Should you use a mineral sunscreen? Here’s why you might consider it—and 7 beauty editor-approved prodz to choose from!

sunscreen face

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 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.


woman applying sunscreen1 Should you use a mineral sunscreen? Heres why you might consider it—and 7 beauty editor approved prodz to choose from!

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.


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…


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

L’Occitane Bouclier Radieux UV Shield SPF 40

LOccitane Bouclier Radiuex UV Shield SPF 40 Should you use a mineral sunscreen? Heres why you might consider it—and 7 beauty editor approved prodz to choose from!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.

SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50

SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50 Should you use a mineral sunscreen? Heres why you might consider it—and 7 beauty editor approved prodz to choose from!

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

Lavanila The Healthy Sunscreen SPF 40 Should you use a mineral sunscreen? Heres why you might consider it—and 7 beauty editor approved prodz to choose from!

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

cliniderm gentle protective lotion spf 45 Should you use a mineral sunscreen? Heres why you might consider it—and 7 beauty editor approved prodz to choose from!

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

Clarins UV Plus High Performance SPF 40 Should you use a mineral sunscreen? Heres why you might consider it—and 7 beauty editor approved prodz to choose from!

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

pure+simple sunscreen for oily impure skin Should you use a mineral sunscreen? Heres why you might consider it—and 7 beauty editor approved prodz to choose from!

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

Green Beaver Sunscreen SPF 30 Should you use a mineral sunscreen? Heres why you might consider it—and 7 beauty editor approved prodz to choose from!

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?


Wednesday, June 15/2011 at 3:25 pm

Yanoo, I have never been a fan of sunscreen. I just hate that feeling when you apply it on your back or whatever the put on a t-shirt and you get that horribly sticky greasy feeling? I HATE IT. One of my biggest cringe-inducing pet hates, and since I live in England I really don’t need it most of the year. If you could give me a recommendation for a moderately priced sunscreen which I could buy in England, I’ll love you forever!!!

Huge fan, fellow blonderexic Thomas xx


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Wednesday, June 15/2011 at 11:00 pm

Oh but you can still get sun damage even if it’s cloudy out… I would recommend a light facial moisturizer with built-in SPF, you can wear that year-round and it shouldn’t feel greasy at all. La Roche-Posay makes great ones that they should have in the UK. And they’re pretty gender-neutral!


Thursday, June 16/2011 at 7:32 pm

Se theres so many different kinds of anthelios sunscreens available from La Roche Posay, i find that quite confusing :P.. would you recommend any particular one?


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 6:22 pm

I don’t use it regularly but recall liking the lotion better than the cream (less heavy):


Courtney Naray
Wednesday, June 15/2011 at 4:07 pm

Hello there!
I have been following your blog for a month or so now. I am from the GTA and a fellow product junkie so I find alot of your recommendations relevant :)

Josie Maran makes my absolute favourite mineral sunscreen…its called Protect (SPF 40) . It has argan oil in it and it is slightly moisturizing…My skin is combination so I use it alone during the summer and with a hydrating serum in the winter. It so nice under makeup too! The only down side is that they don’t sell it in Canada yet so I have to order it from the Sephora website

I have tried the Clarins UV one you mentioned..also a really nice product! Super light, like youre wearing nothing and is a great makeup base.

Another really good mineral sunscreen is the Lise Watier Sun Smart SPF 30….it feels and works kind of like a silicone based primer….


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Wednesday, June 15/2011 at 11:02 pm

Awesome recommendations Courtney! Glad to hear you approve of the Clarins… I really need to get my hands on it.

Do you find the Josie Maran one a little greasy? That’s what I’ve been hearing from other beauty eds and Lord knows I don’t need any extra oil in the summertime, so I haven’t pursued that one… :-)

And I had no idea Lise Watier did a mineral sunscreen – very cool. They should definitely promote that more! I’m going to check it out. Thanks!!


Thursday, June 16/2011 at 9:38 am

You know, I DID find that when I first used the Josie Maran sunscreen it’s initial texture and application is quite thick and greasy feeling…so I can definately see why some people may be turned off! However, once its on, it feels so wonderful all day….my makeup looks perfect ALL day (I may have to touch up after work if I’m going out)

I have combination skin (leans more oily in summer) and I use it as a stand alone product (moisturizer, sunscreen and primer all in one!). After using it for about 2 months now, I don’t think I will ever go without it (although I am seriously tempted to try the Pure + Simple one you mentioned)… As much as I LOVE the feeling of clarins and lise watier, they are definately not moisturizing enough to use alone…And I am all for cutting out steps in my daily routine!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 6:25 pm

Good to know! I have Josie’s tinted moisturizer and I don’t know if it’s because I’ve had it for a while or what, but the formula is separating and even when I shake it up and then apply, it’s SUPER greasy. Do not like. I’ll see how the sunscreen compares next time I’m in a Sephora.


Thursday, June 16/2011 at 6:54 am

I live in Spain so I don’t know if this brand is sold in Canada, but I recently discovered SumLaude and they make this brilliant 30SPF cream for oily skin that feels greasy on your hand but, once you apply it, it turns out not greasy at all. I used it on my face/shoulders/neck and did not get any blemish (I would have with any other regular cream).

I have also used Avene 30 for combination/oily skin and it works wonders too, although I prefer SumLaude better. I did not like the smell, though, it smelled somewhat like cheese! LoL Avene definitely smelled better.

I will be going to the beach next week (HURRAH!!) so I might get the one you recommended from L’Occitane :)


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 6:26 pm

I don’t think we have that brand here… I’ve never seen it. The cheese smell might be off-putting though :-)


Thursday, June 16/2011 at 7:18 am

Awesome article. I am searching for a good sunscreen for my oily and already sun damages skin – ugh!! I am going to give one of your suggestions a try!


Friday, February 24/2012 at 1:02 am

Try Anthilios Sun screen from La roche posay. It has one with mineral alos ,best sun screen the texture so light, really gives protection from long & shot uva rays, can check sossave my


Thursday, June 16/2011 at 4:15 pm

Do not get the Pure + Simple All Natural Sunscreen SPF 30 Anti Aging formula. It’s like spreading a tube of Crest on your face.

I’m pretty pale (MAC NC 15) and this stuff makes me look like I’m getting ready for Kabuki. And don’t even think of applying primer or foundation on top. It rubs right off and you have to start all over again.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 6:28 pm

Oh really? That’s too bad… the oily skin one is a little whitening too but I guess because it’s lighter, once I rub in, I can’t see any extra whiteness. I’ve heard some people say that P + S sunscreens go pilly as well.


Thursday, June 16/2011 at 4:43 pm

I really like Clinique’s sheer city block spf 25. It’s oil absorbing and tinted.


Elle Sia
Thursday, June 16/2011 at 4:46 pm

Since mineral sunscreens do not break down. I won’t have to reapply every 2 hours like chemical ones?


Tuesday, June 21/2011 at 12:41 am

That was my question exactly! And also whether you can apply makeup on top of mineral sunscreens?


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 6:43 pm

Great question! I asked this to a couple of derms for the story I wrote for FLARE. And they said yes technically the mineral sunscreen should be the last layer on your face, since it’s reflecting the light. (Whereas chemical sunscreen needs to go on first to absorb into your skin.)

I just don’t think it’s realistic for most of us to have our sunscreen as our last layer. I put it on and then let dry completely before I do makeup – that way I’m not smearing it around and rubbing off the protection. (And I go lighter with my makeup in the summer anyway.) As a last step I dust the Colorescience SPF 30 mineral powder all over for extra mineral protection. It’s probably not perfect but I think combining the two works well enough.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, June 25/2011 at 6:34 pm

I haven’t been able to get a straight answer from any derms I’ve talked to on this… they all say no matter what to just re-apply every 2 hours. There’s a video here from a US derm on how to apply mineral sunscreen, and in the comments he says “Chem free sunscreen needs to be reapplied just as often as traditional sunscreen: after you swim, after you sweat, and every three to four hours when not doing activities (because of insensible perspiration).”


Thursday, June 16/2011 at 4:51 pm

I’ve been using the Eltamd UV Clear SPF 46 for the past week and it’s been great so far! There’s no greasy/sticky/tacky feeling after application, and it hasn’t made me breakout like a lot of other sunscreens since I have combination skin that’s prone to break out in the T-zone.


Friday, June 17/2011 at 1:20 pm

There are several sunscreens out there that contain terrible ingredients for your skin–these products, though are great. Thanks for the post!


Friday, June 17/2011 at 7:52 pm

Good post. Just wanted to let you know that the L’Occitane Bouclier Radieux UV Shield SPF 40 active ingredient is titanium dioxide (11.5) not zinc oxide. Thanks again!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Monday, June 27/2011 at 1:04 pm

Oops! My mistake – thanks.


Nomadic D
Wednesday, June 22/2011 at 11:20 am

I love my Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily UV Defense spf 50, especially because you can get Keihl’s in most parts of the world. In the states I get Peter Thomas Roth Uber Dry Sunscreen spf 30 and the Instant Mineral Powder spf 45 for touch ups throughout the day or after sweating. Also love Boscia’s Oil Free Daily Hydration spf 15, though in the summer I just don’t think 15 will cut it. I have oily-prone acne-prone skin that’s pretty clear now but as a consequence prone to some dry spots amidst the oil, so finding a great sunscreen has been a challenge. Totally stand by these guys though, I’d recommend them to anyone.


Nomadic D
Sunday, June 26/2011 at 4:11 am

wow, sorry, hit cut and paste and you will eventually inadvertently leave links for things that are totally irrelevant! Please ignore the above link, I just meant to throw down my blog link:


Tuesday, June 28/2011 at 10:15 am

Invisible zinc from Australia is really good too!


Wednesday, June 29/2011 at 1:50 am

I just started using the Clarins UV Plus and love it so far! It goes on totally sheer, dries completely, and it is not greasy at all. There’s no chalky residue like mineral sunscreens I have used on the rest of my body (just tried the new Aveeno one).


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Sunday, July 24/2011 at 10:06 pm

Oooh now I really want it!


Sunday, August 28/2011 at 10:39 am

Hi! I really love the idea of non-chemical sunscreen but does mineral sunscreen provide high UVA protection because they often just list the UVB? (as SPF=UVB) Because normally for mineral sunscreen they only list the SPF but didn’t say whether or how much they protect against UVA? Thanks so much, love your blog!


Monday, December 19/2011 at 4:03 am

Thank you for wrote a little review about that Angelica UV Shield of L’Occitane. I’ve been attracted to the product and now Googling to find some inspiration. :) The sun protection I use months ago was made for oily skin, but it’s too thick and uncomfortable for me, so I seek for the more liquid-y sun protection.

Thank you, thank you! :D Nice review!


Monday, January 2/2012 at 8:39 pm

Hi, Im just wondering if anyone has used Elle Mcpherson’s Invisible zinc sunscreen? I seem to burn more with this cream. Also is zinc an important ingredient as I’ve been reading a bit and research shows that zinc promotes skin cancer ? On the island of Hvar in Croatia i came across a sunbathing oil ( its pure organic Calendula oil with only UVA – UVB) i found this the best product so far. It can be ordered online at


Wednesday, May 16/2012 at 9:10 am

I love Elta MD tinted suncreen. It is chemical free spf 41 and leaves your skin soft and primed for makeup. Even on the most humid, hot days my face still looks good. I’m a skin care specialist and have to be careful not to get brown sun spots. My skin sells so I’m very careful what I use for sunscreen…..again I love this product.


Saturday, April 5/2014 at 11:16 am

Haver you ever tried Heliocare gel spf 50? I read some good reviews about it, but I do not know if it has bad ingredientes for your skin… Can you help me?
Thank you ;)


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