14 of the Best Sunscreens with Zinc Oxide

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Our Top Picks
Best Overall:
EltaMD SPF 50 at Amazon
This formula—made with 9% clear zinc oxide—is a go-to for outdoor workouts.
While it does look white when you first spray it on, it ultimately dries sheer as you rub it in.
Best for Face:
ISDIN SPF 50+ at Amazon
It uses zinc oxide for powerful protection and also contains DNA repairsomes, ingredients that help reverse previous sun damage.
It uses microfine zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that stays put—so much so that you can apply it directly to the eye area..
It feels super lightweight and has anti-inflammatory niacinamide added into the formula, as well.
It provides broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection while probiotics repair stressed skin and caffeine reduces inflammation.
The sheer texture melts beautifully into the skin without leaving behind any kind of tell-tale residue.
Whether your skin is sensitive or not, the completely dry, non-greasy finish is a universal crowd-pleaser.
It comes in a jar so you can easily scoop on as much as you want—and it rubs in completely clear.
Not only is the spill-proof formula perfect for travel, but the small size is also great for swiping on often forgotten spots like your ears and the back of your neck.
In This Article

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times: It’s absolutely 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. When it comes to choosing a sunscreen, there are some criteria that are most important to look for. "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.

Sunscreen formulas fall into two categories. There are chemical options 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 set of pros and cons, but mineral sunscreens are generally less irritating. 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.

Here, the best zinc oxide sunscreens perfect for shielding your skin.

Best Overall: EltaMD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF 50

EltaMD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF 50

Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide, octinoxate | SPF Level: 50 | Formula: Cream

From one of the brands most-often recommended derms, this formula—made with 9% 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 transparent and won't leave behind any white residue.

Best for Body: Bare Republic Mineral Sunscreen Vanilla Coco Spray SPF 50

Bare Republic Mineral Sunscreen Vanilla Coco Spray SPF 50

Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF Level: 50 | Formula: Spray

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 like 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, added antioxidant protection, and a naturally-derived tropical scent. And since this spray is also water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, it’s choice for beach or pool days. "It's difficult to find an effective and waterproof mineral sunblock for the body, but this product really provides excellent protection for this purpose," says Dr. Akhavan.

While it does look white when you first spray it on, it ultimately dries sheer as you rub it in (a blessing).  One thing Dr. Akhavan warns against is using this product on the face, as the scented formula could potentially cause breakouts or irritation.

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

ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Ultralight Emulsion SPF 50+

Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF Level: 50+ | Formula: Cream emulsion | Finish: Silky

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 also 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. 

Best Splurge: SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50

SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50

Active Ingredients: Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide | SPF Level: 50 | Formula: Cream | Finish: Radiant

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 under eye. The formula also contains artemia salina, a plankton extract that helps to boost the skin’s natural defense against UV and heat stressors, while translucent color spheres lend a universal skin-perfecting tint. Oh, and the whipped texture layers nicely under makeup, too.

Best Drugstore: CeraVe Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 Face Lotion

CeraVe Mineral Sunscreen Lotion for Face

Active Ingredients: Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide | SPF Level: 50 | Formula: Cream

Dr. Akhavan is a fan of this 100% 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. What’s more, it also contains ceramides to help restore and repair the skin’s natural barrier and hyaluronic acid to help it retain moisture. It’s no wonder this affordable drugstore gem has been awarded both the Skin Cancer Foundation Daily Use Seal of Approval and has been accepted by the National Eczema Foundation.

Best Budget: Pacifica Sun and Skincare Mineral Face Shade Coconut Probiotic SPF 30

Pacifica Sun + Skincare Mineral Face Shade Coconut Probiotic SPF 30

Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF Level: 30 | Formula: Cream

Another great steal is this facial sunscreen lotion from Pacifica. Formulated with 16% zinc oxide, it’s the perfect combination of sun care and skincare. The broad-spectrum SPF 30 formula is water-resistant up to 80 minutes, while a blend of hydrating and soothing ingredients like aloe, shea butter, and coconut oil leave the skin soft and supple. It also contains probiotics to repair stressed skin and caffeine to reduce inflammation and puffiness. It's worth noting that it smells absolutely delicious, but proceed with caution if your skin is extra sensitive.

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

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30

Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF Level: 30 | Formula: Cream

This touts an impressive 20% 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.

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

Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Broad Spectrum SPF 50

Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF Level: 50 | Formula: Cream

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. Made with 100% zinc oxide, it’s also hypoallergenic 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. 

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

Kinesys Clear Zinc Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30

Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF Level: 30 | Formula: Cream

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.

Best for Travel: Beautycounter Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Stick

Beautycounter Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Stick

Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF Level: 30 | Formula: Stick

There’s no need to stress about TSA confiscation with this solid stick. Not only is the spill-proof formula perfect 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.

Best for Lips: Salt & Stone SPF 30 Lip Balm

Salt & Stone SPF 30 Lip Balm

Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF Level: 30 | Formula: Stick

As anyone who has ever gotten a sunburn on their lips will tell you, it’s freaking painful. Protect your pout with this broad-spectrum SPF 30 stick. “The lips are an often overlooked area for sun protection and this lip balm with zinc oxide provides adequate protection in an eco-friendly product,” says Dr. Akhavan. Using non-nano zinc oxide, it applies smoothly to the lips without leaving behind any tell-tale white residue. Plus, it keeps lips soft and supple thanks to anti-inflammatory bisabolol and hydrating shea butter and sweet almond oil.

Best Natural: EleVen by Venus Williams Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35

EleVen by Venus Williams Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35

Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF Level: 35 | Formula: Serum | Finish: Demi-matte

Sunscreens have been known to sometimes contain some pretty questionable ingredients, which is why we’re loving this clean, vegan, and reef-safe formula from EleVen by Venus Williams. Part sunscreen, part nourishing serum, it contains an impressive 25% zinc oxide to provide broad-spectrum SPF 35 protection. What’s more, the lightweight formula is infused  with prickly pear stem extract to calm, firm, and hydrate, as well as safflower oleosomes that protect the skin further from environmental stressors.

Best Tinted Formula: Unsun Cosmetics Mineral Tinted Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30

Unsun Cosmetics Mineral Tinted Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30

Active Ingredients: Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide | SPF Level: 30 | Formula: Cream

There are some days you want to wear a full face of makeup…and then there are some days when you just don’t. On those days, reach for this sunscreen. Zinc oxide delivers broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection, while the formula’s subtle tint evens out the complexion and lends a flawless glow. What’s more, it’s infused with shea butter, plankton extract, green tea leaf extract, and vitamin E to hydrate and nourish the skin while providing further protection from UV rays, infrared radiation, and pollution. Plus, it doesn’t leave behind a white cast, making this one a no-brainer.

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

Colorescience Brush-On Sunscreen Mineral Powder

Active Ingredients: Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide | SPF Level: 30 | Formula: Powder

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 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 skin. 

Best for Sunscreen Haters: Coola Full Spectrum 360° Mineral Sun Silk Crème SPF 30

Coola Full Spectrum 360 Mineral Sun Silk Crème Organic Sunscreen SPF 30

Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide | SPF Level: 30 | Formula: Cream | Finish: Silky

Even 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 guard against other skin saboteurs, like pollution, blue light, and infrared heat. The icing on the cake? Youth-boosting plant stem cells and niacinamide.  

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 it’s crucial we 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 apply (and reapply) on-the-go. We also appreciate how hydrating the cocoa seed butter base is.

What to Look For in a Zinc Oxide Sunscreen

A Zinc Oxide Percentage Between Nine and 11%

As you peruse through zinc oxide sunscreens, Dr. Akhavan recommends reaching for products with a zinc oxide percentage falling between the nine and 11% 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 actually use.

FAQs

How should you apply zinc oxide sunscreen?

When it comes to applying 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 always reapply (at least) every two hours or immediately after getting wet or sweating. When it comes to reapplication over makeup, he suggests reaching for a powder formula.

What percentage of zinc oxide should be in sunscreen?

Dr. Akhavan recommends opting for sunscreens that contain between nine and 11% 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. “As with all skincare products worn throughout the day, I recommend very effectively cleansing them off the face before bedtime.” 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.

Meet the Expert

Dr. Arash Akhavan is a board-certified dermatologist practicing in New York City.

According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough zinc oxide sunscreens from Black-owned and/or Black-founded businesses to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at contact@byrdie.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.

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