Let’s start with the basics. Sunscreens come in two forms: chemical and physical (also known as mineral). We'll explain the key differences between the two ahead, but before we do, we want to state up top that the "best" sunscreen is one you'll actually wear daily. Both chemical and physical sunscreens have their pros and cons, so choosing one is ultimately going to come down to your personal preference and skin type.
The 20 Best Mineral Sunscreens, From a Silky Serum to an Acne-Safe Option
What's the difference between mineral sunscreen and chemical sunscreen?
Put simply, chemical sunscreens absorb into your skin, whereas physical sunscreens sit on top of it. More specifically, chemical sunscreens use ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate and avobenzone to create a chemical reaction (hence the name) that changes UV rays into heat that is then released from the skin. Physical sunscreens use ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to block UV rays from penetrating through your skin in the first place.
What are the benefits of mineral sunscreen?
Proponents of mineral sunscreens like that they're inherently broad spectrum, meaning they block against both UVA and UVB rays (the former is linked to premature aging; the latter can cause sunburns and skin cancer). And since they sit on top of your skin rather than get absorbed like their chemical counterparts, they're usually a safer, less irritating option for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin. Lastly, mineral sunscreens offer instant protection upon application, whereas chemical formulas require 15 to 20 minutes to absorb into your skin and work their magic.
Are mineral sunscreens reef-safe?
Unfortunately, the term "reef-safe" is not regulated, so you can't solely rely on products with this description. While mineral sunscreens are certainly less harmful to coral reefs than chemical formulas, they're not all 100 percent reef-safe. For a more reef-friendly pick, opt for non-nano mineral sunscreens over ones that use nanoparticles, which can be destructive to coral reefs in higher concentrations. And try to supplement your sun protection with UPF clothing and accessories like hats, rash guards, and swimwear that has broad-spectrum UV protection built into the fabric, so you cut back on your overall use of sunscreen without sacrificing on protection.
Ready to shop? These 20 mineral sunscreens never disappoint.
The best mineral sunscreens at a glance:
- Best Newcomer: Kinship Self Reflect Sport SPF 60
- Best Overall: Versed Skin Guards Up Daily Mineral SPF 35
- Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Elta MD UV Clear SPF 40
- Best Anti-Aging: Isdin Eryfotona Actinica Mineral Sunscreen
- Best Texture: Eleven By Venus Unrivaled Serum SPF 35
- Best for Makeup Wearers: Tatcha The Silk Sunscreen SPF 50
- Best Spray: Elta MD Aero Broad-Spectrum SPF 45
- Best for Dark Skin: Murad Correct & Protect Serum SPF 45
- Best for Kids: Babo Botanicals Sheer Non-Nano Zinc Spray SPF 30
- Best Powder: Supergoop Invincible Setting Powder SPF 45
- Best for Body: Suntegrity Skincare Body Sunscreen SPF 30
- Best Drugstore: CeraVe Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
- Best for Oily Skin: REN Clean Skincare Mattifying Face Sunscreen
- Best for Outdoors: Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Face Sunscreen SPF 50
- Best Splurge: Josh Rosebrook Day Cream Tinted SPF 30
- Best for Dry Skin: Coola Organic Sun Silk Creme SPF 30
- Best for Sensitive Skin: ILIA Radiant Translucent Powder
- Best Stick: Beautycounter Sunscreen Stick SPF 30
- Best for Daily Wear: Olay Regenerist Hydrating Sunscreen
- Best Tinted: ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40
If you combined your most hydrating moisturizer with sunscreen, you'd get this newly-launched mineral formula. Featuring a triple-ceramide complex of three plant-based lipids that strengthen your skin's moisture barrier and non-nano zinc oxide, it leaves your skin fully protected with broad spectrum SPF 60. The subtle vanilla scent and dewy finish make it a downright delight to wear.
Calling all skincare obsessives: Think of this formula as a three-for-one. It protects against the sun, environmental pollution and blue light. Even better, the mineral formula absorbs quickly and actually feels refreshing on the skin—all without a chalky finish.
Best for Acne-Prone Skin
We were first introduced to this brand by a dermatologist years ago following a particularly bad bout of hormonal acne in our twenties. It’s non-comedogenic (read: it won’t clog your pores), has niacinamide (aka vitamin B3) and lactic acid to help clear up and calm your skin. As far as the user experience goes, it’s creamy to the touch, blends easily and has no trace of fragrance. Which is why, eight years later, it’s still in our medicine cabinet.
This lightweight sunscreen combines zinc oxide with a blend of antioxidants and peptides to tackle existing sun damage, while protecting against further UV damage. The texture is incredibly silky and thinner than most other formulas, which makes it easy to spread evenly over your skin.
Tennis star Venus Williams partnered with clean beauty leaders Credo Beauty to create two mineral sunscreens that could withstand the elements. We were particularly impressed by the “sun serum” here because of its sheer texture and elegant application. The dropper top dispenses a silky fluid that sinks into your skin nicely, leaving a semi-matte finish.
Best for Makeup Wearers
Despite being just under a month old, this buzzy new sunscreen from Tatcha has already earned rave reviews for having a silky application and satiny finish. Created with silk extracts, it can easily double as a primer because it creates a smooth, even surface for makeup and won’t pill underneath. (Tip: Give the bottle a good shake beforehand to ensure the liquid formula is fully mixed before you put it on.)
Beloved by derms and countless celebs, this mineral sunscreen now comes in an easy-to-use spray, but the lightweight formula remains unchanged. It still blends sheer and is completely oil-free and non-comedogenic, so any fellow bacne sufferers or even those with eczema can get the sun protection they need without having to worry about causing breakouts or flareups.
Best for Dark Skin
Murad’s newest 2-in-1 product features a broad-spectrum, mineral sunscreen and an antioxidant serum that prevents and treats hyperpigmentation. With a sheer, satin formula that was clinically tested on Fitzpatrick skin types 1 to 6 (the official scientific scale used to classify skin type according to the amount of pigment your skin has and how it reacts to sun exposure), it earned high marks for, well, not leaving any marks. Rather than a white cast, the hybrid sunscreen has an invisible finish.
Best for Kids
If you’re looking for a super gentle option for your kids, this mineral spray is a safe bet. Formulated with non-nano zinc oxide to protect against UV rays, it’s also free of any potentially irritating fragrance and has ingredients like aloe vera and calendula extract to soothe skin. The spray application is appreciated, too, because trying to get sunscreen on a squirming child is no easy feat.
This convenient powder makes it easy to keep your SPF intact, thanks to its retractable brush that dispenses sheer mineral sunscreen onto your skin in a few passes. Plus, it’s exceptionally lightweight. Formulated with silica, ceramides and olive glycerides, it also helps set your makeup and reduce shine.
Let us count the reasons why we love CeraVe’s sunscreen: It’s a mineral formula, it gives great coverage and it provides the moisture we didn’t realize we needed, with three essential ceramides that work to restore your skin’s natural barrier.
Best for Oily Skin
Midday shine is the worst, but that’s nothing this SPF 30 sunscreen can’t solve. It’s mattifying formula means you won’t look the slightest bit greasy, and because it’s made with fast-absorbing, clean zinc oxide, it won’t irritate or clog pores.
14. Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Face Mineral Sunscreen Spf 50
Best for Outdoors
Neutrogena was our first ride-or-die face sunscreen. And now we can add this sheer zinc oxide formula to our list of drugstore must-haves. Not only is the water-resistant SPF 50 sunscreen made with natural zinc oxide, but it also contains Purescreen Technology which absorbs, scatters and reflects UV rays, without any chemicals.
OK, this one’s a relative splurge. But it’s also vegan and certified organic, full of all the good stuff (aloe vera, shea butter) and subtly tinted to even out your skin tone. It’s basically a sunscreen, moisturizer and foundation in one…so kind of a steal when you think about it, really?
Best for Dry Skin
If you haven’t been able to get on board with mineral sunscreen, try the Organic Mineral Sun Silk Creme from Coola. It’s so lightweight, that it feels like a regular moisturizer and it rubs in with ease. Plus, it’s made with more than 70 percent organic ingredients and features the brand’s plant-derived Full Spectrum 360 complex, which also helps mitigate the effects of blue light, infrared light and pollution.
Best for Sensitive Skin
This talc-free SPF 20 powder from Ilia won’t just protect you from the sun, it’ll enhance your skin too. Aloe leaf extract, passion fruit and rosemary oil combine to soothe and fight inflammation while you wear it. And we love the fact that you can easily remove and clean the brush head to ensure there’s no buildup.
The minute it’s safe to travel again, you bet we’ll be booking a tropical vacation for at least two weeks. And when that time comes, we’ll be tucking this solid mineral sunscreen stick from Beautycounter in our suitcase. It’s TSA-friendly, reef-friendly, ultra-hydrating (thanks to cocoa butter) and super sheer, so it won’t leave behind a chalky residue.
Best for Daily Wear
This SPF 30 mineral superstar blocks both UV and HEV light from penetrating your skin, thanks to zinc oxide. It also has vitamin B3 and amino peptides, which help support your skin’s natural renewal process, so it actually improves your complexion while protecting it over time. The moisturizing formula also applies like a dream.
If you like a product that works as both daily SPF and makeup, look no further than this super-popular skin tint from Ilia. It features zinc oxide sunscreen, light to medium coverage and a whole slew of beneficial skincare ingredients (think: hyaluronic acid, plant-based Squalane and Niacinamide). Plus, it leaves a dewy finish, for the best version of your natural skin.