Now that I've convinced you (I hope!) that mineral sunscreen is better than chemical, I'm back with the most important part—product suggestions!
Because you see, not all mineral sunscreens are created equal.
In fact, there are a lot of sad excuses for SPF lurking around out there. (Jessica Alba's Honest Company, anyone?)
It would be great if we could just look for the words "mineral" or "zinc oxide" on a label and be done with it. But the reality is, that alone doesn't necessarily mean you're getting adequate or safe sun protection. The concentration and combination of ingredients also matter, along with whatever else is in the formula.
Here are my criteria for choosing a great sunscreen:
1. It has zinc oxide. Of any filter—mineral OR chemical—zinc oxide gives you the most effective full-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. Say no to any sunscreen that only has titanium dioxide. While a mineral, it doesn't provide good enough protection against UVA (which is scary for the reasons outlined here).
2. It has more than 15 percent (ideally 20 percent!) zinc oxide. For every one percent of zinc oxide, you theoretically get 1.6 SPF units. That means a 15 percent zinc oxide formula works out to about SPF 24. The higher the zinc, the higher the SPF—so obviously, a zinc oxide concentration of 20 percent or more would be even better, and reach the recommended SPF 30 minimum.
Note: According to The Sunscreen Doc, formulas below 20 percent zinc oxide should be combined with other filters—otherwise the SPF could be too low to properly protect you, and may be inadequate against UVA rays.
(This is what happened with The Honest Company, by the way. They lowered their zinc oxide from 20 percent to nine percent, without adding any other active. Voilà, sunburns—and lawsuits—galore!)
3. Or it has 15 percent zinc oxide plus 7.5 percent titanium dioxide or encapsulated octinoxate. This is your other option. If you're seeing 15 percent zinc oxide, there should also be at least 7.5 percent titanium dioxide. This will get you to SPF 30, with adequate UVA protection, says The Sunscreen Doc.
An alternative to titanium dioxide, that can be combined with zinc oxide, is encapsulated octinoxate. Although a chemical, encapsulating it makes it behave like a mineral—so it will sit safely on top of the skin instead of absorbing into the bloodstream. Cyberderm is the only company I know of that is using this technology (see below!).
4. It contains no polyunsaturated oils. I try to avoid products with polyunsaturated oils (PUFAs) no matter what, but especially in sunscreens. Why? Because these unstable oils will easily go rancid (oxidizing) when exposed to heat and light. In fact, they even interact with ultraviolet radiation to produce toxic free radicals that cause cellular damage. That means aging!
Coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter and olive oil are all safe. But you should avoid sunscreens that contain PUFA oils such as safflower, grape seed, corn, soybean, sesame, sunflower and almond.
As you can imagine, finding products that tick off all these boxes is TOUGH—never mind my other concerns such as nanoparticles, silicones and a white finish!
Until the sunscreen manufacturers get their act together and start upping their formulation game, there are only a handful of decent options I'm willing to put on mah precious face.
Here are the mineral sunscreens I recommend:
1. Cyberderm Simply Zinc Sun Whip SPF 30
THE BEST! Simply Zinc is a 22 percent zinc oxide formula in an olive oil base with anti-aging peptides. It's non-nano, non-whitening and silicone-free. The cherry on top is that Cyberderm is a Canadian company. I've used this for several years now. No brand does sunscreen better!
Medicinal Ingredients: (w/w) 22% Zinc Oxide. Non-Medicinal Ingredients: Aqua, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glyceryl Isostearate, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Methylcellulose, Tetrapeptide-21, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Glycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Xanthan Gum, Butylene Glycol, Benzoic Acid, Dehydroacetic Acid.
2. Cyberderm Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 25
If you have oily, combination or acne-prone skin and find the olive oil in Simply Zinc too moisturizing, Every Morning Sun Whip is your next best bet: a 15 percent zinc oxide and 7.5 percent encapsulated octinoxate formula. (Again, the octinoxate acts like a mineral here, staying on the skin's surface thanks to the encapsulation technology.) Note that this one does have silicone.
Where to buy: Cyberderm
Medicinal Ingredients: (w/w) 15% Zinc Oxide (ZinClearTM), 7.5% Octinoxate (Encapsulated). Non-Medicinal Ingredients: Aqua, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glyceryl Isostearate, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-75 Stearate, Ceteth 20, Steareth-20, Glycerin, Cetyl, Dimethicone, Methylcellulose, Trisodium Ethylenediame Disuccinate, Xanthan Gum, Sclerotium Gum, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Silica, PVP, Chlorphenesin, Cetyl Alcohol, Sodium Citrate, Phenoxyethanol, Disodium EDTA.
3. Badger All Season Face Stick SPF 35
Only the paler peeps will be able to get away with this one, because it is on the whitening side, but I love that Badger's All Season Face Stick has 22.5 percent zinc oxide (the highest on this list). The zinc is non-nano, and the ingredients list could not be cleaner—or shorter!
Medicinal Ingredients: Non-Nano Uncoated Zinc Oxide 22.5%. Non-Medicinal Ingredients: *Olea Europaea (Organic Extra Virgin Olive) Oil, *Cera Alba (Organic Beeswax), *Theobroma Cacao (Organic Cocoa) Butter, *Butyrospermum Parkii (Organic Shea) Butter, and Tocopherol (Sunflower Vitamin E). * = Certified Organic
4. Attitude Little Ones 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
Another high-zinc option from a Canadian company, Attitude's Little Ones Mineral Sunscreen has 20 percent non-nano zinc oxide in a hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, non-whitening formula. Now the bad news... their site says it's temporarily out of stock for the summer. Maybe you can find it at one of these stores. If not, trust me—it will be worth the wait!
Medicinal Ingredients: Zinc oxide (20%). Non-Medicinal Ingredients: Aqua/water/eau, caprylic/capric triglyceride, cetearyl alcohol, cetearyl glucoside, glyceryl isostearate, glycerin, polyhydroxystearic acid, sodium stearoyl glutamate, ethylhexylglycerin, caprylyl glycol, xanthan gum, niacinamide, tetrasodium iminodisuccinate.
5. Derma E Antioxidant Natural Sunscreen SPF 30 Oil-Free Face Lotion
Derma E's Antioxidant Sunscreen has a little less zinc (16 percent), so I think it's more like an SPF 25 instead of an SPF 30, as claimed. However, it's still a very nice formulation, especially if you want something oil-free. I use this often for city days—it's non-whitening and non-nano, and the ingredients are definitely on the more natural side. This would suit all skin types.
Medicinal Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 16%. Non-Medicinal Ingredients: Purified Water (Aqua), Capric/Caprylic Triglyceride, Propanediol, Glycerin, Methylcellulose, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Organic Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract* (1%), Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C, Stay-C® 50), Decyl Glucoside, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin.
6. Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer
If you're shopping at Sephora, I think Juice Beauty's SPF 30 is the best choice. It's a 20 percent zinc oxide in an oil-free aloe vera base. Lots of lovely organic stuff in here, and no 'cones or nanoparticles. I'm buying it as soon as Sephora gets it in stock—obviously.
Medicinal Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 20%. Non-Medicinal Ingredients: Organic juices of aloe barbadensis (aloe juice)*, pyrus malus (apple juice)*, vitis vinifera (white grape juice)*, capric caprylic triglycerides, sorbitan stearate, polyglycerol-10 laurate, magnesium sulfate, tocopherol (vitamin E), magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (vitamin C), hyaluronic acid (vegetable derived), punica granatum (pomegranate fruit juice), algae extract, cucumis sativus fruit extract (cucumber), panthenol (vitamin B5), citrus limonum (lemon bark), iron oxides, phenethyl alcohol, ethylhexylglycerin, Blend of citrus reticulata (mandarin orange); citrus aurantium (petitgrain). *Certified Organic
7. Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion SPF 50+ WetForce for Sensitive Skin & Children
Shiseido's WetForce for Sensitive Skin didn't get any fanfare compared to the original chemical one, but it's a way better formulation. It's high in both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (ringing in at 19.3 percent and 9.1 percent respectively), and is water-resistant. However, it is also high in silicone, and I'm not sure if it has nanoparticles.
Medicinal Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide 9.1%, Zinc Oxide 19.3%. Non-Medicinal Ingredients: Dimethicone, Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Diisopropyl Sebacate, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Hydrogenated Polydecene, Peg-10 Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone, Peg-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Bis-Butyldimethicone Polyglyceryl-3, Peg-6, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Peg-32, Peg/Ppg-14/7 Dimethyl Ether, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Thymus Serpillum Extract, Aluminum Distearate, Aluminum Hydroxide, Hydrogen Dimethicone, Isostearic Acid, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Hydrated Silica, Sodium Metaphosphate, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Stearic Acid, Dextrin Palmitate, Distearyldimonium Chloride, Tocopherol, Syzygium Jambos Leaf Extract.
8. MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème Broad Spectrum SPF 50 UVA-UVB Sunscreen
MDSolarSciences is not sold in Canada, but this is a pretty good option for you guys in the US. The zinc oxide content is fairly high (17 percent), rounded out with an extra hit of two percent titanium dioxide. I'm not crazy about it having silicones, and I haven't been able to ascertain whether they use nanoparticles or not.
Medicinal Ingredients: Zinc Oxide (17%), Titanium Dioxide (2%). Non-Medicinal Ingredients: Dimethicone, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glyceryl Isostearate, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Silica, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Butyloctyl Salicylate, Polysilicone-15, Iron Oxides, PEG/PPG-18/18 Dimethicone, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Extract, Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Fruit Extract, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract.
9. Shiseido Gentle Sun Protection Lotion For Sensitive Skin and Babies SPF 33
The last one on my list doesn't quite meet the zinc oxide content cut-off—but since our options are so few, I still wanted to include this second offering from Shiseido! It has 13.9 percent zinc oxide with 3.3 percent titanium dioxide—so I don't know that I'd trust the SPF 33 claim, but your mileage may vary. While it does have silicones and I'm not sure on the nano issue, it is sweat-proof and water-resistant.
Medicinal Ingredients: zinc oxide 13.9% w/w, titanium dioxide 3.3% w/w. Non-Medicinal Ingredients: cyclomethicone, water, butylene glycol, dimethicone, hydrogenated c6-14 olefin polymers, pentaerythrityl tetraoctanoate, glycerin, polybutylene glycol/ppg-9/1 copolymer, polymethacrylate, dimethicone copolyol, dextrin palmitate, xylitol, methyl gluceth-10, trimethylsiloxysilicate, dipotassium glycyrrhizate, scutellaria baicalensis extract, zinc myristate, thiotaurine, ectoin, disteardimonium hectorite, aluminum distearate, aluminum hydroxide, isostearic acid, silica, trisodium edta, tocopherol, phenoxyethanol.
Friends, those are what I consider to be the very best mineral SPFs on the market. Trust me, I wish I had more I could recommend to you. (Beauty companies, are you listening? We will buy them if you make them!)
I hope you find at least one formulation on this list that you'll consider as your trusted facial sunscreen this summer. Let me know what you think—and tell me if you've found any other great products out there! The mineral sunscreen struggle is REAL.
Have you tried any of these sunscreens?
What's your favourite mineral sunscreen?
Found anything else that meets my stringent criteria?