#Skin Care

The Best Mineral Sunscreens for Your Face (and We Tested Them All)

by Jess Preciado

The Best Mineral Sunscreens for Your Face (and We Tested Them All)

Image Credits: Drunk Elephant

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SPF is non-negotiable, and we’re here to help you find the best mineral sunscreen for your face.


At this point, we all know (or should know) that sunscreen is the number one non-negotiable when it comes to skincare, and experts agree. Board-certified dermatologist and Director of Mohs Micrographic and Dermatologic Surgery at Rhode Island’s Brown Dermatology Dr. Tiffany Libby says sunscreen is a must, “rain or shine, winter or summer.” She tells More, “a lot of people don’t know that UVA penetrates glass windows, so even while inside you are getting some level of exposure.” If you’re like me and you tend to forget to apply SPF, you probably now have little friends on your face like hyper-pigmentation and crow’s feet to remind you of your mistakes.


RELATED: The 10 Best Korean Sunscreens for Soaking Up the Sun Without Skin Damage


According to Dr. Robyn Gmyrek, a board-certified dermatologist at Park View Laser Dermatology in NYC, “UV exposure is the reason behind 80 percent of your skin’s aging in the first place.”


“UV light causes DNA mutations,” she adds, essentially accelerating photo-aging. Cosmetic Dermatologist Dr. Michele Green agrees, saying too much sun exposure is the “number-one cause of brown spots, wrinkles, and skin cancer.” So there you have it, SPF is non-negotiable, and it’s quite hard to dispute experts on this. However, there has been some dispute over what kind of sunscreens are safeest — and lately, the topic has a lot of people talking. 


Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreen


Surprisingly, all sunscreen is not created equal. The active ingredients found in sunscreen fall into one of two categories  — chemical or mineral — and sometimes a combination of the two. According to Dr. Gmyrek, “Mineral based sunscreens include the active ingredients titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide. They are not absorbed by the skin and work by reflecting the ultraviolet light away from the skin.” She goes on, “Chemical sunscreens utilize active ingredients such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate, which are absorbed by the skin and work by absorbing the ultraviolet rays.”


Dr. Green explains that with chemical sunscreens, “chemicals convert the UV rays into heat, which the body then releases.” She adds that mineral sunscreens act more as a “physical” blocker. Interesting, right? Despite both protecting your precious skin from harmful rays, recent studies published by the FDA have a lot of people retiring their chemical SPFs. Upon investigating the topic further, the FDA found that the ingredients in chemical sunscreens get absorbed into the body after just one single use (crazy!). Experts simply don’t know the biological effects these chemicals could have on our bodies, which is enough to have people searching for another option, and luckily we have one.


The Benefits of Mineral SPF


Charlotte Pienaar, founder of Everyday Humans, says you might already be reaching for a mineral option “if you’re someone who cares about clean ingredients, the health of the environment, and minimal skin absorption.” Organizations like the Environmental Working Group have highlighted research that suggests mineral sunscreens tend to be safer for us than their chemical counterparts because their active ingredients are hardly absorbed into the body. In addition to the personal considerations, the chemicals in chemical SPFs have been found in water sources around the world and in lab settings, making them a contributing factor to coral reef bleaching, according to Dr. Gmyrek.


And if being cautious and environmentally friendly isn’t enough, mineral SPFs may also be better for people with rosacea or hyper-pigmentation. Skin conditions like these are “sensitive to heat and may be exacerbated by chemical sunscreens because they work to convert the sun’s rays and release them as heat,” Dr. Libby explains.


For me, zinc has always been synonymous with lifeguards from the 80s with perpetually white noses. Fortunately, since mineral SPFs are having more than just a moment, brands are perfecting their mineral formulations to absorb into skin better. Pienaar says, “you want an elegant experience when you’re using sunscreen every day” — and she’s totally right. In her brand Everyday Human's case, the sunscreen has a balanced mixture of titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and other emulsives (water-based moisturizing ingredients) that makes the mineral formula so pliable.


Another issue people can run into with mineral sunscreen formulas is the fact that “zinc and titanium dioxide tend to be bigger particles,” Dr. Libby says, “which is what causes the white cast.” This is why skincare companies like Glytone, for instance, have found ways to make these particles nearly nano-sized to ensure no white cast, according to Dr. Libby. Plenty of formulas are also crafted in ways that make non-nano zinc feel weightless and invisible.


Being equal parts skeptic and beauty junkie, I just had to see mineral sunscreen in action to believe the hype. I’m also Latina with olive-toned skin, so you can’t hide a white cast from me. I tested as many purely mineral SPFs as I could so I could find the very best formulas for your face.


Look no further: These are 10 of the very best mineral face sunscreens that are white-cast free and, with a range of matte to dewy finishes, feel elegant enough for every day wear.  


  • Maelove Sun Protector SPF30, $19.95; maelove.com
  • Coola Full Spectrum 360° Mineral Sun Silk Moisturizer SPF30, $42; ulta.com
  • Farmacy Green Defense Daily Mineral Sunscreen SPF30, $26; sephora.com
  • Drunk Elephant
  • Dermalogica Invisible Physical Defense Sunscreen SPF30, $54; sephora.com
  • Glytone Hydra Lipid UV Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF40+, $36; lovelyskin.com
  • Everyday Humans Rosé S’Il Vous Plait SPF30 Gentle Mineral Sunscreen, $25; ulta.com
  • iS Clinical Eclipse SPF50+, $45; amazon.com
  • Nuori Mineral Defense Sunscreen SPF30, $59; verishop.com
  • Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral SPF30 PA+++, $30; sephora.com

1 of 10 Image Credits: Maelove

Maelove Sun Protector SPF30


My initial reaction to this product coming out of the tube and onto my skin was "wow, just wow." The folks over at Maelove really know what they’re doing, and this is totally not what you think of when you hear the word "zinc" —and this is even a non-nano version! The formula is thin and feels like silk on your skin, leaving a matte (but not too matte) finish on your face. The zinc is coupled with vitamins C and E for extra protection against those evil free radicals.

Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide

2 of 10 Image Credits: LovelySkin

Glytone Hydra Lipid UV Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF40+


Glytone’s mineral formula is a new launch for the brand. As Dr. Libby puts it, it's a brand known for its expertise in addressing brightness and exfoliation, but it’s important to “remember that sun protection with SPF is not only preventative but also the number-one treatment.” The brand uses a patented technology that coats zinc and titanium particles to help fight free radicals and defend the skin from oxidative stress. Plant-derived squalene and hyaluronic acid make the formula feel super hydrating and give it a nice layering texture.

Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide

3 of 10 Image Credits: Ulta

Everyday Humans Rose S’iI Vous Plait Gentle Mineral Sunscreen SPF30


Rose S’iI Vous Plait is elegance in the form of sunscreen. The formula is weightless, airy, and soothing, and is clinically tested to ensure it’s safe for even the most sensitive skin. Rose extract, aloe water, and vitamin E work together with zinc and titanium dioxide to make the formula super emulsive, leaving zero white cast.

Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide

4 of 10 Image Credits: Sephora

Farmacy Green Defense Daily Mineral Sunscreen SPF30


Dare I say that this has become one of my favorite everyday formulas? Farmacy's mineral sunscreen absorbs almost instantly, leaving zero white cast or residue, and gives more of a hydrating, glowy finish. The formula includes black chokeberry to protect against various free radicals (source) and marigold extract, which has anti-pollutant and anti-inflammatory properties (source). The formula is great for all skin types and is certified clean at Sephora. FYI, this one isn’t water resistant so it's not as ideal if you’re planning to go for a swim.

Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide & Zinc Oxide

5 of 10 Image Credits: Amazon

iS Clinical Eclipse SPF 50+


For a waterproof SPF 50+, this product defies so many odds. At first glance, this formula looks like normal sunscreen with a richer texture, but that’s where you’re fooled. It goes on completely sheer, leaving skin with a nice matte finish, and doesn’t feel like normal sunscreen. Titanium dioxide and micronized zinc oxide are coupled with the anti-aging benefits of pure vitamin E to provide physical UVA/UVB protection and fight off free radicals. Because it’s waterproof and has a higher SPF, this is what I've been reaching for before long hikes. The formula also comes in a tinted version.

Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide

6 of 10 Image Credits: Sephora

Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 30


Surprisingly, I’ve only recently jumped onto the Drunk Elephant bandwagon, and I'm sad it’s taken this long. I have yet to meet a product from the brand that is less than amazing, and its award-winning mineral SPF is no exception. This is another formula that’s impressively light and sheer for a purely zinc SPF (times are changing). It sits on the more hydrating, less matte side of the table and leaves a natural glow. Algae and sunflower sprout extracts bolster this formula with antioxidant power to shield against free radicals.

Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide

7 of 10 Image Credits: Verishop

Nuori Mineral Defense Sunscreen SPF30


I recently learned about Nuori, a 100 percent natural skincare brand out of Denmark. The company is incredibly dedicated to quality ingredients and freshness, making its products in small batches every 12 weeks. On the more matte side of the spectrum, Nuori's Mineral Defense gives skin a smooth and silky finish. It’s formulated with very transparent non-nano zinc, French maritime pine extract, vitamin E, and sunflower seed oil. These ingredients fight free radicals, inhibit oxidative stress, decrease inflammation, and reduce hyper-pigmentation.

Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide

8 of 10 Image Credits: Sephora

Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral SPF 30 PA+++


If you’re looking for another fully clean formula, one whose non-active ingredients are just as clean as the SPF actives, Biossance is for you. Another non-nano zinc formula that is not your grandmother’s Zinc, this formula isn’t too thick or too thin and feels more like a hydrating lotion than a sunscreen. Sugarcane-derived squalane locks in moisture, and water lily helps cool and calm skin. This formula is particularly good option if you have super sensitive skin.

Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide

9 of 10 Image Credits: Sephora

Dermalogica Invisible Physical Defense Sunscreen SPF 30


I grew up using Dermalogica’s Solar Defense booster, so I can’t tell you how happy I was when the brand launched a mineral SPF. I really find the brand to be masters of texture, and this SPF is a testament to that. It goes on like a smooth lotion/milk and blends easily on a wide range of skin tones. Non-nano zinc is coupled with green tea for antioxidant power, and a bioactive mushroom complex that soothes UV-induced redness and dryness. Dermalogica has done it again!

Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide

10 of 10 Image Credits: Ulta

Coola Full Spectrum 360-Degree Mineral Sun Silk Moisturizer SPF 30


Coola's Full Spectrum 360 Mineral Sun Silk feels as luxe as it sounds. The formula features a proprietary blend of antioxidants and plant-derived ingredients that work to protect against blue light, infrared, and pollution. This formula is so not sunscreen-y that if you told me it were a fancy moisturizer, I’d totally believe you.

Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide