There's long been a debate over whether mineral sunscreen filters are better than chemical ones. And while every dermatologist will agree that sunscreen of any kind is better than no sun protection at all, dermatologist Geeta Yadav confirms that mineral sunscreens are a better choice for some people. "Those who are prone to acne or eczema may enjoy using a mineral sunscreen, as chemical formulas can sometimes trigger breakouts or cause irritation," Dr. Yadav says. The best mineral sunscreens for the body use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide (or both) to reflect the sun’s harmful rays off your skin. Dr. Yadav says that they'll also contain hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides. "Antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E help stave off further free radical damage from exposure to UVA/UVB rays," she adds of other helpful ingredients to look for. If your skin is acne-prone or particularly sensitive, Dr. Yadav also suggests looking for formulas that are noncomedogenic and fragrance-free.
Dr. Geeta Yadav, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist in Canada. She is the founder of Facet Dermatology, where she specializes in medical and cosmetic dermatology. Dr. Yadav holds a master's degree in International Health from Johns Hopkins University and completed her dermatology training at the University of Toronto.
What's The Difference Between Mineral & Chemical Sunscreen?
If you've never given much thought to sunscreen filters before, Dr. Yadav explains the primary difference: "Mineral sunscreens, also known as physical sunscreen, work by creating a physical shield with minerals between the sun's rays and the skin," she says. "[They] can be used by everyone, including infants as young as six months. Chemical sunscreens differ in that their active ingredients cause a chemical reaction within the skin to cancel out the effects of the sun." Because of this, chemical sunscreens can be more irritating to sensitive skin types, but they also rub into skin more easily without leaving a white cast behind.
Here's how to easily identify sunscreen types:
- Mineral sunscreen filters: zinc oxide, titanium dioxide
- Chemical sunscreen filters: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate, octinoxate
Shop The Best Mineral Sunscreens For Your Body
In a hurry? Here are the best mineral sunscreens for your body:
1. Best Mineral Body Sunscreen Under $10: Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 60+
2. Best Prestige Mineral Body Sunscreen: COOLA Mineral Body Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50
3. Best Mineral Body Sunscreen With Ceramides: CeraVe Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 Body Lotion
4. Best Mineral Sunscreen Mist: Sun Bum Mineral SPF 30 Sunscreen Spray
5. Best Mineral Body Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin & Babies: Mustela SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Lotion
1. Best Mineral Body Sunscreen Under $10
Mineral sunscreens (and sunscreens in general, to be honest) can be pricey, but there are still some solid drugstore options to be found. Neutrogena's Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Lotion comes in at less than $10, yet it's an entirely mineral formula that's also hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, and oil-free. The sunscreen also contains soothing bisabolol and vitamin E to provide more moisturizing and skin-protecting benefits.
Sunscreen Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide Other Beneficial Ingredients: Bisabolol, Vitamin E Water-Resistant: Yes Size: 3 oz.
Relevant Review: "I have an extreme sunscreen allergy. Typically, anything with SPF will swell my face and body up like a balloon. I can wear this with no irritation. I use this on my face and body when we go to the beach. We live in Florida, and the sun is extremely intense here, so this was a great find."
2. Best Prestige Mineral Body Sunscreen
If you want a sunscreen that's loaded with moisturizing ingredients, splurge on COOLA’s Mineral Body Sunscreen Lotion with SPF 50. While mineral sunscreens have a tendency to leave your skin feeling (and looking) chalky, this water-resistant formula contains nourishing ingredients like aloe vera, coconut oil, and jojoba seed oil, which gives it a smooth, soft finish. It’s also PETA-certified cruelty-free and follows the Hawaii Reef Compliant Act 104, meaning it doesn't contain any oxybenzone or octinoxate, two ingredients that have been deemed to have a negative impact on coral reefs and marine life.
Sunscreen Ingredients: Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide Other Beneficial Ingredients: Aloe, Safflower Seed Oil, Coconut Oil, Meadowfoam Seed Oil, Algae Extract, Jojoba Seed Oil, Vitamin E Water-Resistant: Yes Size: 5 oz.
Relevant Review: "A zinc sunblock that actually rubs in pretty well and doesn’t feel like it’s clogging all my pores, I’m impressed. Yes it’s still a little white on application but I feel like that’s a good thing because you know if you missed a spot. And it’s not nano zinc, so it is actually reef safe.”
3. Best Mineral Body Sunscreen With Ceramides
Hyaluronic acid and ceramides come recommended by Dr. Yadav because they help to hydrate and protect the skin's natural barrier. CeraVe Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen with SPF 30 contains both ingredients, which naturally makes it a great choice for those with skin that’s on the drier side. The formula is also fragrance-free, oil-free, and noncomedogenic, and has been awarded the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance.
Sunscreen Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide Other Beneficial Ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Ceramides Water-Resistant: No Size: 5 oz.
Relevant Review: "This is the best mineral sunscreen I have been able to find. It has moisturizing ingredients in it and it is not greasy. It’s easier to rub in than a lot of mineral sunscreens, and it hasn’t irritated my skin whatsoever. No scent either, so perfect for daily use.”
4. Best Mineral Sunscreen Mist
Spray sunscreens can be tricky since it's hard to tell if you're applying enough product, and if you're applying it outdoors, the wind can redirect your mist. But if you're someone who prefers a sunscreen spray or you want to keep a bottle on hand for touch-ups, Sun Bum makes a solid mineral option. The brand’s Mineral SPF 30 Sunscreen Spray uses zinc only to protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays, as well as moisturizing ingredients like sunflower seed oil, aloe, and vitamin E. Plus, it's Leaping Bunny-certified cruelty-free and follows the Hawaii Reef Compliant Act 104. Just remember: You still have to rub spray-on sunscreens into your skin thoroughly, especially if you want to reduce the white cast.
Sunscreen Ingredients: Zinc Oxide Other Beneficial Ingredients: Sunflower Seed Oil, Safflower Seed Oil, Aloe, Vitamin E, Bisabolol Water-Resistant: Yes Size: 6 oz.
Relevant Review: "Don't hesitate to buy if you've been looking for a mineral spray. I used it all last summer and I'm a fair skinned lady that lives in my Arizona backyard with a pool for 5 months of the year. It works great. Rubs in better than any mineral cream I've used. A bit of whiteness remains but its 90% more clear than any of the other dozens of mineral creams I've tried.”
5. Best Mineral Body Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin & Babies
All of the sunscreens on this list can be considered sensitive skin-friendly, but Mustela's SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Lotion was formulated for the ultra delicate skin of babies. In addition to being free from chemical sunscreen filters and National Eczema Association-approved, the sunscreen is also free from fragrances, parabens, phthalates, and phenoxyethanol. Water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and compliant with Hawaii's reef-safe requirements, the sunscreen is also super hydrating, thanks to ingredients like glycerin, vitamin E, and hyaluronic acid.
Sunscreen Ingredients: Zinc Oxide Other Beneficial Ingredients: Glycerin, Vitamin E, Hyaluronic Acid Water-Resistant: Yes Size: 3.38 oz.
Relevant Review: "Our son has eczema and most sunblocks give him a reaction. This sunblock was easy to spread, no white residue and no reaction on his skin. Also, he is a redhead, so very fair, and didn’t get burned. Great product.”
You May Also Like: This Mineral/Chemical Hybrid Sunscreen That Derms Love
"This formula not only features a high sun protection factor, but it is water-resistant, making it ideal for use in the summer months," Dr. Yadav says of the EltaMD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 sunscreen. "If you're very active, it's less likely to become ineffective when exposed to sweat," she explains of the formula, which was designed with athletes and sports enthusiasts in mind and to be water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. This doesn't entirely fall under the mineral SPF category because it uses chemical sunscreen filters in addition to zinc oxide, but Dr. Yadav explains that that's not a bad thing. "A combination chemical and mineral sunscreen, also known as a hybrid sunscreen, is often seen as the best of both worlds," she says. "While mineral sunscreen formulas have improved dramatically over the years, they can often be thick and leave an unflattering white cast on deeper skin tones. Combining the two sunscreen types in one formula will give you the skin-calming and balancing benefits of a mineral product as well as the easy and aesthetically pleasing application of a chemical SPF." Naturally, then, this is a great sunscreen for those with darker skin, though you’ll still need to rub it in thoroughly to really fade the white cast.
Sunscreen Ingredients: Zinc Oxide, Octinoxate, Octisalate Other Beneficial Ingredients: Vitamin E Water-Resistant: Yes Size: 3 oz.
Relevant Review: "[...] It is amazing, not thick at all and goes on like a dream. Best of all, no white cast and seems to melt/disappear right into the skin. Absolutely no irritation or anything- can't even feel it on my skin. Love that it is such a high SPF with no whitecast or irritation. Happy to have found my new holy grail of SPF!”
Dr. Geeta Yadav, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder of Facet Dermatology