The 11 Best Mineral Sunscreens With Zinc, According to a Dermatologist

best sunscreen with zinc
Courtesy of Disco & Amazon

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When summer comes, you want to make sure you have the best sunscreen on hand for UV protection. It’s so easy to overlook just how important the right sunblock is for long-term skin health and appearance. Though you might think your complexion can handle the sun, the sun is damaging your skin even if you don’t burn. For added protection, the best mineral sunscreen can protect your face and body from UV damage.

But don’t just take our word for it: We reached out to Dr. Michele Green, a cosmetic and medical dermatologist in New York City. She told SPY all about the best mineral sunscreens, most of which contain zinc (zinc oxide). She also told us why mineral sunscreens with zinc are so important and why zinc is such a common ingredient in face sunscreens and men’s face moisturizers in particular. So before we review the best sunscreens with zinc for you below, keep reading to learn how zinc (and zinc alternative, titanium oxide) differs from chemical sunscreens. We’ll also shed light on other need-to-know terms like nano zinc and reef-safe sunscreen.

What Are the Benefits of Mineral Sunscreens with Zinc?

Zinc oxide is just an inorganic compound, typically a white powder, that doesn’t dissolve in water and offers highly desirable benefits against UV rays. In sunblocks, it “sits atop of the skin and prevents UV penetration by scattering the UV rays and reflecting them back into the environment,” Dr. Green said.

As “a broad-spectrum sunscreen,” zinc oxide fully protects against both UVA and UVB rays. (UVC rays don’t make it through the ozone layer, so they’re nothing to worry about for skin.)

Beyond its sun-protecting abilities, zinc oxide can also treat minor burns and chapped skin and has astringent and antiseptic properties, making it even better for use as a sunblock. Plus, unlike UV rays, which are known cancer-causing carcinogens, zinc oxide is not considered to be a carcinogen by the U.S. Report of Carcinogens and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, Dr. Green added.

best mineral sunscreen Image Licensed From Adobe

Why Use Mineral Sunscreen Instead of Traditional Sunscreen?

Mineral sunscreens are distinguished from other sunscreens by their use of minerals, such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide, that sit atop skin to “physically block the sun’s harmful UV rays,” Dr. Green said. In other words, a mineral sunscreen is one that blocks UV rays instead of interacting with or absorbing them. (This is why some sunscreens market themselves as sunblocks, because they physically block and reflect the rays.)

On the other hand, chemical sunscreens “catalyze a chemical reaction where the UV rays are converted into heat, which then dissipates from the skin.” If you see any of the following ingredients, you’ve got a chemical sunscreen on your hands: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate.

In terms of effectiveness, both chemical and mineral sunscreens “have proven to be effective in protecting the skin from UV rays,” Dr. Green said. But there are a couple of subtle differences to flag. Chemical sunscreens apply and dry faster and don’t leave a white cast. Though mineral sunscreens have improved the white cast, it’s still something you might end up with.

Dr. Green also noted that the American Academy of Dermatology recommends mineral sunscreens for people with sensitive skin because chemical sunscreens may cause irritation or worsen existing conditions like melasma, rosacea and acne.

At the end of the day, neither kind of sunscreen is “better,” and using one or the other is a matter of “personal preference and skin type,” Dr. Green said.

With Dr. Green’s recommendations in mind, we gathered the best mineral sunscreen for 2022 below.

  

1. Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Clear Sunscreen with Zinc

BEST OVERALL
  • Active Ingredients: Homosalate 10%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 10%, Zinc Oxide 7%
  • Water Resistance Time: 80 minutes of swimming or sweating
  • SPF: 50

The Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Clear Sunscreen with Zinc will never let you down. Free of oxybenzone and octinoxate (aka reef safe), this hydrating sunscreen uses zinc oxide to achieve broad-spectrum protection from UVA and UVA rays. Plus, though you can never fully escape the white look of zinc oxide or titanium oxide, this sunscreen goes on relatively clear. For best results, apply every two hours or after 80 minutes of swimming or sweating.

Why did we pick this as the best mineral sunscreen? With multiple types of UV protection, Sun Bum’s sunscreen lotion boasts SPF 50 protection and is travel friendly.

best sunscreen with zinc - Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Clear Sunscreen with Zinc Courtesy of Amazon

  

2. Disco Mineral Face Sunscreen

RUNNER UP
  • Active Ingredients: 20% Zinc Oxide, Tripeptides and Niacinamide
  • Water Resistance Time: N/A
  • SPF: 30

We covered the launch of this mineral face sunscreen from Disco, one of our favorite men’s skincare brands. Like all Disco products, it has a subtle eucalyptus fragrance that’s light and refreshing. This sunscreen also absorbs quickly in our experience without whitening the skin. This anti-aging sunscreen has 20% zinc oxide, tripeptides and niacinamide to protect and strengthen your skin. We love Disco’s Mineral Sunscreen so much, we even named it one of the best products of the year in The 2021 Man, SPY’s end-of-year award product awards.

Read More: Disco Men’s Skincare Products, Reviewed

disco sun block Courtesy of Disco
  

3. Blue Lizard Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

AMAZON’S CHOICE
  • Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide
  • Water Resistance Time: 80 minutes of swimming or sweating
  • SPF: 50+

Checking reviews can be really useful for identifying popular and highly rated products, and Blue Lizard’s popular SPF 50 is one of the best mineral sunscreens on Amazon. The Blue Lizard Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 is reef safe, suitable for sensitive skin and relies on both zinc oxide and titanium oxide. Plus, it’s received a 4.8/5 star rating after more than 8,500 ratings. If so many people love this water-resistant sunscreen with zinc so much, there’s every reason to think you will too. Also, in a neat product quirk, the white bottle turns blue when in contact with UV rays, a helpful indicator/reminder you need to apply sunscreen.

best sunscreen with zinc - Blue Lizard Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 Courtesy of Amazon

  

4. EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 Facial Sunscreen

CONTENDER
  • Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide and Niacinamide
  • Water Resistance Time: 80 minutes
  • SPF: 46

The EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 Facial Sunscreen relies on zinc oxide to deliver skin protection where you need it most. Suitable for sensitive skin and skin prone to acne, rosacea and hyperpigmentation, this sunscreen also uses niacinamide and hyaluronic acid for optimal hydration too. If you want all around skin protection and nourishment, and not just UV protection, then this luxe product is the best mineral sunscreen for your mug.

best sunscreen with zinc - EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 Facial Sunscreen; best sunscreens with zinc Courtesy of Amazon

  

5. Supergoop! Mineral Sheerscreen SPF 30

EXPERT PICK
  • Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 17.5%
  • Water Resistance Time: Not water-resistant, reapply every two hours if not in water
  • SPF: 30

Another great option, the Supergoop! Mineral Sheerscreen SPF 30 boasts plenty of zinc oxide and skin-healthy botanicals to protect your skin from UV rays. “Supergoop! Mineral Sheerscreen SPF 30 is a zinc oxide-based sunscreen that’s great for everyday use. It blends into the skin smoothly and can be used as a primer before applying makeup,” Dr. Green said.

Though you might not be too concerned about makeup, everyone can appreciate a sunscreen that feels good and doesn’t leave the telltale white marks.

best sunscreen with zinc - Supergoop! Mineral Sheerscreen SPF 30; best sunscreens with zinc Courtesy of Supergoop!

  

6. Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Mineral Sunscreen SPF 60

BEST FOR SENSITIVE SKIN
  • Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide
  • Water Resistance Time: 80 minutes
  • SPF: 60+

Designed for faces but suitable for any sensitive skin, the Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Mineral Sunscreen SPF 60 won’t let you down. Combining zinc oxide and titanium oxide, this gentle, water-resistant sunscreen uses Neutrogena’s PureScreen Technology to reflect the sun’s harmful rays. It also skips out on fragrances to minimize the chances of irritation.

best sunscreen with zinc - Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Mineral Sunscreen SPF 60; best sunscreens with zinc Courtesy of Amazon

    

7. Cerave Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

DRUGSTORE PICK
  • Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide
  • Water Resistance Time: Not water-resistant, reapply every two hours if not in water
  • SPF: 50

If you wash your face (and you do, right?), you’ve probably used Cerave products at least once. And, in our experience, Cerave is immensely reliable — especially for being a simple drugstore brand. Seriously, hop into any CVS or Walmart and you’ll have no trouble finding Cerave in stock. That said, the very best drugstore brand sunscreen with zinc oxide is none other than Cerave’s Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50. It’s ideal for any and all skin types and is to be used solely on the face. Each sunscreen uses a gentle formula and is 100% able to use in Hawaii since some sunscreens are banned there. The only issue? It’s not water-resistant, so if you plan on swimming, you might want to look elsewhere.

best sunscreen with zinc - Cerave Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 Courtesy of Amazon

  

8. Blue Lizard Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 50

BEST SUNSCREEN STICK
  • Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide
  • Water Resistance Time: 80 minutes
  • SPF: 50+

Spray sunscreen and liquid sunscreen are both excellent, but nothing tops the convenience of a sunscreen stick like the Blue Lizard Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 50. Identical to the Blue Lizard liquid sunscreen above, this sunscreen stick promises to protect your skin without ever exploding in your bag.

best sunscreen with zinc - Blue Lizard Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 50 Courtesy of Amazon

  

9. Sun Bum Mineral Sunscreen

FOR THE BODY
  • Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide
  • Water Resistance Time: 80 minutes
  • SPF: 50

Sun Bum can be found just about anywhere, and it’s also our top overall pick for the best mineral sunscreen. You can find this popular sunscreen at retailers like CVS, Amazon, Target, the gas station, the very last store before you get to the beach. Everywhere. It’s essentially a modern sunscreen staple. If you find yourself hooked on the brand, consider their mineral sunscreen alternative. This all-natural sunscreen sits on top of your skin to block sun the same way other mineral sunscreens do. Each bottle is filled with an SPF 50 formula that should be applied 15 minutes before heading outside.

Sun Bum Mineral Sunscreen Courtesy of Amazon

  

10. Coppertone Pure & Simple

HYPOALLERGENIC
  • Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide
  • Water Resistance Time: 80 minutes
  • SPF: 50

Coppertone is pretty old school, but there’s a solid chance you’ve yet to try their mineral sunscreen yet, have you? This SPF 50 sunscreen is gentle and dermatologist tested to ensure it’s ready for anybody going under the sun. The formula uses natural ingredients to keep it plain and simple, including tea leaf, sea kelp and lotus extracts. Coppertone was recently voted America’s most-trusted sunscreen brand, so you can be sure you’re in good hands here. If you want to use the best mineral sunscreen all over your body, then throw this Coppertone bottle into your beach bag.

Read More: Best Drugstore Sunscreens

Coppertone Pure & Simple Courtesy of Amazon

  

11. Thinksport SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen

HONORABLE MENTION
  • Active Ingredients: Non-Nano Zinc Oxide
  • Water Resistance Time: 80 minutes
  • SPF: 50

When it comes to a day in the sun, there’s a lot one can do. Sure, you can lay out by the beach or pool, go on a casual stroll or enjoy a picnic in the park with friends, but you can also choose to get yourself into more active situations like running, playing a sport or getting active on the beach. If that’s the case, Thinksport’s SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen is absolutely the way to go. This sunscreen is safe, natural and reef-friendly. Thinksport is water-resistant for up to a whopping 80-minutes total, making it a great option to use in the water but also for exerting tons of energy. Although this sunscreen is meant for kids, adults will love it too.

Thinksport SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen, best mineral sunscreen Courtesy of Amazon

More Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Mineral Sunscreens

Still have questions about the best mineral sunscreen? Dr. Green was kind enough to answer some additional questions about the benefits of sunscreen with zinc oxide and similar ingredients. Below, we’ve got everything you could ever want to know about this popular type of sunscreen.

What’s the difference between titanium oxide, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide? Is one more effective than the other?

Titanium oxide is similar to zinc oxide in that it’s a white, insoluble inorganic compound that sits on top of skin to block and reflect UV rays. Like zinc oxide, it’s also not a carcinogen when applied topically to skin. (The IARC has suggested titanium oxide may be carcinogenic when inhaled, Dr. Green noted, but there’s “no evidence” it’s unsafe topically).

In terms of effectiveness, there actually is a small difference in performance. Dr. Green explained that titanium dioxide is effective at blocking UVB and short UVA rays but zinc oxide can block “all UVA and UVB rays, including long UVA rays,” adding, “therefore, zinc oxide is more effective in protecting your skin from the sun.” But despite the small difference in performance, both zinc oxide and titanium oxide are “effective in reflecting the sun’s UV rays and protecting the skin from the damaging effects of UV.”

What’s the deal with nanoparticles and nano zinc particles? Are they dangerous or harmful when applied topically?

Nanoparticles are bits of matter between 1 and 100 nanometers, so nano zinc is just nanoparticles of zinc oxide. Whatever you might’ve read about the use of nano zinc in sunblock, take solace knowing there’s “no evidence” that zinc nanoparticles in sunscreen are “harmful or cancerous,” Dr. Green said. One study she pointed to found that only a tiny concentration of zinc was found deeper in skin after two hours of exposure and that the quantity found was no larger than the amount of zinc already in our bodies.

Is the damage from UV rays really so bad for my skin? How much does mineral sunscreen really help?

The short answer is yes. When UV rays interact with unprotected skin, they cause “changes in DNA at a cellular level, permanently damaging the skin’s surface,” Dr. Green said. Specifically, UVA rays damage the surface layer of skin, the epidermis, and even the collagen and elastin fibers in the deeper layer, the dermis, resulting in less skin elasticity and youthfulness over time. UVB rays hurt too, “causing photoaging and [precancerous cells] by damaging the DNA on the epidermis.” That contributes to additional signs of aging, such as wrinkles, decreased elasticity, broken capillaries, redness and pigmentation changes, including age spots, sun spots and liver spots, Dr. Green said. Because the damage is deep in the skin,” it may take years” for the damage to appear.

Which brings us back to sunscreen. “Daily sunscreen application is an essential part of skin care to prevent early aging, sun spots and of course, skin cancer,” Dr. Green said. For all the reasons we described above, sunscreen stops UV rays from contacting skin in the first place, avoiding that build-up of damage that ultimately results in signs of aging.

Though it’s never too late to start a sunscreen routine, if you’re already noticing signs of aging that concern you, the next step is to reach out to a dermatologist like Dr. Green to discuss options. There are many cutting-edge procedures available, including photodynamic (blue light) therapy for precancerous cells (aka actinic keratosis) and Candela AlexTriVantage Laser and Fraxel Laser for treating sun spots, all procedures that Dr. Green offers at her New York City practice.

What does “reef safe” mean and why does the label matter for sunscreens?

It may come as no surprise that chemicals can be terrible for marine life. Because people wear sunblock and go swimming, it begs the question of whether sun-blocking ingredients, which wash off in the water, are harmful to marine life. In particular, coral reefs are a critical part of the marine ecosystem and increasingly under threat from climate change and human activity.

Unfortunately, some common ingredients in chemical sunscreens have been shown in studies to damage coral reefs over time as they accumulate, including “oxybenzone, octinoxate, benzophenone-1, benzophenone-8, OD-PABA, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor 3-benzylidene camphor and octocrylene,” Dr. Green said. “The sunscreen applied on our skin may not stay on the skin when we swim or shower, allowing the sunscreen to enter the waterways. It is estimated that 14,000 tons of sunscreen is deposited into the ocean annually. For corals, these ingredients can accumulate in tissues to induce bleaching, damage DNA, and even kill them. These ingredients can also negatively affect other marine life like green algae, mussels, sea urchins, fish, and dolphins.”

So when you’re shopping, if you care an iota about the environment, go for the reef-safe sunscreens, such as the best sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium oxide.

Are there any sunscreen best practices I should keep in mind?

Dr. Green recommended applying sunscreen every 90 minutes or after swimming, excessive sweating and towel drying. “Without reapplication, the sunblock loses its protectiveness. The best way to avoid sun damage is to avoid prolonged sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun is strongest, as well as wear UV protective clothing.”

Now that we know pretty much everything there is to know about the safety and efficacy of mineral and chemical sunscreens, it’s finally time to dive in and find out once and for all: what is the best sunscreen with zinc oxide? Check out our favorites below, selected from our own experiences as well as Dr. Green’s advice, and start protecting your skin today. The sooner you start, the longer you can count on healthy, youthful skin.

    

Updates: This article was last updated on June 21, 2022. During this round of updates, we cut Zinka Colored Sunblock, a funky-colored sunscreen that was taking up spot #8. We then added Cerave Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 in the #7 position and switched Blue Lizard Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 to spot #3 from spot #6. For this update, we also added additional mineral sunscreen for the body, and we added additional products from Sun Bum, Coppertone and Thinksport in the #9, #10 and #11 positions, respectively. Finally, we added additional information regarding the benefits of zinc oxide and mineral sunscreens after speaking with one of our go-to dermatologists.

  

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