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Mineral sunscreens, also called physical sunscreens, are becoming more and more popular these days. While the old chemical sunscreens are still the best sellers, mineral sunscreens are often better for more sensitive skin types and also better for the environment. You have a lot of choices though, and if you plan on just sunbathing on your favorite beach blanket or going for a swim, it’s good to know which brands will do the best job for you. Let’s take a look at 12 of the best mineral sunscreens on the market.
Once again topping our list for great overall sunscreens is Thinksport. It’s light, it’s non greasy, it’s sweat resistant and reef friendly. Broad spectrum spf protection of SPF 50 comes from a 20% non nano zinc oxide formula. There are no harsh chemicals in here and it applies smoothly and evenly. It’s good for normal skin types as well as oily skin and even sensitive skin and shouldn’t lead to any kind of rash or skin sensitivities.
Because it’s water resistant and sweatproof it can stand up to a lot when you’re out and about. That’s what really set this one above and beyond some of the other brands in the review here. This is meant to be worn when you are out having fun. Fishing, swimming, hiking, camping? Thinksport has you covered. Too many brands seem to fail the moment you get too physical and that’s not really helpful.
All that said, make sure you follow directions here. You have to apply tis properly and reapply at least every 80 minutes, but I suggest more often if you really are working up a sweat or swimming.
Great for active people
Good for sensitive skin
Will give you that white cast
Needs to be reapplied regularly for full effectiveness
Kids formula sunscreens are actually some of the best you can buy no matter your age. Because a lot of people can react to the chemicals in sunscreen, children’s formulas are often more sensitive. But they still provide the same sun protection so there’s no real reason not to use them. And a solid option is the Kids Mineral Sunscreen from Banana Boat.
One of the most well known names in sunscreen, Banana Boat is reasonably priced. It’s a mineral sunscreen spf 50 which is stronger than a lot of other brands. It uses zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to offer a shield against the sun’s harsh rays. Both are in fairly lower percentages which helps make the sunscreen a little smoother to apply and leaves less white residue when it dries. That said, it will still leave some white cast and if it’s been sitting around for a while, it does tend to come out thicker and harder to apply than you might like. Another big upside is that if you head into the water or you’re sweating, it won’t sting your eyes if it runs into them.
Drunk Elephant doesn’t just have an unusual name, it offers a top quality product that really outshines most of its competitors. You will definitely pay for it though as the price versus quantity definitely places this firmly in the premium tier. So what makes it so good?
Drunk Elephant has mastered the elusive “mineral sunscreen that doesn’t leave a white cast” formula that few others can lay claim to. Even on darker skin tones this tends to blend in well. And there is a tinted sunscreen version for darker skin tones as well to ensure that the white cast is not an issue. It also isn’t greasy and goes on smooth. No more feeling like you’re applying putty.
Not only does it offer SPF 30 protection, it’s actually able to help smooth out those fine lines to make you look younger as well. In that way it’s a good facial sunscreen. The company is US based and everything is manufactured here as well. Their customer service, should you need them, is pretty easy to get a hold of and friendly.
In addition to 20% zinc oxide, the formula includes antioxidants and moisturizers, things like raspberry and algae to keep your skin looking and feeling healthy and bright.
You won’t find a lot of mineral sunscreens from a trusted brand at a great price with really high SPF values but Neutrogena Sheer Zinc can check all of those boxes. Made with zinc oxide, this boats an SPF value of 50 to give you some of the best sun protection on the market. This would have probably been my pick for best budget brand if not for the fact that the quantity vs quality issue is something to deal with. This is not a full body sort of sunscreen you’d break out for the kids when you hit the beach. It’s more of a sunscreen you’d use for your face for every day protection. So while it’s great quality, you’d run out pretty quick if you were using this for a day at the beach with the whole family. That doesn’t mean you can’t use it at the beach, mind you. It just might not be practical for a family of five.
The formula has been designed to not block pores while also being non-greasy and hypoallergenic. If you know anything about Neutrogena you know they go above and beyond to make great skin care products for any skin type.
Blue Lizard makes a great sunscreen and this one almost topped our list. In fact, we did highly recommend it as a reef safe brand as well. The formulation offers SPF 50 protection and uses both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for protection against UVA and UVB rays.
One of the most unique features of Blue Lizard is the bottle itself. It changes color when exposed to UV rays to let you know when you’re being exposed to them. If the bottle turns blue, you know you need to have sunscreen on.
As mentioned, this is reef friendly so you don’t need to worry about damage to the environment with Blu Lizard. But do remember to reapply after you’ve been in the water, or after about 80 minutes of sun exposure. That will ensure you’re getting maximum protection here.
One thing to be wary of is that this stuff goes on thick. You may be a little stunned at first, actually, it looks like you’re putting white makeup on. That said, if you rub it in it will fade away some. However, if you have darker skin it’s pretty much impossible not to notice you have this sunscreen on. Fortunately, few people seem to react to it so it’s good for most sensitive skin.
Just because it has a bit of a goofy name doesn’t mean Supergoop isn’t a solid product. This is less a “day at the beach” sunscreen and more an every day one if you spend a lot of time out in the sun. It’s made with titanium dioxide and scented with chamomile to provide solid protection without being overwhelming or unpleasant.
Supergoop is meant to be used to help blur and smooth out your pores so you can apply makeup and go about your day. It’s not greasy and will prevent an oily build up on your skin as well. So if you use this as a foundation on your skin, you can apply makeup, head out, and be protected from the sun. Some of the botanical ingredients also help brighten your skin’s overall appearance.
It’s SPF 40 and also reef friendly so you don’t have to worry about harsh chemicals. However, the price point is definitely on the steeper side of things and it can take some work to get a smooth application.
Elta MD has carved out a solid niche in the sunscreen market making high quality products. It’s more of a premium brand but they do make quality products that work. Though they do have several sunscreens available, I’m recommending their face-specific sunscreen here that comes in a pump.
The pump applicator is easy and convenient to use and a little less messy than a traditional bottle or tube.
The face formula is a bit of a twist for the usual. Sometimes you don’t need a big bottle of sunscreen because you’re not running around on the beach, you’re just heading out on the boat and need your face protected.. This is great for something like that. It’s formulated to be ideal for sensitive skin types that may have had a history of acne prone skin or rosacea.
One of the best selling points for Elta MD is that they have really done their best to overcome the white cast issue. Even if you have a darker skin tone, you will probably be happy with this sunscreen.
Convenient pump applicator
Excellent formula for sensitive skin
Very few issues with annoying white cast
Not the cheapest option
Despite being designed for sensitive skin types some skin conditions may still react poorly
Most mineral sunscreens come in lotion form so finding a spray on version is a priority for some of us. If you don’t like rubbing lotion in, this is a great alternative. The reef friendly formula does not include those dangerous chemicals that put the environment at risk and could potentially be harmful to humans as well.
Zinc oxide is the active ingredient in this sunscreen.. It’s hypoallergenic and goes on non-greasy. It’s also been top rated by the Environment Working Group, an independent organization of scientists that review sunscreens for their effectiveness and environmental impact.
You’ll want to make sure you really shake the bottle up before using, and apply it at least 15 minutes before heading out. Though it’s waterproof, it’s always a good idea to reapply after swimming.
This formula only uses 12% zinc which is a bit of a double edged sword. On one hand that’s very low so you may need to reapply more often. On the other hand, that also means it’s less likely to leave a noticeable white cast on your skin if you have a darker skin tone.
Lighter formula than other brands
Convenient spray bottle
May need more frequent applications
Spray nozzle risks getting clogged if not mixed well
The Sun Stick from Aveeno is a bit of a unique approach to sun protection and I had to recommend it just for that reason. Aveeno is a trusted name in skin care so there shouldn’t be any worry that they know what they’re doing. In this case, we’re not dealing with a typical lotion or even a spray but a stick you rub on your face. It’s made with zinc as well as oats to help moisturize, and the result is a non-greasy application that goes on really smooth and even compared to most sunscreens.
Worth keeping in mind is that, for this to work, you need to “apply generously.” They’re not kidding, you need to make sure you’re getting good coverage. In a way, the novel stick idea kind of works against them because of that since you may be tempted to just apply a little. But if you follow the directions and ensure good coverage, the results are very good.
There’s no fragrance and the formula is SPF 50. It’s designed to not clog pores and the formula is non greasy. If you don’t like applying lotion or sprays, this could be worth a try just for something different. That said, be aware that texturally this stuff does feel thick going on. If textures bother you when applying sunscreens, this may not be for you.
Sun Bum has really made a name for themselves making good quality sunscreen at a reasonable price. Their Baby Bum mineral sunscreen offers a high SPF 50 and also the promise of being gentle on sensitive skin. The formula uses 20% zinc oxide, which is pretty high compared to some other brands, and ingredients like shea butter and coconut oil as well.
Sun Bum products are cruelty free, vegan-friendly, and free of dyes. There are extra moisturizers in this formula specifically for keeping kids’ skin protected, but it’s great for anyone with sensitive skin or those who want to ensure good moisturizing with their sunscreen. It’s been dermatologist tested but also pediatrician tested as well.
Keep in mind this has coconut oil, shea butter and cocoa butter in it, so there is a potential for allergic reactions in some people. Also, as is the downfall of many a mineral sunscreen, this has the potential to leave a white cast on your skin. Those with darker skin tones would do best to give it a test first and see how it looks.
There’s a lot to like about Coppertone’s Pure and Simple mineral sunscreen. To start, Coppertone has been a major player in the sunscreen game for decades. That peace of mind is a great thing to have. In addition, this is a great price as well, definitely a highlight of the value-priced tier of mineral sunscreens.
Zinc oxide is the mineral doing the work in the sunscreen here, so it’s hypoallergenic and not harsh on skin. The formula is also free of dyes and perfumes to really lean into that sensitive skin aspect. If you like a simple, bare bones, sunscreen, this is a good choice. That said, though they avoid some of the chemicals that are harsh on reefs, there are still a few ingredients you’ll probably have trouble pronouncing like Cyclopentasiloxane and Bis-octyldodecyl dimer dilinoleate/propanediol copolymer.
Like most mineral sunscreens, this can go on pretty thick so be aware of that. And if you have darker skin, there’s a good chance you’re going to get a white cast form using this.
No dyes or fragrances
May leave a white cast
Uses “pure” name but still contains a variety of chemicals
Australian Gold Botanical Sunscreen Mineral Lotion
Australian Gold is available in a remarkable range of SPF values and even colors if you want a slight tint, not to mention application types including spray on and lotion. You can SPF 30, which is honestly the lowest you should ever go, 50 which I’m suggesting here, and even 70 if you want stronger protection. The company really went all out to ensure you have options.
Their mineral formula uses both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to ensure good coverage overall. They have also fortified their formulation with a number of botanical ingredients to ensure it feels smooth going on and it moisturizes your skin as well. At the same time, it doesn’t leave a greasy feeling, which is nice. And it does go on smoother than some mineral brands you may be used to.
You don’t end up with a noticeable white cast after using it, though you may get a slight one on darker skin tones. It’s still much better than most, however. And it doesn’t seem to irritate sensitive skin at all, which can sometimes happen with some mineral brands.
A big upside to this brand is how well it blends if you’re wearing makeup. Definitely worth checking out if you’ve tried sunscreens with make up before and found issues with smudging or smearing.
Can go on pretty thick
Matching tints if you’re looking to even out your complexion/tone can be a process
Choosing the Best Mineral Sunscreen
Not all sunscreens are created equal and some will work better than others for you depending on what you plan to do and even what kind of skin you have. Mineral sunscreens typically offer broad spectrum protection, often mineral spf reaches 50 or more and will include things to help dry skin or sensitive skin like hyaluronic acid and more.
Mineral Sunscreens vs Chemical Sunscreens
Traditional sunscreens are what are known as chemical sunscreens. A chemical sunscreen filters UV light while a mineral blocks and absorbs it. These use chemical compounds in a lotion or cream that is usually easy to apply and absorbs quickly into your skin. The harmful sun rays penetrate your skin but are actually absorbed by the molecules of the active ingredient chemicals in the sunscreen and are then converted into heat. That way, you don’t absorb the UV radiation and you don’t burn. The downside is that many of these chemicals are turning out to be dangerous to the environment. We don’t know the long term potential effects on humans yet either. That doesn’t mean they are dangerous to humans, of course, but we’re just not sure yet.
For many, mineral sunscreens are considered safer. They use either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to provide a physical barrier against the sun’s rays on the skin’s surface. Harmful UV rays are unable to pass through and bounce off, sort of like hitting a mirror, and the rest are absorbed via a process called band-gap absorption.
Because the minerals are natural, these sunscreens are better for the environment and may be better for people, too. The downsides are that mineral sunscreens tend to be more expensive. Also, because you need a physical layer of the minerals on your skin to make them work, the sunscreen will be thicker and harder to apply. Finally, for that same reason, they will often leave a noticeable white layer or white cast on your skin. For some people with light skin tones this is not as noticeable. But if you have darker skin it can become very noticeable.
It’s always good to see what else is in a mineral sunscreen besides those minerals. Many brands include moisturizers or antioxidants like vitamin e which can help make the application process smoother as well as moisturizing your skin. You’ll want to check for potential allergens, though.
Amazon does a good job now of giving you the price for sunscreen plus the price per ounce. This is really helpful because it can be tricky to know what you’re paying for. You may think a sunscreen that costs $10 is clearly a better deal than the $15 sunscreen, but then it turns out the $10 one is two ounces while the $15 one is 10 ounces making it a better deal. Some mineral sunscreens are just meant for use as a face sunscreen and come in very small bottles, so be aware.
A lot of users of mineral sunscreen find themselves burned after a day in the sun. Often this is because it wasn’t applied correctly. Mineral sunscreen only works if it creates a barrier. If you don’t have enough on, it can’t work. For a lot of people, this is inconvenient or uncomfortable and, if that’s the case, maybe a chemical sunscreen is better for you. But if you want the benefits of mineral, make sure you apply as much as the manufacturer recommends and reapply when it recommends as well. Don’t let it slide for too long or you will not be protected.
The Bottom Line
Any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen and the stats on skin cancer can be frightening. It doesn’t take look long for a tan to become a burn. Mineral and chemical sunscreens both protect you. You never want to spend time in the sun without some kind of protection on. Mineral sunscreen offers better protection than chemical if it’s used correctly. Don’t forget to use sunglasses to keep your eyes protected and a good sun hat never hurt, either. As always, stay safe and have fun.
My grandfather first took me fishing when I was too young to actually hold up a rod on my own. As an avid camper, hiker, and nature enthusiast I'm always looking for a new adventure.
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