We all know that wearing SPF is important, but chemical sunscreens ― the kind you’ve probably been wearing for years ― can be irritating for some people with sensitive skin. That’s where mineral sunscreen comes in.
Mineral sunscreens help prevent sun damage, just like traditional sunscreens, but they do so using physical blockers like zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. These ingredients work by reflecting the sun off your skin, as opposed to absorbing and transforming harmful rays on the skin as chemical sunscreens containing the likes of oxybenzone, avobenzone and homosalate do.
With so many mineral sunscreens on the market now, it can be difficult to know which might be best for you. So we called up a couple of experts: Dr. Janellen Smith, a dermatologist at UC Irvine Health, and Dr. Angela Lamb, director of the Westside Mount Sinai Dermatology faculty practice, director of dermatology at the Institute of Family Health and an assistant dermatology professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Smith told HuffPost what matters most of all is picking a product you’re actually going to use.
“Mineral sunscreens are thicker and may leave a whitish color on your skin, so if this keeps you from wearing it, that is not good, and ‘medically’ means you are higher risk for skin cancer,” she said. “On the other hand, chemical sunscreens tend to have more ingredients and may be more irritating for sensitive skin. So both the irritation and your tendency to avoid them could leave you with a medical problem.”
Keep in mind as you shop around that although it most often refers to mineral sunscreens, “natural” is “not a term that dermatologists use” when referring to sunscreen, as Smith previously told HuffPost, nor is the term legally regulated in personal care products. Remember that the real danger of sun exposure isn’t the use of chemicals in sunscreen. But no matter which type of sunscreen you choose, make sure it’s labeled “broad spectrum” for protection from both types of harmful rays and has an SPF of 30 or greater.
Aveeno Baby Natural Protection Sunscreen
This sunscreen makes Smith’s list for having a formula that contains “very little that people get allergic to.” Get Aveeno baby natural protection sunscreen from Walmart, $10.61.
Elta MD UV Shield Broad Spectrum Sunscreen
Smith said her hospital residents’ love Elta MD. It’s also recommended by Lamb, who told HuffPost it’s “a great line that makes wonderful sunscreens.” Get Elta MD UV shield broad spectrum sunscreen from Amazon, $25.
Tizo Ultra Zinc Body & Face Sunscreen
Smith also recommends Tizo, because of its “low irritation/allergy potential.” According to its website, the sunscreen has “a soft, silky and elegant feel that easily and quickly vanishes into the skin.” Get Tizo ultra zinc body & face sunscreen from a dermatologist provider or at Jet.com, $33.31.
Lamb favors this water-resistant sunscreen because it’s “formulated without parabens, formaldehydes and many of the other things that can be irritating.” Get Vanicream sunscreen from Walgreens, $12.55.