There’s perhaps no skincare product more important than the one you can buy at any drugstore: sunscreen. But for all the types of sunscreen available on the market, there are really just two categories you need to know—chemical and mineral formulas.
Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreens
Chemical sunscreens utilize a large variety of chemicals, like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, and octocrylene, to offer sun protection. Mineral formulas, also known as physical sunscreens, use either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as their active ingredients.
Chemical sunscreens work by entering the skin and absorbing both UVA rays (which contribute to wrinkles and other signs of aging) and UVB rays (which cause sunburns and are thought to cause most skin cancers). Mineral formulas sit on top of the skin and act as a physical barrier from UVA and UVB rays, which can also make them less irritating for those with sensitive skin.
Chemical sunscreens have grown in popularity for offering lightweight, comfortable textures compared to their physical counterparts, but they’ve also raised concerns for their impact on health and the environment. Some consumers have grown concerned about the lack of understanding of how these active chemicals are absorbed into the skin, leading more to turn to mineral-based alternatives.
One major downside to mineral sunscreens: Since they form a layer on top of the skin, they leave behind a more noticeable white cast than chemical formulas. The active ingredients in mineral sunscreens (essentially fine white powders) will always leave some degree of white cast, which can make them more difficult for those with darker skin tones to wear. However, brands have begun to offer formulations with more refined particles that are easier to blend in. Some also offset the white cast by adding a slight tint to their formulations.
If you’re looking for a mineral formula, read on for our picks for the best mineral sunscreens to try this season.
Salt & Stone SPF 50 Natural Mineral Sunscreen Lotion
Formulated to be water- and sweat-resistant, Salt & Stone’s sunscreen features zinc oxide for sun protection and nourishing ingredients like Vitamin E and rosehip oil, which makes it suitable for drier skin types. The brand also sells an SPF 30 version, if you want something a little more lightweight.
[$24; saltandstone.com]Get it
Supergoop Mineral Sheerscreen SPF 30
Many skincare brands sell just one or two sunscreen options, but Supergood has created an entire product lineup for sun protection, including everything from sprays to powders. The company offers many mineral-based formulas, but its Mineral Sheerscreen is a standout. It’s easy to blend into your skin, and it also offers protection from blue light emitted by your phone or computer, which can cause premature aging.
[$38; supergoop.com]Get it
Oars + Alps 100% Mineral Anti-Aging Face Moisturizer With SPF 30
Oars + Alps aims to create natural, highly effective skincare products for those with an adventurous lifestyle. The brand’s mineral-based, moisturizing sunscreen is sweat- and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes—ideal for spending a day outside.
[$22; oarsandalps.com]Get it
Manda Organic Sun Paste
While this thick paste doesn’t blend into the skin (making it a poor choice for daily wear), it excels in intense outdoor activities where most other sunscreens rub off quickly (like surfing, swimming, and hiking). It’s made from all-natural, organic ingredients and features a hefty 20-percent dose of zinc oxide for excellent sun protection. Plus, it includes thanaka—a botanical that has natural anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and antioxidant properties—to give your skin an extra boost.
[$28; amazon.com]Get it
Kiehl’s Super Fluid Daily UV Mineral Defense
For high-quality products for all skin types, Kiehl’s has you covered. The mineral version of its popular Super Fluid sunscreen offers the same lightweight feel and SPF 50 protection for acne-prone skin types, and it comes with a slight tint to help it blend in more easily.
[$40; kiehls.com]Get it
Dr. Jart Every Sun Day Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+
South Korean brand Dr. Jart’s mineral sunscreen is suitable for both oily and sensitive skin types, and it’s water-resistant, too.
[$39; us.drjart.com]Get it
Thinksport Sunscreen SPF 50+
Looking to stock up for the summer? Thinksport offers an effective mineral sunscreen at a bargain price point—and it features a water-resistant formula to boot.
[$17; amazon.com]Get it
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