7 of the Best Powder Sunscreens For Extra Protection On the Go

Top up your regular SPF with a brush-on mineral powder sunscreen. Genius!
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Michelle Villett
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Top up your regular SPF with a brush-on mineral powder sunscreen. Genius!
Best powder sunscreen

Brush on a loose powder sunscreen over your regular sunscreen and makeup for an extra layer of protection.

Now that you know about the best mineral sunscreens, there's one more product to consider adding to your summer beauty arsenal. 

Powder sunscreen! 

Also known as "dry sunscreen," it can give your daily suncare routine a little extra somethin'-somethin'. 

Not in replacement of your regular sunscreen, mind you, but in addition to it. Here's why: 

  • Powder sunscreen goes on over your makeup. How convenient is that? It looks and feels just like any loose face powder, is available in both translucent and tinted versions, and mattifies at the same time as it protects. Besides your face, you can also put it on your chest, hands and down your part.
  • Powder sunscreen offers SPF 25 to SPF 50 protection. Thanks to the same ingredients—titanium dioxide and zinc oxide—that you see in creamy mineral sunscreens, powder sunscreens also have a sun protection factor (SPF) on their labels.
  • Powder sunscreen gives you an extra layer of protection. Like I said, even though they're legit SPFs, I don't suggest you skip your usual cream sunscreen application and just use these powders. (At least not for prolonged outdoor exposure, since I doubt most of us would apply it liberally enough—plus overly powdery faces don't look good!) But as an adjunct to your favourite zinc oxide-based sunscreen? Powder is perfect. 
  • Powder sunscreen is portable. When you get caught without enough sunscreen on, it's the worst. I suggest keeping a powder sunscreen in your purse at all times as a back-up or "emergency" sunscreen—you never know when you might need it! Each tube comes with a built-in, self-dispensing brush, so it's easy to use on the go.
Best powder sunscreen

My favourite powder sunscreens from Colorescience, Éminence and Laboratoire Dr Renaud.

Aren't powder sunscreens banned? No. According to Health Canada's sunscreen monograph, powder is considered an acceptable form of sunscreen, and can currently be purchased in Canada. In the US, the FDA stepped up its regulations on powder sunscreens in 2013, requiring all manufacturers to submit their products for approval in order to continue selling them as SPFs. Unless you've somehow managed to get hold of old stock, the powder sunscreens now sold in the US have gone through this approval process.

What about nanoparticles and inhalation? These are definitely valid concerns about powder sunscreens. The products I've suggested below use micronized forms of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, not nano-sized particles, so the risk if inhaled is much lower. (Dr Annie Chiu, for example, doesn't think there's any danger.) To be on the safe side, I try to hold my breath and avoid inhaling when I'm swirling the powder over my face—it only takes a couple seconds, so no big deal. 

Ready to see my powder picks? Here they are:

1. Colorescience Sunforgettable Loose Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50

Colorescience Sunforgettable Mineral Sunscreen Brush SPF 50

Colorescience Sunforgettable Loose Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50.

The most famous powder sunscreen is from Colorescience. It comes in four tints, gives a matte finish and is water-resistant, thanks to the silicones/polymers (but that might be a trade-off you're willing to make).

Where to buy: Sephora (US only), Amazon.com, SkinCareRx, select medi-spas (see here for locations)

Medicinal Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide (22.5%), Zinc Oxide (24.5%). Non-Medicinal Ingredients: Mica, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Corallina Officinalis, Calcium Silicate and Sodium Sulfate, Methicone, Iron Oxides, Triethyoxycaprylylsilane

2. Éminence Sun Defense Minerals SPF 30

Eminence Sun Defense Minerals SPF 30

Éminence Sun Defense Minerals SPF 30.

Éminence has the shortest ingredients list here, and no silicones, which I appreciate. Their powder comes in translucent as well as four tints; if you set it with a face mist, it becomes even more water-resistant. 

Where to buy: Amazon.com, Apothica, Amazon.ca, select spas (see here for locations)

Medicinal Ingredients: Micronized Zinc Oxide 8%, Micronized Titanium Dioxide 8%. Non-Medicinal Ingredients: Bismuth, Iron Oxides, Sericite, Mica.

3. Laboratoire Dr Renaud Loose Powder SPF 50

Laboratoire Dr Renaud Loose Powder SPF 50

Laboratoire Dr Renaud Loose Powder SPF 50.

I think Laboratoire Dr Renaud's powder sunscreen must be made at the same factory as Colorescience's, because the tube and brush are exactly the same. There are just two shades, Light and Dark, and it has the highest percentage of zinc oxide on this list. Despite the silicones/polymers, they don't claim this is water-resistant.

Where to buy: Select medi-spas (see here for locations)

Medicinal Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 24.8% w/w, Titanium Dioxide 23.4% w/w. Non-Medicinal Ingredients: Talc, Aluminum Starch, Octenylsuccinate, Methicone, Hydrogenated Polydecene, HDI/Trimethylol Hexyllactone Crosspolymer, Alumina, Water/Eau, Caprylyl Glycol, Silica, Jasminum Officinale (Jasmine) Flower Extract, Boron Nitride, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Ethylhexylglycerin, Iron Oxides (CI77499, CI77491, CI77482)

4. Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral SPF 45

Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral SPF 45

Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral SPF 45.

This Peter Thomas Roth powder comes in one transparent matte shade, and is talc-free. It also has a bunch of anti-aging peptides, and some silicone. Bonus: They say it doubles as hair powder!

Where to buy: Sephora (US only), Cult Beauty, Amazon.comAmazon.ca

Medicinal Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide 12.45%, Zinc Oxide 9.80%. Non-Medicinal Ingredients: Silica, Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Zinc Stearate, Luminum Hydroxide, Stearic Acid, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Acetyl Octapeptide-3, Dipeptide Diaminobutyroyl Benzylamide Diacetate, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-7, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vitamin C), Dimethicone, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Water (Aqua), Butylene Glycol, Maltodextrin, Glycerin, Carbomer, Polysorbate 20, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Chlorphenesin, Potassium Sorbate, Tetrasodium Edta. May Contain: Mica, Iron Oxides, Titanium Dioxide, Manganese Violet, Bismuth Oxychloride, Chromium Oxide Greens, Chromium Hydroxide Green.

5. Peter Thomas Roth Oily Problem Skin Instant Mineral SPF 30

Peter Thomas Roth Oily Problem Skin Instant Mineral SPF 30

Peter Thomas Roth Oily Problem Skin Instant Mineral SPF 30.

Another Peter Thomas Roth option, this one's for oily and acne-prone skin; it comes in one transparent shade. There's a little more zinc oxide in here, which I prefer, plus salicylic acid, silica and kaolin clay to absorb excess oil. Note the silicone/polymer (theoretically might not be great for acne).

Where to buy: NordstromSephora (US only), ULTA BeautyAmazon.com, Amazon.ca

Medicinal Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide 13.65%, Zinc Oxide 14.70%. Non-Medicinal Ingredients: Illite, Silica, Barium Sulfate, Tapioca Starch, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Aluminum Hydroxide, Stearic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A), Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vitamin C), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Magnesium Myristate, Kaolin, Maltodextrin, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Water, Butylene Glycol, Chlorphenesin, Potassium Sorbate, Tetrasodium EDTA. May Contain: Mica, Bismuth Oxychloride, Iron Oxides, Manganese Violet, Chromium Oxide Greens, Chromium Hydroxide Green, Ferric Ferrocyanide, Aluminum Powder, Carmine.

6. Mineral Fusion Brush-On Sun Defense SPF 30

Mineral Fusion Brush-On Sun Defense SPF 30

Mineral Fusion Brush-On Sun Defense SPF 30.

The most affordable powder sunscreen is definitely Mineral Fusion's. It's transparent, high in zinc oxide, and has a short and sweet ingredients list. The silica is great for controlling oil.

Where to buy: Amazon.com, Drugstore.com

Medicinal Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide 17.3%, Zinc Oxide 20.0%. Non-Medicinal Ingredients: Mica, Silica, Nylon-12, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Capryloyl Glycine, Undecylenoyl Glycine, Alaria Asculenta (Sea Kelp), Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A), Iron Oxides.

7. Arcona Sunsations Mineral Makeup SPF 25

Arcona Sunsations Mineral Makeup SPF 25

Arcona Sunsations Mineral Makeup SPF 25.

Arcona doesn't disclose its percentages of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, so I don't know if they've used them in sufficient amounts (as explained here). Since they only claim SPF 25, I would definitely not rely on this as anything more than a top-up to regular sunscreen. The great thing about it is it offers a little more coverage than the other powders, and is sold in an amazing 13 shades. No silicones either!

Where to buy: Nordstrom, Beauty.com, SkinStore

Medicinal Ingredients: Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide. Non-Medicinal Ingredients: Bismuth Oxychloride, Sericite, Boron Nitride, Iron Oxides, Ultramarines, Manganese Violet, Retinyl Palmitate (vitamin A), Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E), Chromium Oxide Green.

Conclusion

Best powder sunscreen

Carry a powder sunscreen in your purse and you'll never be caught without sun protection.

You can never be TOO prepared to face UV radiation, which is why I love the concept of powder sunscreen!

It's quick, it's easy and it won't mess up your makeup—you can't even tell you're wearing it. Plus, it's made with zinc oxide, your best bet for full-spectrum sun protection. (Just avoid any powders that only have titanium dioxide, like Jane Iredale's, since it's not effective against UVA.)

Again, don't rely on powder sunscreen as your only sunscreen. Use it as a top-up and a back-up, and you'll always be sun safe.

Have you used powder sunscreen?
Which one's your favourite?
Found any other brands that are great?