Makeup & Beauty

The Difference Between Mineral and Chemical Sunscreen

Other experts fall somewhere in the middle, recommending some chemical filters but not others. “In my personal opinion, I recommend avoiding oxybenzone, not only due to absorption concerns, but also due to its high rates of allergic reactions,” Dr. Shah shares. “Otherwise, I continue to recommend the other approved chemical sunscreens like avobenzone and octocrylene.”

Then there are the experts who prioritize using sunscreen rather than distinguishing between types. Robinson agrees that finding a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher for use every day is the priority. He adds, “I asked several dermatologists on Clubhouse what type of sunscreen they recommend to their patients. They were unanimous that they want their patients to wear a minimum of SPF 30, either chemical or mineral.”

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So, chemical vs. mineral sunscreen: which should I buy?

At present, no sunscreen seems to be perfect, and the best we can do is stay on top of the research and be aware of our options. Keep in mind that part of the scientific process is to duplicate results in order to assess validity, which is why this phase of ongoing peer-reviewed research is crucial. Although some critics have attacked the research methods employed in some of the growing body of studies, the experts we consulted agree that science must be respected, with a “the more the merrier” attitude when it comes to research.

While we wait for the final verdict, it is possible that the FDA will deem chemical filters to be GRASE. The very fact that experts disagree proves that no singular opinion can make the final call just yet. But in the meantime, matters of personal safety come down to what we, as informed consumers, are comfortable with — something that naturally varies between us and that we each are entitled to.

The bottom line is that sun protection is an everyday necessity, and how you achieve it remains your call. “As long as the sunscreen offers SPF 30 or higher, broad-spectrum protection, and is water-resistant, it can be effective against UV damage,” Cayce says.

That being said, we’ve handpicked 16 mineral, chemical, and hybrid sunscreens to get your search for your new favorite started.

The best mineral sunscreens

Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Sunscreen

Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Sunscreen is formulated with 14 percent zinc oxide, but it has more than just sun protection to offer. It also contains squalane, a hydrating ingredient derived from natural sugarcane; as well as cooling water lily. Together, the formula will protect you from the sun, help prevent the dryness that comes from a day at the beach, and help soothe skin.

Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Sunscreen

Babyganic SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion

Aside from the convenience of using the same products as your kids, there’s a reason any adult should use child-friendly skin care: it’s built to be as gentle as possible. Dr. Mehr recommends Babyganics SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion, which contains six percent zinc oxide and three percent titanium dioxide. 

Babyganics SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion

Trader Joe’s Zinc Oxide Mineral Sunscreen Spray

If you’re a lazy latherer (no shame in that!) Trader Joe’s Zinc Oxide Mineral Sunscreen Spray is a quick way to douse yourself in SPF 30. With a zinc oxide percentage of fifteen, you’ll be more than safe from the sun here — as long as you carefully apply the spray, making sure not to miss any body parts, and rub it in to prevent uneven application.

Trader Joe’s Zinc Oxide Mineral Sunscreen Spray

Emerage Cosmetics Fusion Shield

Emerage Cosmetics Fusion Shield is a tinted mineral sunscreen formulated with 11 percent zinc oxide, but applies with a deceptively smooth glide to the skin to provide coverage that leaves you feeling bare-faced. The cruelty-free, paraben-free, and fragrance-free formula incorporates THD ascorbate, a stable form of vitamin C, as well as ingredients to soothe skin and promote collagen production.

Colorscience Total Protection Face Shield Flex

Colorescience offers four flexible shades of tinted coverage that use encapsulated iron oxide pigments that release and adapt to your skin tone for inclusive coverage. They do so while protecting the complexion from UVA and UVB rays, pollution, blue light, and infrared radiation. Total Protection Face Shield Flex is free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, oils, dyes, and fragrance while delivering additional antioxidants and water resistance for up to 40 minutes.

Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield Flex SPF 50

Unsun Mineral Tinted Face Sunscreen

The zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, and bevy of antioxidant-rich extracts in Unsun Mineral Tinted Face Sunscreen yield tinted protection that is suitable for fair, light, medium, and deep skin tones. Frustrated by the tone discrepancies in the “clean” sunscreen market, the brand’s founder launched with the specific intention of creating inclusive mineral coverage for all complexions.

MD Solar Sciences Mineral Creme

What stands out about the paraben-, phthalate-free, MD Solar Sciences Mineral Creme is how lightweight it is, leaving behind a matte finish. The dermatologist-developed, vegan sunscreen is non-comedogenic and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. Plus, it’s infused with antioxidants to enhance protection via vitamin C, green tea, cranberry fruit, and pomegranate extract.

Odacité Sun Guardian Day Creme

Odacité uses green tea, aloe, and calendula extract in its Sun Guardian Day Creme to soothe the skin, along with 22 percent zinc oxide and 2.3 percent titanium dioxide for broad-spectrum UV protection. The environmentally conscious brand uses non-nano zinc oxide in order to ensure that no potentially harmful particles seep into the waterways.

The best hybrid sunscreens

Sunday Riley Light Hearted Broad Spectrum SPF 30

Combining a blend of mineral (zinc oxide) and chemical (octisalate, oxycrylene) UV filters, Sunday Riley Light Hearted Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen infuses anti-inflammatory turmeric extract and blue-light protection via plant-based lutein into the formula.

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 is dermatologist-beloved, combining nine percent zinc oxide and 7.5 percent octinoxate for an elevated SPF with a lightweight consistency. The EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 is also a great pick for acne-prone skin. Dr. Ciraldo also recommends the tinted formula — EltaMD Daily Tinted Broad Spectrum SPF 40  — to help mask any facial dark spots.

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

The best chemical sunscreens

SkinCeuticals Daily Brightening UV Defense Sunscreen

If hyperpigmentation is a concern of yours, you will love SkinCeuticals Daily Brightening UV Defense Sunscreen. It combines UV protection with one percent tranexamic acid and two percent niacinamide to help inhibit the melanogenesis effect of UV rays on the skin. It also contains glycerin for an additional boost of hydration. 

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer UV

While providing chemical SPF protection via avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, and octocrylene, La Roche-Posay’s Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer UV incorporates skin-barrier-supportive ingredients like niacinamide, ceramides, and prebiotic thermal water, making it more tolerable for sensitive skin.

Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen

This 2019 Allure Best of Beauty Award winner comes in a gel formula that works like a primer. Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen’s chemical filters include avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, and octocrylene, alongside antioxidant vitamin C and blue-light-protective red algae.

Black Girl Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30

The vegan, cruelty-free Black Girl Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30 contains no synthetic fragrances, parabens, or oxybenzone. The chemical active of choice is homosalate, which is surrounded by moisturizing avocado, jojoba, and sunflower oils as well as carrot juice and cacao.

Jan Marini Antioxidant Daily Face Protectant

This water-resistant chemical sunscreen is ideal for oily or breakout-prone skin. Jan Marini Antioxidant Daily Face Protectant’s combination of avobenzone, octinoxate, octyl salicylate, and oxybenzone goes on top of your moisturizer seamlessly. The line’s mineral sunscreen, Physical Protectant Broad Spectrum SPF 45, provides a tinted alternative.

Jan Marini Antioxidant Daily Face Protectant SPF 33

Sonrei Sea Clearly Gel

In addition to being a clear gel formula that works for all skin tones (including a translucent mineral gel, as well), Sonrei Sea Clearly Gel works vitamin C, ferulic acid, and vitamin E into the formula for added skin benefits. If you’d prefer a mineral blocker, they also created a mineral gel line, Clearly Zinq.

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