Should You Use a Mineral Sunscreen? (Yes, and Here's Why!)

Plus 7 beauty editor-approved prodz to choose from.
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Michelle Villett
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Plus 7 beauty editor-approved prodz to choose from.
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There are two annual topics that every women's magazine always runs, but which beauty editors always kind of dread. One is the typical winter skincare story (which I attempted to cover in this post—the products change but the advice stays the same). And the other is the yearly sunscreen article in which the author kinda sorta b*tchslaps the audience (how nice!) for not knowing the difference between UVA and UVB, or that you still need to re-apply even an SPF 100 every two hours.

But seriously, do you even READ those pieces? Honestly, I can't really blame you for sun protection ignorance because those stories especially can be very preachy and/or boring. (Except for the one I wrote this year, of course, which is called "The Tan Commandments" and is in the June issue of FLARE. Go buy it!)

Anyway, that doesn't mean we won't still be tackling the sun protection beast on this here blog. I'm just going to break it all down into nice, tasty, bite-sized beauty chunks (in the spirit of what BEAUTYEDITOR.ca is all about!). First up, we talked about the fact that you DO need to re-apply your sunscreen every two hours—and I gave you some options on how to get around this unfortunate reality without ruining your makeup. Today, we're going to address mineral sunscreens: why you might want one and the prodz that I think are the best.

MY (NON-PREACHY) EXPLANATION OF WHAT A MINERAL SUNSCREEN IS

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You might not know this, but the way most sunscreens work—because they are chemically based—is by being ABSORBED into your body. Depending on your degree of inner beauty hippie, this may bother you a little, a lot, or not at all. The chemicals protect you by absorbing the sun's rays. Some of the ingredient names you may see on labels include avobenzone, oxybenzone, Mexoryl SX and SL, octocrylene, homosalate and octisalate.

Mineral sunscreens, on the other hand, don't get absorbed into your body at all. They sit on top of your skin and REFLECT the sun's rays. There are two ingredients you'll see, usually in combination: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

WHY WOULD YOU CONSIDER A MINERAL SUNSCREEN?

1. SAFETY REASONS: I have to address this first: just because chemical sunscreens get absorbed doesn't necessarily mean they are bad for you. I spoke to top Toronto dermatologist Dr. Sandy Skotnicki for my recent FLARE story, and she says there's no evidence that they are carcinogenic, even though a Danish study detected traces of the chemicals in the blood and urine of people who applied the sunscreens just hours earlier. That said, the Environmental Working Group (a U.S. environmental advocacy organization) says oxybenzone has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage.

2: PHOTOSTABILITY: Another reason some people like mineral sunscreens is because they're photostable (i.e. they don't break down in the light). Some chemical sunscreens, such as avobenzone,  are very unstable and have to be combined with other ingredients. That doesn't mean all chemical ones break down though—most derms will tell you that Mexoryl is the most stable chemical ingredient.

3: NON-IRRITATING: Many derms believe that mineral sunscreens are less irritating for sensitive or problem skin. Although it can also be a matter of trial and error too—sometimes titanium dioxide can, alternatively, make people break out.

4. TEXTURE: So you know how mineral sunscreens used to be a no-go for all but the most palest skin types? That's not the case anymore, thanks to micronized particles that allow for a sheer application. Hooray! Not all mineral sunscreens use this technology yet, but I'll tell you about a few who do next...

THE BEST MINERAL SUNSCREENS (ACCORDING TO ME)

Okay, now we get to the fun part—shopping!

L'Occitane Bouclier Radieux UV Shield SPF 40

This one's my new favourite. It's a fluid, so it's extremely light (perfect for oilier skin) and it doesn't go white on you at all. It contains angelica water and essential oil so smells very fresh and is quite moisturizing without feeling greasy. The active is 11.5% zinc oxide titanium dioxide.

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SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50

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Another fantastic pick! You can only get it at select doctor's offices and medispas, but it's worth the trip. Again, the formula is micronized so it won't make you white, and it's a sheer fluid (although slightly more moisturizing than the L'Occitane). It's a combo of titanium dioxide (6%) and zinc oxide (5%).

Lavanila The Healthy Sunscreen SPF 40

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I'm a longtime fan of Lavanila's fragrances, so was delighted to find out they'd released a sunscreen. This one's a little heavier/greasier, so I'd recommend it for drier skin types as it's a cream, not a fluid. It also goes on a little whiter than the others, but I found this disappeared when blended. The actives are 5% zinc oxide with 7.5% titanium dioxide.

Cliniderm Gentle Protective Lotion SPF 45

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Even if you don't have sensitive skin, you'll like this one—a very gentle, fragrance-free lotion that contains zinc oxide (6.1%) and titanium dioxide (6.6%). It's not greasy, won't sting and dries to a nice, almost matte finish.

Clarins UV Plus High Performance SPF 40

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This is a brand new one and because my sample never arrived I haven't tried it yet... but I sure want to! I love that a mainstream beauty brand is delving into mineral territory (this one has 8.1% titanium dioxide). It also contains Clarins' anti-pollution complex, to protect against oxidation.

Pure + Simple All Natural Sunscreen SPF 30 for Oily/Impure Skin

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This was my top pick in 2010, and I still use it because it's simply the lightest formula I've found—I definitely recommend it for oily skin. It does tend to be a little whiter than the others (which may or may not bug you depending on how pale you are—for me it's fine). And the formula can clump up a bit, just FYI.

Green Beaver Sunscreen SPF 30

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Now this one isn't for the face—they're coming out with one for that area shortly—but it's a great new find if you're looking for a non-chemical sunscreen for the body. It's got a whopping 21% zinc oxide, but you'll be seriously blown away when you see how clear it goes on. Cannot.Wait for the face version.

Tell me:

Do you wear sun protection? (Please say yes.)
Have you tried any of these prodz?
What's your current sunscreen of choice?