Here Are *All* the Benefits of Switching to a Mineral Sunscreen
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For ALL derms (and us here at LTG HQ), the *most* important thing about SPF and sunscreen is that you wear one.
The type of sunscreen you use will depend on your daily activities, your skin type, how quickly you burn, how much makeup you wear on a day-to-day basis, and whether you have any skin issues that need to be tackled by your product.
But if you’ve ever visited a dermatologist (or seen so much as one recent Tik Tok beauty video) you may have heard that mineral sunscreen is better than a chemical one.
But is that true and why?
Well, fellow skincare fans and sun worshippers, we’ve got the tea on everything you need to know about mineral sunscreen, right from the mouths of the experts.
Welcome anti-ageing expert Dr Saulis Banionis, board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Yale New Haven Hospital Dr Deanne Mraz Robinson, and Dermatology Nurse Practitioner and Injectable Specialist Akis Ntonos.
So, say farewell to sticky, chemical-laden sunscreens and unlock the secret to flawless protection with mineral sunscreens. Our skin-savvy journey unravels the benefits of switching to these mineral wonders, shielding you from UV rays while preserving the planet’s beauty.
Glow responsibly, guys and gals.
The difference between chemical and mineral sunscreens
We’ve got the full lowdown on *all* of the benefits of using mineral (physical) sunscreen over chemical (synthetic) sunscreens below.
But first, lets look at the actual difference between a chemical and mineral SPF.
Dr Banionis tells us, “dermatologists generally recommend mineral sunscreens over chemical sunscreens for several reasons.
“Mineral sunscreens, also known as physical sunscreens, work by sitting on top of the skin and physically blocking or reflecting UV rays, while chemical sunscreens contain ingredients that absorb and chemically react with UV radiation.”
That means that a mineral SPF uses natural minerals (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) which sit on the surface of the skin to reflect harmful UV rays. In contrast, chemical SPFs use a chemical reaction (using ingredients like avobenzone, octinoxate and oxybenzone) to protect us.
The British Skin Foundation backs this up, it says that “Also known as physical sunscreens, these work by absorbing and then scattering or deflecting the UV radiation in addition to absorbing the UV light and releasing as heat.
“Mineral sunscreens provide protection from the sun immediately after application. They tend to last longer in the sun; however will be washed off with sweat and water. They are less irritant on the skin.”
But why would that mean a mineral SPF is so much better for the delicate skin on our faces? Read on to find out!
The benefits of using a mineral sunscreen
There are actually LOADS of benefits of mineral sunscreen as opposed to those containing chemicals.
And don’t get us wrong, chemical sunscreen has been our protection for *decades*, but we think it’s time to say goodbye and move on to something a little more sophisticated.
1. Broad-spectrum protection
“Mineral sunscreens, also known as physical or inorganic sunscreens, are formulated with active ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide,” Dr Banionis tells us and, “Unlike chemical sunscreens that absorb UV rays, mineral sunscreens create a physical barrier on the skin’s surface, reflecting and scattering the sun’s rays.”
The benefits? You’ll have, “broad-spectrum protection, shielding the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. This helps prevent sunburn, premature ageing, and reduces the risk of skin cancer,” says Dr Banionis.
2. No known health risks
Many dermatologists, “prefer mineral SPF based on growing evidence of both its efficacy and the fact that it doesn’t have any negative health effects associated, which is an area of continued study when it comes to the chemical SPFs since those actives are absorbed into the skin to function,” Dr Mraz Robinson tells us.
“The EWG shares that, according to studies published by the FDA, ingredients oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and avobenzone are all systemically absorbed into the body after just a single use, and could be detected on the skin and in the blood weeks after they had last been used.
“While this systemic absorption may cause no larger issues, some people wish to forgo chemical sunscreens as a result,” she adds.
3. Immediate protection
Now, we know kids seem to HATE sitting and waiting for their sunscreen to absorb. But mineral sunscreen provides immediate protection.
“Because they don’t need to be absorbed into the skin to function there is no waiting period for their effectiveness and these SPFs can work effectively even when applied overtop of sweat and other skincare products that might inhibit the absorption of a chemical SPF,” says Dr Mraz Robinson.
4. Gentle on skin
They’re considered to be *much* gentler on the skin and less likely to cause skin irritation and allergic reactions.
“Compared to chemical sunscreens. They are less likely to cause irritation, making them suitable for individuals with sensitive skin, allergies, or conditions like rosacea or eczema,” Dr Banionis confirms.
This also makes the perfect product for those with sensitive skin as well as great for use on children since, “many include skin hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, alongside antioxidants, and emollients that improve how they appear on the skin,” Dr Mraz Robinson tells us.
5. Consistent protection
Mineral sunscreens are also photostable, “meaning their effectiveness does not degrade when exposed to sunlight. They provide consistent protection over time, unlike some chemical filters that can break down and become less effective,” Dr Banonis assures us. Less time applying sunscreen and more time enjoying the sun? Sounds like a no-brainer to us, tbh.
6. Environmentally friendly
They’re environmentally friendly to coral reefs and marine life!
The “active ingredients in mineral sunscreens are generally considered safe for the environment. They do not contribute to coral bleaching or other harmful effects on aquatic life, making mineral sunscreens a more eco-friendly choice,” says Dr Banionis – This is a *serious* bonus.
The downsides of mineral sunscreen
Now you’ve heard all of the great things about mineral sunscreen, but there are some downsides – sigh.
However, the great news is Dr Banionis assures us that the downsides, “may not apply to all mineral sunscreens, as formulations can vary across brands and products.”
“Many manufacturers have been actively improving the texture and appearance of mineral sunscreens to address these concerns. When selecting a sunscreen, consider your skin type, preferences, and consult with a dermatologist for personalised recommendations,” he adds.
The most obvious downside of mineral sunscreen is that they can leave a slight cast. This is because they, “contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as active ingredients. This can be especially noticeable on darker skin tones, and some people find it aesthetically undesirable,” according to Dr Banionis.
The thicker texture that mineral sunscreens tend to have, Dr Banionis tells us, has a “more pasty consistency. This can make them harder to spread and may leave a heavier feeling on the skin. However, many manufacturers have worked to develop mineral sunscreens with improved textures and easy application.”
“Although mineral sunscreens are generally non-comedogenic, meaning they are less likely to clog pores, some individuals with oily or acne-prone skin may find that mineral sunscreens contribute to congestion or breakouts,” he adds.
But don’t worry. “This varies from person to person, and many mineral sunscreens are formulated to minimise this issue,” he explains.
Mineral sunscreens provide effective protection against UVB rays, which cause sunburn. However, Dr Banionis tells us, “some studies suggest that the protection offered by mineral sunscreens against UVA rays, which can cause long-term skin damage and ageing, may be slightly lower compared to certain chemical filters.
“Nevertheless, most mineral sunscreens still provide sufficient UVA protection, and choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF can help mitigate this concern,” he adds.
What skin types should use mineral sunscreens?
The best thing about mineral sunscreens is that they are *perfect* for sensitive skin types and those of us who often find it difficult to find a chemical sunscreen that doesn’t cause irritation.
Akis tells us that this is because, “mineral sunscreens function by forming a physical barrier that reflects and scatters UV rays, making them less likely to irritate the skin.”
“This makes them gentle and suited for delicate skin. They have a lower risk of allergic responses, provide instant protection after application, and are photostable and long-lasting. Although they may leave a little white cast on the skin, mineral sunscreens are safe for use on people of all ages, including newborns and children,” he adds.
Basically, they can be used on every member of your family, which is also cost-effective.
Mineral SPFs are also, “a great choice for sensitive skin types as they aren’t absorbed into the skin to function and are less likely to trigger irritation,” says Dr Mraz Robinson.
Dr Banionis adds that, “they have a lower risk of triggering acne breakouts or clogging pores, making them suitable for acne-prone or oily skin.”
How to use mineral sunscreen
Convinced? Okay, cool, so now you need to know how to use and apply mineral sunscreen to get the best out of your product and to ensure protection from the sun’s damaging UVA and UVB rays.
First off, the way you use mineral sunscreen will depend on the formula.
For a regular cream mineral sunscreen, use two fingers worth of product for your whole face and neck.
To do this, run a line of sunscreen down your index and middle fingers and then apply to your face. This will ensure you’re using enough product to get the full value of the SPF labelled on the bottle.
Reapply every 2 hours or, if you’ve been sweating a lot or rubbing your face, apply it more often.
Remember, it doesn’t matter what the season is or whether you’re planning on sitting in the sun or not; you need to wear- and reapply- sunscreen daily.
We know that it can be *really* difficult to top up your SPF throughout the day without it ruining your makeup, but did you know you can get mineral sunscreen powders that you can easily sweep over your face for protection over your makeup? Now you know!
Problems with a white cast? Fear not, you can choose a tinted option (take a look at our suggestions below) or mix your mineral sunscreen with a small amount of liquid bronzer. Our personal fave is Drunk Elephant’s D-Bronzi.
Our favourite mineral-based sunscreens
“To ensure optimal protection, it’s recommended to choose a broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher and apply it generously and evenly to all exposed skin. Reapplication is also crucial, especially after swimming or sweating heavily,” Dr Banionis tells us.
It’s also, ” important to note that their effectiveness can vary depending on factors such as the concentration of active ingredients and proper application.”
So choose wisely, fellow skin aficionados.
Luckily for you, we’re mineral sunscreen fiends here at LTG HQ and we’ve been through our fair share of products to find one that is lightweight and doesn’t give a white cast.
For those with a little more dosh to spend, here are some products that are on the slightly more expensive side but offer a lovely formula that’s *perfect* for everyday wear.
Dr Dennis Gross’s range of mineral SPF is considered the G.O.A.T of SPFs to many. Why? The antioxidant-rich formula goes on completely sheer and doesn’t pill under makeup. It also offers a load of skin-friendly ingredients like hyaluronic acid to hydrate while you protect.
This silicone-free, mattifying mineral SPF 30 is made with 22% zinc oxide. It’s suitable for most skin types, including sensitive skin or oily skin and also contains a boost of antioxidant protection. Although this one labels itself as mattifying, we find this one slightly more on the glowy side so for those who prefer a truly matte finish Dr Dennis Gross’ product may be a better option.
Paula’s Choice offers a range of mineral (and chemical) sunscreens, designed for all types of skin, as well as tinted mineral sunscreens. Again, also on the slightly dewier side, the beauty of this sunscreen is absolutely no white cast for our testers.
If you’re really concerned about white cast there are also plenty of sunscreens that contain tint, and with a variety of shades too.
Dr Mraz Robinson’s personal faves are, “MDSolarSciences Mineral BB Creme 50, the Hydrating Lip Balm, the Mineral Moisture Defense 50 (love this for the body especially) and I use the KidCreme 50 and KidStick SPF 40 on my kids all summer long.”
There are some great slightly more affordable mineral sunscreens too.
Avene’s mineral sunscreens offer the highest level of protection for anyone spending time in the sun – from short outdoor activities to full days out in the sun.
Slightly less sophisticated than the more expensive options in terms of the formula, Avene’s sunscreens are slightly less quick to absorb into skin in our experience. However, their protection for the price is exceptional.
The Ordinary’s Mineral UV Filters SPF 30 with Antioxidants
This one is having a *serious* moment on social media right now! Despite also having a slightly less sophisticated formula that can be a bit harder to work into skin, for the price this offers excellent sun protection. If you find if you’re getting a lot of white cast with this one though, try mixing with a couple of drops of liquid bronzer like Drunk Elephant’s D Bronzi.
Research, derms and scientists have made it clear that wearing SPF is a MUST for those who want to look after their skin and prevent premature ageing, lines, and wrinkles – come rain or shine, baby!
Now you’ve got the full lowdown on what mineral SPFs are, why they have a slight advantage over chemical sunscreens , the downsides and how you can fix them, as well as being armed with expert top picks – what are you waiting for?
Get *glowing* (responsibly!)
Meet the experts
Dr Saulis Banionis is board certified by The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine and was trained extensively in aesthetic and regenerative medicine to become an expert in anti-ageing medicine, which he practices at PB Antiaging. He has also worked as a Medical Expert for the Florida Board of Medicine.
Dr Deanne Mraz Robinson, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist, the CMO of North America’s number 1 aesthetics brand Ideal Image, and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Yale New Haven Hospital.
Akis Ntonos, FNP-C, is a Dermatology Nurse Practitioner and Injectable Specialist, (a.k.a. Facial Architect) and co-founder of Aion Aesthetics, New York’s premier injectables clinic.