Chemical-free, mineral sunscreens are great for sensitive and acne-prone skin. I tested 30 mineral sunscreens, and here are my top picks.
If, like me, you've recently become more aware of the ingredients in your skin care products, you might be turning to all-natural options. A popular switch right now is mineral sunscreen instead of chemical.
Mineral sunscreens, also known as physical sunscreen, are free of chemicals that may be harmful to your skin, especially if your skin is sensitive or irritable. While zinc oxide has been found by the US Food and Drug Administration to be safe and effective, recent studies have raised concerns about ingredients found in chemical sunscreen: oxybenzone, homosalate and octocrylene. These studies, however, take into account large amounts of these ingredients, while chemical sunscreen uses only small amounts. Regardless, if you don't want chemicals in your sunscreen, all-natural, mineral sunscreen (with the ideal SPF) is the way to go.
Mineral sunscreen reflects UV rays rather than absorbing them (which chemical sunscreen does). Mineral sunscreen uses zinc oxide to create a physical barrier on the skin. For this reason, experts find that mineral sunscreens may be more effective in protecting your skin from sun damage.
Here are my picks for the best mineral sunscreens out there right now.
I tested about 30 products, from 25 different popular brands. The 15 best mineral sunscreen products on this list are the best of the best. I took into account each sunscreen's SPF levels, added ingredients, amount of zinc oxide, consistency, feel, price and accessibility (whether it could be easily found at your local drug store or online). I applied each product to my naturally sensitive, acne-prone skin and tested how each sunscreen felt under the sun. I left the brands that irritated my skin off this list.
When it comes to mineral sunscreens, the active ingredient -- zinc oxide -- is sometimes hard to completely rub in, and it often leaves a white cast behind. Unrivaled Sun Serum is the complete opposite. The serum is easy to blend and feels hydrating on the skin. It contains orange and coconut fruit extracts that are packed with amino acids and antioxidants. The formula is also vegan, cruelty free and water resistant for up to 40 minutes.
EleVen by Venus Williams says it produces clean suncare products, meaning they never contain petrochemicals; SLS or SLES (sulfates that can irritate eyes, skin and lungs); parabens; synthetic fragrance or color; silicones; or polyethylene glycol, which is harmful to the environment. Its sunscreen products are offered on Credo, a website for only all-clean brands.
In some ways, Aveeno's Positively Mineral Sunscreen is reminiscent of its Protect and Hydrate chemical sunscreen. Both products have a light scent, similar to a typical sunscreen you'd apply at the beach. And though the mineral sunscreen is naturally a bit heavier than the chemical one, Positively Mineral Sunscreen is still lightweight and rubs into the skin nicely. It leaves a soft, matte finish with minimal white cast.
Aveeno says the formula is sweat and water resistant for up to 80 minutes, and the mineral sunscreen is meant to be gentle on the skin like Aveeno's other lotions and creams. It's oil free, noncomedogenic, fast absorbing, hypoallergenic, fragrance free, paraben free, phthalate free, and dye free.
Indie Lee is another clean brand. It's offered on Credo Beauty, and all Indie Lee products are Proposition 65 and European Union compliant -- the company says you'll never find any of the EU's 1,300-plus banned cosmetic ingredients in its skin care products.
Indie Lee's Mineral Sunscreen is on the thicker side, but it's creamy and it's easy to rub into the skin. When I compared this sunscreen with another top product (which didn't make this list), I was able to completely rub in Indie Lee's sunscreen faster than the other sunscreen. This mineral sunscreen is water resistant for up to 40 minutes and contains sunflower seed oil, cluster pine bark extract, pomegranate seed oil and aloe vera leaf juice to hydrate the skin. It can be used on the face and body.
Coola is the only brand on this list whose products are Hawaii Reef Compliant (Act 104). This means that even its chemical sunscreens are free of toxic ingredients that harm coral or other marine life.
As for its mineral sunscreen, the sunscreen stick applies to faces smoothly and travels well. I do have to rub in the sunscreen a bit, but it takes little effort. The formula is water resistant for up to 80 minutes.
Coola's Mineral Sunscreen Stick is also antioxidant enriched, fragrance free, cruelty free, vegan, and dermatologist tested. It also contains sunflower, raspberry and meadowfoam seed oils, which are meant to keep your skin moisturized and soft.
Out of all the mineral sunscreens I tested, Urban Skin Rx's SheerGlow felt the most moisturizing on my skin. It's extremely lightweight and blends in fast. I love that I can practically see the sunscreen absorb into my skin. It leaves no residue or white cast behind.
Urban Skin Rx says its sheer formula works on many different skin tones and that it hydrates dry skin, protects skin tone and brightens dull complexion. The sunscreen is cruelty free, paraben free, fragrance free, sulfate free and developed by aestheticians.
I wasn't expecting Grown Alchemist's Natural Hydrating sunscreen to have a glowing finish. The feel and look is what really sold me on this mineral sunscreen. Though it comes in a small, 1.69 fluid ounce pouch, a little goes a long way. It's lightweight and blends into the skin with five little swipes, leaving behind no white cast. The best part: Under direct sunlight the sunscreen glows and sparkles. It looks great on the face and on the body.
Grown Alchemist is certified toxic free, vegan, reef friendly, cruelty free and gluten free. All ingredients are 100% natural. The formula is also designed to hydrate the skin with ingredients like castor oil, rosehip oil, coconut oil and parsley seed oil.
Badger Active Mineral Sunscreen is the thickest sunscreen on this list, and for that reason it's the best mineral sunscreen for sports I tried. The uncoated zinc oxide creates a solid barrier between your skin and the sun. It's water resistant for 40 minutes. The sunscreen is unscented, hypoallergenic, cruelty free and reef friendly, and the package is made from recycled materials. The sunscreen also contains organic sunflower seed oil, beeswax, vitamin E and sea buckthorn fruit extract to help keep the skin moisturized.
While the formula is thick, it does rub into the skin pretty well. It didn't leave a white cast. However, because it's heavy, I wouldn't recommend it to those with oily or acne-prone skin.
This primer with SPF from Beekman 1802 is very similar to EleVen by Venus Williams' Unrivaled Sun Serum. The consistency is liquidy, and the sunscreen blends into the skin with ease. However, the Beekman 1802 Milk Primer is meant more as a base for makeup -- with added SPF for broad protection. I love that this SPF primer feels weightless and seeps into the skin for added hydration. It smells a little unpleasant, but that goes away once it's applied. And if you're looking for a tinted primer, check out Beekman 1802's Tinted Milk Primer with SPF.
This product is free of fragrances, sulfates, parabens, mineral oil, alcohol, phthalates, synthetic colorants, formaldehyde and talc. It's safe for sensitive skin and is noncomedogenic. Though it contains goat milk prebiotics, it's cruelty free.
ISDIN Photo Eryfotona Actinica is designed for skin with actinic damage -- skin that's already been hurt or changed by the sun, displaying things like wrinkles, hyperpigmentation and reduced elasticity. It contains antioxidants and is water resistant for up to 40 minutes.
The formula is liquid and blends into the skin in seconds. It's lightweight and can be used on any skin type -- especially mature skin that's already seen a lot of sun exposure.
When it comes to putting on sunscreen, sometimes a sunscreen stick (or sunstick) is the best way to go. It's portable and makes for easy application. Not only did I find Earth Mama's Lady Face Mineral Sunscreen to be the best mineral sunstick, but it's also the best tinted face stick. It comes in a light/medium tint or a medium/dark tint. I found the sunstick to be weightless on my skin, and blendable.
The sunstick is reef friendly, water resistant for up to 40 minutes, and free of parabens and artificial fragrance. The formula has been dermatologist tested and clinically tested for irritation. It also contains organic ingredients such as coconut oil, sunflower seed oil, cocoa seed butter, aloe vera leaf juice and calendula flower extract.
Everyday Humans says it's committed to "products inclusive to all humans," with sunscreens that leave zero white cast and are formulated for a large range of skin tones and concerns. A Rose From Above comes in light-medium, medium and medium-tan tints. I can confirm only that it didn't leave a white cast on my light skin tone. It felt like a primer on my skin and includes ingredients such as yucca root extract and bisabolol to help calm inflammation.
Everyday Humans' products are cruelty free, vegan, oxybenzone and PABA free, fragrance free and Climate Neutral Certified. The packaging is also recyclable -- all you have to do is unscrew the cap, cut the tube to remove any product, and rinse.
Mineral sunscreens are known for often leaving a white cast behind. If you're worried about that, I recommend a tinted mineral sunscreen to guarantee invisible coverage regardless of skin tone. My favorite tinted mineral sunscreen comes from another clean brand, Iris and Romeo. It's lightweight, and despite my worries that it was too dark for my skin tone, it blended in nicely without leaving my skin orange.
Weekend Skin is cruelty free, vegan, reef safe, fragrance free, hydrating and contains apple and jojoba extract. Apply this sunscreen as the last step in your skin care routine or as a makeup primer. Rub it into your face, neck, chest and the back of your hands.
If you're looking for makeup products that already include SPF, this mineral sunscreen is for you. I was pleasantly surprised at how well Suntegrity's 5-in-1 Tinted Sunscreen blended out my pores and imperfections. It's essentially a BB cream that also acts as a sunscreen, moisturizer, primer and foundation. I love that I can use this as a primary product in my skin care and makeup routine. It's lightweight and easy to blend.
Suntegrity is vegan, cruelty free, paraben free, phthalate free, propylene glycol free, PABA free and made without mineral oils, synthetic dyes, sulfates or nano-particles. The sunscreen formula includes aloe vera leaf juice, jojoba seed oil, cucumber extract, red algae extract, green tea extract and pomegranate seed oil.
If you're tired of lotions and thick SPF, there's another option. Powder sunscreen is on the rise, with Supergoop also adding a powder option to its line of suncare products. I tested Supergoop's (Glow)setting Powder as well, but I found Brush on Block to be the superior option. The powder isn't too sparkly (unlike Supergoop), and it's similar to powder foundation.
Brush on Block's Mineral Powder is translucent, reef friendly, cruelty free, vegan and water resistant for 80 minutes. I like that it can easily be reapplied, and applied over makeup or a moisturizer.
I have sensitive, acne-prone skin, and I've used and trusted Murad for years. The brand is dermatologist-developed and offers products that are friendly for acne-prone, sensitive and oily skin.
I love Murad's Correct and Protect Serum, because it feels like you're adding an extra layer of moisture onto your skin. It melts into my skin without leaving a white cast. The serum is water resistant for up to 40 minutes, and the formula helps correct uneven skin tone or redness while also brightening. It's cruelty free, non comedogenic and contains beet root extract, jojoba seed oil and tomato extract for added hydration.
Mineral sunscreens may not be the best for all skin types, but if you're well informed on what aspects of sunscreen may irritate your skin, you can make the best choice.
Dry skin: Use mineral sunscreens that contain natural, moisturizing ingredients including aloe leaf juice, pomegranate seed oil, sunflower oil, jojoba oil or various fruit extracts. Sunscreen can be added on top of moisturizer or on its own, depending on how dry your skin is.
Oily skin: Make sure to use mineral sunscreens that are oil free. Powder sunscreen might be the best, depending on how oily your skin is. If you choose a liquid or creamy mineral sunscreen, look for products that say noncomedogenic on the bottle, meaning it won't clog pores.
Acne-prone skin: As with oily skin, pick sunscreens that are noncomedogenic, oil free, fragrance free, paraben free and irritation free. Thick mineral sunscreen often sits on the skin and clogs pores, so choose a lightweight or liquidy sunscreen.
Sensitive skin: I also have sensitive skin. I look for sunscreens that have minimal ingredients and are, first and foremost, free of fragrance. It also helps if the sunscreen is dermatologist tested, oil free, paraben free, irritation free and noncomedogenic.
Yes, dermatologists recommend both mineral and chemical sunscreen. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, SPF of at least 30 is recommended. Also, mineral sunscreens are recommended because they're free of any harmful chemicals, like oxybenzone or octinoxate.
Both mineral sunscreens and chemical sunscreens protect against harmful rays, however some experts find that mineral sunscreen is more effective because of the physical barrier it creates on the skin. Mineral sunscreens may not be for everyone. Some may prefer chemical sunscreens, because they're often easier to rub into the skin.
The disadvantages of mineral sunscreen include often leaving a white cast, coming in thick creams, and being hard to rub completely into the skin. The thicker creams may not be best for acne-prone skin.