The 14 Best Zinc Oxide Sunscreens That Won’t Leave a White Cast
We all have that one story about falling asleep on the beach before applying sunscreen and waking up as a red as a lobster. It’s painful and not to mention dangerous. Cancer Research UK states, “Getting a sunburn, just once every two years, can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer.”
But before you reach for the SPF 30 you found on the top shelf of your medicine cabinet, consider what’s in it. The FDA fully deems only two sunscreen ingredients as safe to use: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They’re both minerals that act as physical blockers, which means they sit on the surface of the skin and reflect UV rays, rather than seeping into skin. Another reason to opt for mineral over chemical? An FDA study conducted this month found that after a single application, seven chemicals commonly found in sunscreens were absorbed into the skin at levels deemed as unsafe by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
OK, so mineral sunscreen it is. And according to the EWG, “the form of zinc oxide most often used in sunscreens provides greater UVA protection than do the titanium dioxide products that appear clear on skin.” In short, you’re better off with zinc oxide, as it features more well-rounded protection against all UV rays.
This summer, rest assured that you’re protected from the sun with these 14 zinc oxide sunscreens that won’t leave you covered in a chalky, white cast.
1. Best New Zinc Oxide Sunscreen: Versed Guards Up Daily Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF35
This 15 percent zinc oxide sunscreen just debuted in May, but it’s quickly become a PureWow reader favorite. Not only is it super lightweight, blendable, vegan, non-toxic and cruelty-free, but it also protects against the skin’s three biggest threats: UV rays, blue light and pollution.
2. Best Makeup Zinc Oxide Sunscreen: Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40
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.
3. Best Smelling Zinc Oxide Sunscreen: DR. JART+ Every Sun Day Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+
You know the telltale sunscreen smell? The one you associate with the gloppy stuff your mom used to smear all over you at the beach? Zinc oxide is responsible for it. Luckily, this lightweight Dr. Jart+ formula smells like walking through a citrus grove, thanks to the addition of essential oils. That’s not the only thing we like about it; this SPF 50+ is ideal for sensitive, oily skin types due to its calming properties and added porous powder, that works to absorb sebum.
4. Best Sunless Glow Zinc Oxide Sunscreen: Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield
If your face looks lighter than the rest of your body, kudos. It means that you’re very diligent about applying face sunscreen (now be just as discerning with your body!). But the safest way to fix it—without experimenting with self-tanner—is this glow-inducing mineral SPF. The color appears to be pretty deep, but it fades as you rub it in, leaving behind the most radiant faux-glow ever.
5. Best Moisturizing Body Zinc Oxide Sunscreen: MDSolarSciences Mineral Moisture Defense SPF 50
Trying to rub in thick mineral sunscreen until it’s no longer streaky can feel like a full body workout. But MDSolarSciences’ lightweight formula blends in easily and is packed with ceramides, which create a moisturizer-like consistency that helps replenish skin’s moisture barrier, preventing dryness and peeling.
6. Most Dermatologist Recommended Zinc Oxide Sunscreen: EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
Not to sound like your grandpa, but if we had a dollar for every dermatologist who recommended this sunscreen….well, you get the point. The reason it’s so supported by the medical community? It offers SPF 46 protection in a clear zinc formula, which is void of oils, making it ideal for sensitive, acne-prone skin types.
7. Best Organic Zinc Oxide Sunscreen: Coola Organic Mineral Sun Silk Creme SPF30
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.
8. Best Tinted Zinc Oxide Sunscreen: Supergoop! Zincscreen 100% Mineral Lotion SPF 40
It might be tinted, but this mineral lotion from Supergoop! blends in to become totally invisible for a number of skin tones. The formula itself has a peachy hue that helps to mask the chalky look of most zinc oxide sunscreens, while blurring imperfections and mattifying shine.
9. Best Matte Zinc Oxide Sunscreen: REN Clean Skincare Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 Mattifying Face Sunscreen
Midday shine is the worst, but that’s nothing this 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 like chemical sunscreens .
10. Best Sheer Zinc Oxide Sunscreen: DRUNK ELEPHANT Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30
This non-toxic cream has a powdery feel to it, which makes it extremely lightweight on skin. And it’s so blendable, that it basically disappears as you rub it in, unlike other formulas that take a bit of muscle to disperse.
11. Best Drugstore Zinc Oxide Sunscreen: Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Oxide Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF 50
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.
12. Best Zinc Oxide Sunscreen for Eyes: Supergoop! Bright-Eyed 100% Mineral Eye Cream SPF 40
We use a specific cream for our eyes, so it makes sense that there’s SPF formulated for the sensitive undereye area. This one features 100 percent non-nano zinc to defend against harmful rays, wild butterfly ginger flower to help protect against blue light damage and caffeine to brighten and reduce puffiness. Plus, it’s just as blendable as its face sunscreen counterpart.
13. Best Brush-On Zinc Oxide Sunscreen: Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50
We know we should reapply sunscreen every few hours, but how does one do that without messing up their makeup? With a powder formula like this easy-to-apply brush. Simply brush it on, like you would a typical setting powder to absorb oil and re-up your sun protection whenever and wherever. We love that this formula also includes hyaluronic acid, for added hydration.
14. Best Stick Zinc Oxide Sunscreen: Beautycounter Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 30
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.