In terms of functionality, the main difference between chemical and mineral sunscreen is that while chemical ones work to absorb the sun’s harmful rays, mineral ones reflect them.
Mineral options have historically been unpopular because they left a thick residue compared to chemical formulations. With better options available, this has now changed, and it's now possible to find mineral sunscreens that won't leave that ghastly white cast.
Why Mineral Sunscreens Are Better Than Chemical Sunscreens
Although more research is needed, and there is nothing to indicate that chemical sunscreen is actually unsafe, studies have shown that common ingredients including oxybenzone (a hormone disruptor) are absorbed into the bloodstream at surprisingly high rates.
Both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—the two main mineral sunscreen ingredients—are considered safe and effective by the FDA. As well as being safer in terms of chemical exposure, mineral-based sunscreens are a better choice for children and anyone with sensitive skin. They also offer immediate protection against the sun’s rays, whereas chemical sunscreens take up to 30 minutes to be effective.
Mineral Sunscreens Are Also Reef-Safe
It’s estimated that up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen goes into the ocean every year, either from swimmers or from being rinsed off in the shower. Ingredients commonly found in chemical sunscreen, such as oxybenzone, are unfortunately big contributors to the damage and bleaching of coral reefs.
Mineral sunscreens, however, are reef safe—a massive plus! Although some mineral sunscreens can have nano-particles that are unhealthy for marine life, they are far less environmentally toxic than chemical sunscreens. These days, you're unlikely to find mineral sunscreen with nano-particles on store shelves.
Zinc Oxide vs. Titanium Dioxide: The Dreaded White Cast
Both of these compounds are FDA-approved for safety and efficacy. So what are the differences between them?
Zinc oxide is a fantastic sunscreen ingredient as it protects against both UVB and UVA rays all on its own. It’s also antimicrobial and helps healing (which is why it’s found in so many skincare products, including acne treatments).
Titanium dioxide is just as good with UVB rays, but less so with the UVA. This means it has similar efficacy at protecting against sunburn, but not against deeper skin damage.
Nano-particles of both these compounds can be absorbed through the skin and can cause harm to marine life, so as mentioned above make sure you look for non-nano, reef safe ingredients!
In terms of white cast, mineral sunscreens may have come a long way over recent years but they do still tend to leave a stronger white cast than organic, chemical sunscreens. This is because they sit on the skin rather than being absorbed by it.
The white cast can be especially prominent with mineral sunscreens containing titanium dioxide, but products containing a high concentration of zinc oxide also leave a noticeable cast. However, unless you are under very harsh lighting or hoping for photo-finish skin, the white cast isn’t generally too noticeable.
If you’re using a mineral sunscreen as an everyday protector rather than just for a trip to the beach, a good tip is to allow your SPF to fully settle before applying your makeup. This will minimize the effect of white cast.
The Best Mineral Sunscreens For Body
How We Chose These Products
A few different factors went into our product selection. First and foremost, we only picked products that are mineral-based and which are cruelty-free, plus each product has a rating of SPF 30 or higher so you can be sure you’re getting the protection you need. After those, we also took into consideration each product’s availability, and the price.
This cruelty-free sunscreen is also paraben and gluten-free as well. With skin-loving oils and moisturizing shea butter, it also protects against environmental stress with a white tea extract. Your skin will be deeply hydrated and nourished.
This is a non-nano formulation with all-natural ingredients including an 18.4% concentration of zinc oxide. It offers strong protection against UV rays and is water and sweat-resistant for 80 minutes. It’s also ideal for sensitive skin as it’s enriched with Babo’s anti-oxidant and vitamin-rich Nutri-soothe complex.
Ideal for the outdoorsy types, this sunscreen contains mineral-rich jojoba oil and aloe, providing broad-spectrum protection from the sun as well as being soothing and hydrating. It's also great for kids. Its ingredients are also certified organic, so it’s super eco-friendly.
As well as offering broad spectrum protection, this SPF lotion is also infused with anti-oxidants to give it anti-aging properties. Vitamin C and green tea are also included to add an extra layer of protection and aid recovery against any stress caused by sun exposure. This is a great product for daily wear under makeup or alone as it absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave a noticeable residue.
This popular sunscreen from Pacifica is a great budget choice and can easily be found at drugstores. With natural fragrance and no harmful chemicals, this bronzing sunscreen is a great choice for those that want a nice glow along with their sun protection. Just be careful - it can stain clothes.
The water-resistant properties of this powerful SPF 50 body butter keep it active for up to 80 minutes even if you go for a swim, and is the perfect product to keep your whole body feeling moisturized and protected against the sun. It also has a fantastic tropical scent formulated without the use of any chemicals, so you can smell and feel wonderful all at the same time.
This fantastic sunblock is featured in EWG’s top-rated and is also ECOLOGO certified. It uses non-nano zinc oxide and is dermatologically tested, hypoallergenic and perfect for sensitive skin. It’s also vegan!
This product contains 70% organic ingredients and doesn’t leave a white cast—always a plus! It contains zinc oxide as its active ingredient, as well as a specialist Plant Protection Complex which nourishes the skin with every application. Because it won't leave a white cast, it suits every skin tone, and is suitable for daily use on the body and face.
Suntegrity’s unscented offering provides powerful protection against UV rays as well as promoting healing and skin health with every application. It’s free from any nasty chemicals including parabens and phthalates, and its non-greasy formula contains a 20% concentration of uncoated, non-nano zinc oxide.
This sheer, tinted SPF protection cream can be worn as a protective primer under makeup or alone to give you a healthy glow. As well as being reef-safe, it’s also vegan, biodegradable, paraben and phthalate-free, and formulated without GMOs or artificial fragrances.
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