (so much so that the Environmental Working Group, an organization that keeps tabs on ingredient safety, gave it top honors) and it’s hypoallergenic.
Best for Oily Skin: Ren Clean Screen Mineral Mattifying Face Screen SPF 30
Sorry, but that ‘sunscreen leaves my face greasy’ excuse just isn’t going to fly anymore. This mattifier-sunscreen hybrid uses natural rice starch to absorb oil, control shine and minimizes the look of pores. The ingredient also soothes irritation too, ideal if blemishes pop up. Zinc oxide delivers your daily dose of sun protection, and we also like that the packaging is made to be fully recyclable, a nice touch.
Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best sunscreens for oily skin.
Best for Enlarged Pores: Supergoop! Mineral Smooth & Poreless Matte Screen SPF 40
When your pores look large and in charge, the last thing you want is for a thick, oily sunscreen to accentuate their appearance. That's what makes this ultra-light, translucent SPF such a great pick. In addition to being a 100% mineral sunscreen with SPF 40, it dries to a blurring matte finish that helps smooth the skin's appearance and reduce the look of problem pores. Wear it under your foundation as a skin-protecting primer or on its own for a no-makeup makeup look sans grease.
Best for Kids: Bare Republic Mineral Neon Sunscreen Sticks SPF 50
Even the most sunscreen-averse kids will love these brightly hued sticks that make sun protection more fun (and colorful) than ever. Available in a variety of rainbow shades, they still deliver serious sun protection. And kiddos aside, it’s also a suitable option for adults.