The 14 Best Zinc Oxide Sunscreens of 2022

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Best Zinc Oxide Sunscreens

Byrdie / Sabrina Jiang

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times: It’s imperative to use sunscreen every day, 365 days per year, rain or shine, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. You can exfoliate, mask and moisturize until the cows come home, but if your sunscreen game isn’t on point, all the products in the world won’t save your skin—so you need to make sure you like your SPF. When it comes to choosing sunscreen, some criteria are really important. "You want to make sure the sunscreen you pick is at least SPF 30, that it is labeled as broad-spectrum, and that it contains zinc oxide with or without titanium dioxide," says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Arash Akhavan.

Byrdie Researched & Approved

EltaMD's SPF 50 goes on completely clear and is non-comedogenic, so it won't clog pores. Because of this, it takes the top spot on our list of the best zinc oxide sunscreens. If you're looking for a drugstore option, you can't go wrong with CeraVe Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 Face Lotion; it's been approved by both the Skin Cancer Foundation and the National Eczema Foundation.

Sunscreen formulas fall into two categories. There are chemical sunscreens and mineral (or physical) sunscreens. "Chemical sunscreen ingredients absorb the energy of the sun and undergo a chemical reaction protecting the skin from absorbing that energy," Dr. Akhavan says. "Physical sunblocks, which I prefer and recommend to my patients, reflect the sun's energy away from our skin."

Each has its own pros and cons, but mineral sunscreens are generally less irritating. They also aren’t absorbed into the bloodstream like their chemical counterparts (something the FDA is currently investigating), and don’t demonstrate the hormonal activity that filters like oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene display in animal studies (although more research on humans is needed). One of the most commonly used minerals in sunscreen is zinc oxide. But it’s not like the thick, goopy, white stuff that lifeguards slather on their noses. The latest iterations are much more cosmetically elegant and feel more like a dewy layer of moisture than a nuisance only dermatologists could love.

Here are the best zinc oxide sunscreens for shielding your skin.

Best Overall: EltaMD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF 50

EltaMD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF 50

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Goes on clear

  • Non-comedogenic

  • Works on face and body

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Contains octinoxate

What do buyers say? 93% of 7,700+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

From one of the brand's most often recommended derms, this formula—made with 9 percent clear zinc oxide—provides broad-spectrum SPF 50 protection for both the face and body. It's a go-to for outdoor workouts, though you can use it at any time of day, too. Water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, it won’t drip off as you sweat. And since it's also non-comedogenic, you can trust that clogged pores won’t be an issue. Also nice: It applies completely clear and won't leave behind any white residue.

Type: Mineral/chemical hybrid | Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide, octinoxate, octisalate | SPF: 50 | Size: 3 or 7 ounces | Free of: Oxybenzone, fragrance, oil, parabens | Water-Resistant: 80 minutes | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Drugstore: CeraVe Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 Face Lotion

CeraVe Mineral Sunscreen Lotion for Face
What We Like
  • Approved by the Skin Cancer Foundation

  • Approved by the National Eczema Foundation

  • Affordable

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Leaves a white cast

Dr. Akhavan is a fan of this 100 percent mineral-based sunscreen—which uses a combination of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—and recommends it to all of his patients, especially those with acne-prone skin. “It feels super lightweight and has anti-inflammatory niacinamide added into the formula, as well,” he says.

New York City board-certified dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman also counts this as one of her favorites, noting that the niacinamide can help combat dark spots and any redness, as well. What’s more, she says the formula’s ceramides restore and repair the skin’s natural barrier, and hyaluronic acid helps skin retain moisture—all without the lotion feeling too heavy. It’s no wonder the Skin Cancer Foundation awarded this affordable drugstore gem its Daily Use Seal of Approval, and the National Eczema Foundation endorsed it.

Type: Mineral | Active Ingredients: Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide | SPF: 50 | Size: 2.5 ounces | Free of: Oil, fragrance, parabens, chemical UV filters, oxybenzone | Water-Resistant: No | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Face: ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Ultralight Emulsion SPF 50+

ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+

Amazon

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Provides antioxidant protection

  • Helps reverse sun damage

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Will separate if not shaken well

Yes, the name is admittedly a mouthful, but don’t be put off by that. One of our perennial go-to's and a favorite of Dr. Akhavan for its super elegant feel, this formula uses straight-up zinc oxide for powerful protection and contains DNA repairsomes—ingredients that help reverse previous sun damage. Best of all, it’s incredibly lightweight and melts into your skin, which is why it consistently holds a coveted spot among our daily skincare staples. Because it is an emulsion, make sure to give it a good shake before using. 

Type: Mineral | Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide, DNA repairsomes, vitamin E | SPF: 50 | Size: 3.4 ounces | Water-Resistant: 40 minutes | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Splurge: SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50

SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50

Courtesy of Dermstore

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Doesn’t run, even around the eyes

  • Provides antioxidant protection

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Only comes in one shade

This one may be splurgy, but trust that it’s worth the investment. It provides powerful broad-spectrum SPF 50 protection to the face, neck, and chest. And because it uses both microfine versions of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, it’s specially formulated to stay put—so much so that you can even apply it on your eyelids and the delicate skin surrounding the undereye. The formula also contains artemia salina, a plankton extract that helps boost the skin’s natural defense against UV and heat stressors, while translucent color spheres lend a universal skin-enhancing tint. Oh, and the whipped texture layers nicely under makeup, too.

Type: Mineral | Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, artemia salina, translucent color spheres | SPF: 50 | Size: 1.7 or 4.2 ounces | Free of: Parabens, fragrance | Water-Resistant: 40 minutes | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Sensitive Skin: Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Broad Spectrum SPF 50

Courtesy of Target

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Approved by the National Eczema Association

  • Non-comedogenic

What We Don't Like
  • Leaves a white cast

If your skin is easily irritated, any kind of mineral sunscreen is going to be your best bet, but this one, in particular, takes the cake. It's made with 100 percent zinc oxide and won't clog your pores. It’s so gentle that it’s even earned the National Eczema Association’s seal of approval. And whether your skin is sensitive or not, the completely dry, non-greasy finish is a universal crowd-pleaser. 

Type: Mineral | Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF: 50 | Size: 3 ounces | Free of: Oil, fragrance, parabens, phthalates, dyes, irritating chemicals | Water-Resistant: 80 minutes | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Travel: Beautycounter Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Stick

Beautycounter Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Stick

Courtesy of Beautycounter

What We Like
  • Great for touch-ups

  • Natural formula

  • Glides nicely on skin

  • Travel-friendly

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Not suited for large areas of coverage

There’s no need to stress about TSA confiscation with this solid stick. Not only is the spill-proof formula ideal for travel, but the small size is also great for swiping on often forgotten spots like your ears and the back of your neck. Zinc oxide is suspended in a hydrating cocoa seed butter base, so it glides on seamlessly without pulling or tugging and leaves the skin oh so soft.

Type: Mineral | Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide, California poppy, cocoa butter | SPF: 30 | Size: 0.5 ounces | Water-Resistant: 80 minutes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Dark Skin: Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Provides antioxidant protection

  • No white cast

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

This touts an impressive 20 percent concentration of zinc oxide, which would normally mean that it could look white or chalky, particularly on darker skin tones. Not the case here. The sheer texture melts beautifully into the skin without leaving behind any kind of tell-tale residue, as pointed out by happy Sephora reviewers (even those with dark skin). Also nice: Along with powerful sun protection, it contains two different types of antioxidants to counteract free radical damage caused by sun exposure.

Type: Mineral | Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide, sunflower shoot extract, astaxanthin-rich algae extract, raspberry seed oil, virgin marula oil, aloe vera leaf extract, grape juice extract | SPF: 30 | Size: 3 ounces | Free of: Chemical sunscreens, fragrance, silicones, essential oils | Water-Resistant: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Classic Zinc: Kinesys Clear Zinc Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30

KINeSYS Reef Safe Natural Mineral Zinc Oxide Sunscreen

Amazon

What We Like
  • Glides nicely on skin

  • Nice, non-tropical scent

  • No white cast

What We Don't Like
  • Can feel a bit thick

  • Nanosized zinc can be environmentally damaging

Consider this the modern take on old-school, thick, white zinc oxide (per our lifeguard reference from earlier). It comes in a jar so you can easily scoop on as much as you want, and even though it applies white, it rubs in completely clear and smooth. It'll nourish dry skin thanks to soothing aloe leaf, coconut oil, and sunflower seed oil. Plus, its scent is super refreshing, thanks to peppermint and rosemary leaf oils, which also act as natural preservatives.

Type: Mineral | Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF: 30 | Size: 2 ounces | Free of: Oxybenzone, octinoxate, 4MBC, alcohol, preservative, PABA, parabens, gluten, dairy, sulphites | Water-Resistant: 80 minutes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Touch-Ups: Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50

Colorescience Brush-On Sunscreen Mineral Powder

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Great for touch-ups

  • Comes in various shades

  • Travel-friendly

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Here’s the thing: You really should be reapplying your sunscreen every two hours. That can seem like a lofty goal, but this powder makes it surprisingly attainable (available in four shades, it also won’t mess up your makeup). Equal parts zinc oxide and titanium dioxide come together to protect you from UVA and UVB rays and blue light, the light emitted from the screens of electronic devices, which can also be damaging to the skin. 

Type: Mineral | Active Ingredients: Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide | SPF: 50 | Size: 0.21 ounces | Free of: Benzone | Water-Resistant: 80 minutes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Tinted: Alastin Skincare HydraTint Pro Mineral Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 36

4.5
Alastin Skincare HydraTint Pro Mineral Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 36

 Courtesy of Alastin

What We Like
  • Non-comedogenic

  • Great coverage

  • Lightweight

  • Boosts radiance

What We Don’t Like
  • Only one shade

  • Expensive

There are some days you want to wear a full face of makeup, and then there are some days you just don’t. On the latter, reach for this sunscreen, which we’ve sung the praises of time and time again. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide deliver broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection, while the formula’s subtle tint evens out your complexion and lends a stunning glow. What’s more, it’s infused with a litany of antioxidants and other ingredients that can help shield your skin from infrared radiation, pollution, and even blue light. Plus, it doesn’t leave behind a white cast, making this one a no-brainer.

Type: Mineral | Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide, titanium dioxide | SPF: 36 | Size: 3.2 ounces | Free of: Parabens, gluten | Water-Resistant: Up to 40 minutes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Tinted, Runner-Up: EltaMD UV Elements Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 44

EltaMD UV Elements Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 44

Amazon

What We Like
  • Hydrating

  • Oil-free

  • Great for all skin types

What We Don’t Like
  • Only comes in one shade

Jaliman says the combination of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide makes this an excellent physical sunscreen and that the subtle tint blends well into most complexions. “Hyaluronic acid makes it super hydrating, but it’s oil-free, so it won’t clog pores and is safe for acne-prone skin,” she says. Plus, it’s water-resistant for up to 40 minutes.

Type: Mineral | Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide, titanium dioxide | SPF: 44 | Size: 2 ounces | Free of: Chemical actives, fragrance, oil, parabens | Water-Resistant: Up to 40 minutes | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best With Added Benefits: Paula’s Choice RESIST Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense

Paula’s Choice RESIST Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Multi-tasking formula

  • Matte finish

  • Subtle tint

What We Don’t Like
  • Can feel a bit drying

Ideally, layering an antioxidant serum underneath your sunscreen (yes, every single day) is the absolute best way to protect your skin. But if you’re looking to shave a little time off of your morning skincare routine and/or just love multi-tasking products, check out this pick. Jaliman lauds it for the addition of powerful antioxidants such as resveratrol, making it a good choice for those concerned with anti-aging. It has a little bit of a tint, imparting just a touch of coverage.

Type: Mineral | Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide, bisabolol extract, willow bark extract, antioxidant blend | SPF: 30 | Size: 0.5 or 2 ounces | Free of: Fragrance | Water-Resistant: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Body: COOLA Mineral Body Sunscreen Spray SPF 30

Coola Mineral Body Organic Sunscreen Spray SPF 30

Ulta

What We Like
  • Hydrating

  • Easy-to-use spray

  • Provide antioxidant protection

What We Don’t Like
  • Nozzle can get clogged

There’s no denying that spray sunscreens are much easier to use on your body than traditional creams or lotions, particularly when it comes to getting those hard-to-reach spots on your back. The only issue? Spray sunscreens have been entirely chemical formulas until recently. Enter this mineral option, which uses, you guessed it, zinc oxide. You get the easy-to-use benefits of a spray and added antioxidant protection; it’s also water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, making it a good choice for beach or pool days. “It contains jojoba oil, glycerin, and shea butter, so it’s hydrating, unlike some other sprays, and also has skin-soothing aloe,” says Jaliman.

Type: Mineral | Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF: 30 | Size: 5 ounces | Free of: Chemical actives, fragrance, parabens, gluten | Water-Resistant: Up to 80 minutes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Sunscreen Haters: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare All-Physical Lightweight Wrinkle Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30

4.7
Dr. Dennis Gross All-Physical Lightweight Wrinkle Defense SPF 30 Sunscreen
What We Like
  • Great for all skin types

  • Works well under makeup

  • Lightweight

What We Don’t Like
  • Expensive

Even the most sunscreen-averse won’t have a hard time using this featherweight formula daily. Light and airy, the oil-free sunscreen looks and feels completely undetectable. It blocks out rays with zinc oxide but also packs a punch of plant-based ingredients and antioxidants that guard against other skin saboteurs, like pollution, blue light, and infrared heat. And while it’s not tinted, it still somehow manages to blend in seamlessly (on all skin tones) without leaving behind even a trace of a gray cast.

Type: Mineral | Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide, lingonberry, sea buckthorn | SPF: 30 | Size: 1.7 ounces | Free of: Oil, fragrance | Water-Resistant: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Final Verdict

We’re giving top honors to the EltaMD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF 50. A dermatologist fave, this formula applies clear and won’t clog your pores, unlike many zinc oxide products. Plus, we love that it’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, lasting through an outdoor workout or dip in the pool. Because we must protect our faces as much as our bodies, the ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Ultralight Emulsion SPF 50+ is a must. Not only does it provide powerful broad-spectrum protection against the sun, but it contains DNA repairsomes that work hard to reverse the signs of previous sun damage. Finally, reapplication is just as important as your initial application, so we’re big fans of the travel-friendly Beautycounter Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Stick, which allows you to apply (and reapply) on the go. We also appreciate how hydrating the cocoa seed butter base is.

Meet the Expert

What to Look for in a Zinc Oxide Sunscreen

A Zinc Oxide Percentage Between 9 Percent and 11 Percent

As you peruse through zinc oxide sunscreens, Dr. Akhavan recommends reaching for products with a zinc oxide percentage falling between the 9 to 11 percent range. “Anything lower can be ineffective, and anything higher can get too sticky,” he says.

A Waterproof Formula

A waterproof formula is a must for any sunscreen, zinc oxide or not. “This way it can still be effective at the pool or beach and when you sweat,” says Dr. Akhavan. Of course, be sure to check the label to see how long it’s waterproof for and always reapply after you swim, sweat, or towel off.

A Comfortable Feel

While the above is, of course, very crucial for a sunscreen to be fully effective, Dr. Akhavan says that the most important thing he looks for in a zinc oxide sunscreen is that it has a comfortable, elegant feel to it. “Mineral sunscreens need to feel silky and luxurious and go on sheer. Otherwise, I find that my patients won’t use them regularly.” Remember, the best sunscreen is the one you'll use.

FAQ
  • How should you apply zinc oxide sunscreen?

    Dr. Akhavan suggests applying it with the fingertips, allowing it to fully absorb before applying any foundation or other makeup to ensure it doesn’t become diluted. Of course, be sure to reapply (at least) every two hours or immediately after getting wet or sweating and use a powder formula for application over makeup.

  • What percentage of zinc oxide should be in sunscreen?

    Dr. Akhavan recommends opting for sunscreens that contain between 9 to 11 percent zinc oxide to ensure it has full UV exposure protection.

  • Does zinc oxide sunscreen expire?

    Yes, like all sunscreens, zinc oxide products do expire, “and protection against UV rays can be significantly affected after expiration,” warns Dr. Akhavan. In general, sunscreens are considered expired after three years, but be sure to check for a date listed on any product you use.

  • Does zinc oxide sunscreen cause acne?

    According to Dr. Akhavan, zinc oxide sunscreens do not generally cause acne, “especially if the product is formulated for the face,” he says. If your skin is particularly finicky, reach for products that are non-comedogenic to ensure they won’t clog your pores or further exacerbate an existing breakout.

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She is a daily sunscreen devotee and, because she has sensitive skin, always opts for mineral, zinc oxide-based formulas. Many of the options on this list are ones she’s used before or is currently using.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Gasparro FP, Mitchnick M, Nash JF. A review of sunscreen safety and efficacyPhotochem Photobiol. 1998;68(3):243-256

  2. Hakozaki T, Minwalla L, Zhuang J, et al. The effect of niacinamide on reducing cutaneous pigmentation and suppression of melanosome transferBr J Dermatol. 2002;147(1):20-31. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2133.2002.04834.x

  3. Bernstein EF, Sarkas HW, Boland P. Iron oxides in novel skincare formulations attenuate blue light for enhanced protection against skin damage. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2021;20(2):532-537.

  4. Clinical evaluation of an antioxidant cream containing resveratrol, ferulic acid, and vitoptin on photodamaged skin. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2011;64(2):AB21.

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