At this point, you know how important it is to wear sunscreen every single day. SPF should always be the last step in your daytime skincare routine, and it’s especially important to apply sunscreen during the summer, when the sun is beating down more than ever. Aside from helping keep wrinkles and dark spots at bay, sunscreen most importantly also helps lower the risk of skin cancer, by protecting your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays.
You’ve also surely heard plenty of talk (and heated debate) about the differences between and benefits of mineral (also known as physical) sunscreens versus chemical sunscreens. The main distinction between the two is that mineral sunscreens contain just two active ingredients (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide), which essentially sit on top of your skin and deflect harmful UV rays to prevent sun damage. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, typically contain a number of other active ingredients, and actually absorb UV rays like a sponge, and dissipate the rays as heat.
Mineral sunscreens tend to be much gentler on the skin, and for those of us struggling with acne-prone skin that is also extremely sensitive, I’ve found that mineral SPFs are the way to go. I try to use clean and nontoxic skincare and beauty products whenever possible, and made the switch to primarily using mineral sunscreen about a year ago. I’ve occasionally used a chemical SPF in the time since (usually for a body sunscreen), but over the past few months, my skin has been more sensitive, reactive and generally fussier than ever, which hasn’t been helped by allergy issues. Using any kind of chemical sunscreen on my face or chest is a nonstarter for me right now, and I’ve realized (especially after hours upon hours spent at my dermatologist) that when it comes to protecting my face, mineral sunscreen is my only option.
Aside from a personal preference for clean skincare in general, I’ve found that mineral sunscreens don’t aggravate my highly temperamental skin in the same way that chemical sunscreens often do; oftentimes, chemical SPFs result in bumps and redness all over my face (and especially my cheeks), though I’m the first to admit that my skin is exceptionally volatile, particularly when it’s this hot out. Or cold out…or any weather that’s not 70 and breezy. Anyway, since mineral sunscreens don’t absorb into skin the same way as chemical sunscreens, they also don’t clog pores in the same way, and as an added bonus, mineral SPFs are also pretty much immediately effective in providing sun protection.
In the past, mineral sunscreens were known for leaving behind a heavy white cast and being far less blendable than their chemical counterparts, but it’s all about finding the right formula. Yes, some mineral SPFs do still leave a white cast, but there are plenty of options that easily blend into your skin, without that ghostly residue.
Not all mineral sunscreens are the same, of course, as some brands use fragrances or other additives that can cause major irritation for certain skin types, like my own incredibly sensitive and blemish-prone skin. Luckily, there are quite a few mineral SPFs that have absolutely saved my skin this time of year, especially since I’m *always* slathering on sunscreen to protect myself from harmful UV rays, and especially so during this endless heatwave also known as summer.
And just a quick disclaimer: The most important thing is that you actually wear some form of sunscreen every single day, and find a mineral or chemical sunscreen that’s right for you. Definitely do you research, as after the recent sunscreen recall situation, it’s more crucial than ever to make sure that you’re using a clean, trustworthy SPF in your routine.
Below, see the best mineral face sunscreens that won’t irritate sensitive, acne-prone skin, and don’t forget to slather on the SPF this summer.
EltaMD UV Elements Broad-Spectrum SPF 44
EltaMD is a longtime dermatologist favorite, and they have a huge selection of sunscreens, including versions that leave you with a true glow or matte finish. Lately, we’re partial to this 100 percent mineral UV Elements formula, which is safe for sensitive and even post-procedure skin, and also contains hyaluronic acid, for a little hydration. It’s lightly tinted, so you get a touch of coverage without having to apply additional products. $36.50, EltaMD.
SkinBetter SunBetter Sheer SHEER SPF 70 Sunscreen Lotion 50 ml
I only recently tried out this SPF 70, and already love it. SkinBetter’s oil-free, fragrance-free face sunscreen goes on super lightweight and sheer, and it’s a dependably high SPF, plus it’s
Sun Bum Daily Mineral Sunscreen Moisturizer SPF 30
I’m a longtime fan of Sun Bum’s sunscreen, and they recently branched into skincare. Their new mineral SPF moisturizer is super lightweight, and is a great choice when you want a moisturizer-sunscreen combo. It’s also filled with antioxidants like banana and skincare hero niacinamide, which is one of our favorite ingredients for fighting acne, rosacea and eczema. $21.99, Ulta.
Isdin Eryfotona Actinica Daily Mineral SPF 50+ Sunscreen
If you want your sunscreen to simultaneously protect your skin and reverse that sun damage from those years you may have been too lax with the SPF (we’ve all been there), then you must try this silky smooth Isdin sunscreen. Aside from 100 percent mineral sun protection, it also contains photolyase, an enzyme that helps repair sun damage. $55, Isdin.
Eminence Organics Lilikoi Daily Defense Moisturizer SPF 40
This has become my go-to daily moisturizer-sunscreen over the past month, as not only does it provide SPF 40 protection, but it also keeps my skin hydrated with natural, organic ingredients like cocoa seed extract, satsuma mandarin peel extract, larch tree and lilikoi. Plus, it smells amazing. $68, Eminence Organics.
Farmacy Green Defense Daily Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
Farmacy recently relaunched its Green Defense 100 percent mineral sunscreen, with a new formula that includes zero reef-damaging ingredients. Winter cherry and beta carotene help protect your skin from blue light rays, while moringa
Medik8 Physical Sunscreen Anti-Pollution Broad Spectrum SPF 50+
This no-nonsense physical sunscreen provides SPF 50 protection as well as a healthy dose of double hydration, thanks to the combination of hyaluronic acid and squalane to help maintain a healthy skin barrier. Grape seed extract, green tea extract, bisabolol and allantoin work together to soothe irritated skin. $46, Medik8.
Cocokind Daily SPF 32
Cocokind products are simple and straightforward, and their mineral, non-greasy sunscreen is no different. Aside from sun protection, this formula also keeps skin hydrated, courtesy of humectants like glycerin. $24, Cocokind.
Avène Solaire UV Mineral Multi-Defense Sunscreen Fluid SPF 50
This is one of my favorite French drugstore brands; the formulas are great for sensitive complexions, and this mineral sunscreen also helps calm and soothe irritated skin. It’s also super lightweight, with pretty much zero white cast. $32, Avène.
Supergoop Mineral Sheerscreen SPF 30
I’ve always loved Supergoop sunscreens, and as much as I adore the dewy look from my beloved Glowscreen, I’ve had to make the switch to exclusively mineral formulas. The brand’s mineral SPF 30 is one of my favorites, as it’s non-irritating and easily blends with no white reside, for a natural finish that isn’t too matte. $38, Supergoop.
Paula’s Choice Hydralight Shine-Free Mineral Complex SPF 30
If you want a mineral sunscreen that also hydrates *and* reduces redness, look no further than this Paula’s Choice SPF. It does leave a subtle matte finish, so it’s great if want to tone down those natural oils. $29, Paula’s Choice.
Native Unscented Face Sunscreen SPF 30
Native’s unscented face sunscreen is ideal if you’re looking for an SPF with zero fragrance additives. Don’t get nervous about the Benzyl Alcohol and Behenyl Alcohol listed in the ingredients, as those actually help with keeping the sunscreen non-greasy, and are an asset if your skin tends to be on the oily side. $16, Native.
MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème SPF 50
This is a super sheer physical sunscreen with a matte finish, for those that aren’t into the whole dewy donut look. This is one that contains lots of vitamin c, so make sure your skin is okay with these antioxidants before applying this one on your face. $30, MDSolarSciences.