The Best Mineral Facial Sunscreens + The Lowdown on SPF
Summer is almost here which means it’s even more important to protect your skin with sunscreen. I think sunscreen should be used all year round but ESPECIALLY in the summer when you are more likely to be spending extended amounts of time in the sun. Not only does sunscreen protect your skin from burns (UVB rays) but it also protects you from premature aging (UVA rays). SO why wouldn’t you want to lather up?? So today I’m sharing the BEST mineral facial sunscreens that I’ve tried plus all the info you need to know about SPF and sun protection!
The Differences Between Mineral and Chemical Sunscreen
There are two types of sunscreen: Mineral and Chemical. Mineral sunscreens (also referred to as physical sunscreens) contain minerals (such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) that sit on top of skin and deflect UV rays. Chemical sunscreens contain chemical compounds (usually oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone) that absorb UV rays and turn them into heat which is then released from the skin.
There are differences in how mineral and chemical sunscreens behave and feel. Since mineral sunscreens sit on top of skin and act like a shield, they are effective immediately. Chemical sunscreens need about 20 to 30 minutes to absorb into the skin to be effective. Mineral sunscreens tend to feel a little thicker and leave a film or “white cast” on the skin. Chemical sunscreens are usually thinner and spread more easily which can feel more comfortable for everyday use.
Mineral Sunscreen Pros + Cons:
- Sits on top of skin – less likely to clog pores. Tends to be better for sensitive skin.
- Effective Immediately – no need to wait for it to absorb.
- More photostable – won’t degrade when exposed to sunlight and leave skin exposed.
- Formulas tend to be thicker and leave a white cast.
- More likely to wear off since it’s not as sweat or water-resistant.
- Can dry out your skin (zinc oxide is naturally drying).
Chemical Sunscreen Pros + Cons:
- Absorbed into skin and more water and sweat-resistant.
- Formulas tend to be lighter and more comfortable for everyday use.
- Needs 20-30 minutes to absorb to be effective.
- There’s research to support that chemical actives are harmful (specifically Oxybenzone and Octinoxate) because they are absorbed into the skin and bloodstream.
Why Choose Mineral Sunscreen?
Personally, I think mineral sunscreens are the safer choice. I like that mineral sunscreens aren’t absorbed (as much) into the skin and are more photostable. I also think it’s a HUGE plus that mineral sunscreens are effective right when applied because it’s so easy to forget to apply sunscreen 20-30 minutes before you go outside. The only downside seems to be that mineral sunscreens are thicker and less comfortable. BUT I HAVE GREAT NEWS – mineral sunscreens have come such a long way and now there are formulas that apply so smoothly, are more hydrating, and don’t leave a white cast! I’ve rounded up several mineral sunscreens below (most of which are also CLEAN formulas) that are great options.
The Best Mineral Facial Sunscreens
I have more good news – all of the mineral facial sunscreens below are really good. I felt like they applied smoothly and rubbed in nicely. There are slight differences between the formulas so if you are super picky you might want to take note. But overall, I think any of these are good choices.
I also want to note that I am VERY pale. So I have an easier time blending in mineral sunscreens than most people. If you have darker skin these mineral sunscreens might still leave a slight white cast but I feel that it usually goes away after a bit. You also might want to look into tinted versions of these sunscreens (if available) because that helps to hide the white cast.
#1 – Biossance Squalane + Zinc Mineral Sunscreen – SPF 30
$42 – 3.38oz
You guys know I’m a HUGE fan of Biossance. I use Biossance products in my everyday skincare routine and I’ve written a whole blog post review of Biossance products. So it’s no surprise that Biossance’s sunscreen is at the top of my list. Biossance is also a clean skincare brand that’s banned over 2,000 questionable/harmful ingredients. They are cruelty-free, certified by EWG, Peta, and Leaping Bunny. Squalane is at the core of all their formulas which is great because it’s one of the most hydrating oils for your skin.
The Squalane + Zinc Mineral Sunscreen provides Broad-Spectrum UVA/UVB protection, 14% non-nano zinc oxide for an SPF of 30, Squalane to hydrate skin, and White Lilly to calm skin. Squalane is listed as one ingredient higher than the Beautycounter sunscreen (below) which is why I think this formula might be slightly more hydrating. Mineral sunscreens do tend to dry me out so it’s important that my sunscreen formula is very hydrating.
I think this formula feels great – it’s lightweight and it blends really easily. It really doesn’t feel like a mineral sunscreen. Another reason I put Biossance at the top of my list is the cost. There’s a Jumbo size (3.38 oz) available for $42. That’s DOUBLE THE SIZE of the Beautycounter sunscreen for THE SAME PRICE! And since you need to be applying a good amount of sunscreen (which I talk more about below) it’s important to have a bigger bottle.
#2 – Beautycounter Countersun Daily Sheer Defense for Face – SPF 25
$42 – 1.7oz
Beautycounter is an MLM (multi-level marketing) clean beauty brand with high standards when it comes to the ingredients used in their products. They currently ban over 1800 questionable or harmful chemicals. They are also Cruelty-Free and EWG certified. Honestly, it’s probably tied with Biossance and the only reason I put it at number two was because it’s the same price as as the Biossance sunscreen for HALF THE AMOUNT!
Countersun Daily Sheer Defense provides Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB plus HEV Blue Light protection. It contains 14.96% Non-Nano Zinc Oxide for an SPF of 25. Key ingredients include Chicory Root Extract to lock in hydration, Vitamin E for antioxidant benefits, and Squalane to keep skin hydrated.
Even thought I’m not a big fan of MLM brands, I have to admit that this is a really good formula. It’s thin, lightweight, and it spreads SUPER easily. The white cast blends into my skin really well. I also felt like this was the most matte finish out of the brands that I tried – meaning, it didn’t feel super tacky on my skin. I also like that the hydrating ingredients (Squalane and Glycerin) are high on the ingredient list.
#3 – Supergoop Mineral Sheerscreen SPF 30
$38 – 1.5oz
Supergoop is a company that specializes in sunscreen and they have lots of “clean” chemical and mineral SPF options. Like Beautycounter and Biossance, they are EU-compliant and have banned at least 1300 ingredients from their formulas. They are also Cruelty-free and Leaping Bunny certified. What I like about Supergoop is that they are really serious about sunscreen and about education people on the ins-and-outs of using sunscreen. I also love that they include the Lab Reports on their sunscreen product pages so you can be confident that you are getting the SPF protection that they claim.
The Mineral Sheerscreen provides Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB plus Blue Light Protection. It contains 17.5% zinc oxide, Bush Clover Extract to protect from free radicals from blue light, Aloe Leaf Juice and Squalane to moisturize.
Even though I have this at #3 I still love wearing this everyday. The reason I knocked it down to 3 is because I feel like the formula didn’t glide on as smoothly or blend in a thoroughly when compared to the other two. However, that could be because of the higher zinc oxide percentage. I also noticed that the hydrating ingredients (squalane and glycerin) were farther down the ingredient list than Beautycounter and Biossance. Also, this is the smallest bottle out of all the options (1.5oz) and the price isn’t that much lower.
#4 EltaMD UV Restore Broad-Spectrum SPF 40
$36.50 – 2oz
I included EltaMD because even thought it’s not a “clean” sunscreen brand, it comes highly recommended by other sunscreen enthusiasts and is Dermatologist recommended so overall it’s a really safe bet when it comes to effective sun protection. Just like Supergoop – EltaMD are sunscreen experts who really know what they are talking about when it comes to skincare.
The UV Restore Broad-Spectrum provides Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB plus HEV light protection. It contains 15% zinc oxide and 2% Titanium dioxide and Ginger Root to improve skin tone and texture, Saccharide Isomerate to minimize the appearance of dark spots, antioxidants C and E to combat free radicals, and Squalane to hydrate.
Overall, this felt like the thickest and whitest formula to me. It didn’t feel as light and smooth as the other three options – again, it could be because there is a combined 17% mineral actives. I also feel like the formula is more focused on improving skin tone rather than hydration (which is what I’m looking for). EltaMD also has another mineral sunscreen formula called Replenish that might be more focused on hydration. However, this formula has a higher SPF which I like because it helps to account for user error. Overall, I prefer the other 3 sunscreens I mentioned above because they were thinner and “cleaner” formulas.
Other Mineral Facial Sunscreens
I have tried Drunk Elephant’s Physical Daily Defense SPF 30 and while I love Drunk Elephant products, I wasn’t too thrilled about this sunscreen. Granted – I tried this a couple years ago so maybe I’m not remembering correctly. But I felt the formula was thicker than Biossance’s formula and it dried my skin out a lot. A plus side to the DE sunscreen is that it comes in a larger bottle (3oz) for $34 – making it the cheapest option out of all the sunscreens I mentioned.
I have a few more mineral facial sunscreens that I’m waiting to get so when I try them out I’ll update this list!
Shop the Best Mineral Facial Sunscreens
How to Get the Most out of your SPF
Apply the Right Amount of Sunscreen
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a sunscreen with at least and SPF of 30. You’ll notice that three of the sunscreens above are around an SPF 30. Which is why I feel like it’s SUPER important to use the right amount of sunscreen when using those options.
To get the recommended SPF 30 coverage you’ll need to apply about two fingers worth (or 1/4 teaspoon) of sunscreen to your face. Add another two fingers to cover your neck! That’s about 1/2 teaspoon of sunscreen! I would BET that most people are not using that amount of sunscreen and therefore not receiving the full SPF 30 protection!
I would suggest measuring it out on your fingers to see just how much that is. When I did two fingers worth of sunscreen I ended up with about 1/8th of a teaspoon. When I did four fingers I ended up with a full 1/4 teaspoon of sunscreen (see above). I have a smaller face so I don’t think I need a full 1/2 teaspoon – but everyone’s face is different.
The only issue I have with the sunscreens I mentioned above is that the bottles are very small. Most of the bottles are around 1.5-2 oz. Which means if you are using about 1/2 teaspoon on your face and neck, you only get about 24 applications out of the bottle. That’s not a lot! That’s one of the reasons why the Biossance sunscreen is at the top of my list – it comes in a 3.38oz bottle which means you are more likely to feel comfortable using more of it.
Don’t Forget the Vitamin C Serum!
One way to get more out of your SPF is to apply a Vitamin C serum underneath. Vitamin C is a topical antioxidant that is effective at neutralizing free radical damage from UV exposure (free radicals lead to premature signs of aging). So when Vitamin C and Sunscreen are used together – you get extra benefits! Just a side note – Vitamin C in skincare should ALWAYS be paired with an SPF if you are planning on using it during the day. Otherwise, Vitamin C starts to degrade with exposure to light and becomes less effective. I’m currently using Biossance’s Squalane + Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum underneath my sunscreen. It contains 10% stabalized Vitamin C (which is the recommended concentration). There are obviously tons of Vitamin C serums on the market. Just look for a stabalized Vitamin C formula containing a version of L-ascorbic acid (such as 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid).
Wear an SPF Foundation
In addition to applying an SPF after my skincare routine (moisturizer + Vitamin C serum) I apply my ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint with SPF 40. This is a light and dewy tinted moisturizer with SPF protection. If, for some reason, I didn’t end up using enough sunscreen on my face, this adds a little extra protection. Throughout the day you can touch up your foundation and SPF with a mineral SPF powder.
Other Sunscreen Notes
Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to the rest of your body! I reserve the above mineral sunscreens for my face everyday (because they are smaller bottles and more expensive) and then apply Supergoop’s Play sunscreen to my body when I’m going to be outside. I also keep Supergoop’s Handscreen on hand (wink wink) because it reminds me to apply sunscreen to my hands. Both of those options are clean chemical formulas but I really like Supergoop’s formulas so I don’t mind that they are chemical based. And for beach days I also apply Supergoop’s Mineral Part Powder because I always get burned on my hairline when I’m out in the sun for a long time.
And make sure you pay attention to the expiration date on your sunscreen! Sunscreen doesn’t last forever! Also, if you are using the recommended amount of sunscreen, the bottle shouldn’t last you a whole summer anyway.
Shop More SPF Protection Options
It’s important to use a sunscreen that you actually like wearing. Mineral sunscreens are a great choice in theory but if you don’t like the thickness or the white cast then go with a clean chemical sunscreen. In my opinion, it’s more important to wear a chemical sunscreen than no sunscreen (or not enough sunscreen)!! The damage from UVA/UVB rays is no joke so make sure you are protecting yourself!
Live long and wear sunscreen!