Sunscreen should be a part of your daily skin-care routine year round. Even 10 minutes spent in the sun a day can cause significant sun damage over time.
Mineral sunscreens are generally regarded as an effective alternative to chemical ones. They work by sitting on top of the skin to physically block harmful rays, whereas chemical sunscreens penetrate deeper to convert UV rays into heat and release it from the skin.
We spoke with celebrity dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman about the need-to-knows of mineral sunscreen, including how it works, and what to look for when selecting your formula.
You’ll also find seven mineral sunscreens we recommend based on our own experiences, research, and feedback form Dr. Engelman.
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Ask your mom, your grandma, your dermatologist, the salesperson at Sephora, or Jennifer Aniston to indulge the most important step in their beauty routines and you’ll probably get a universal answer: Wear sunscreen.
Every time we step outside, our skin is exposed to harmful UVA and UVB rays. Even 10 minutes of sun exposure per day can add up to significant sun damage over time. Using sunscreen is a simple and necessary step to keep skin looking healthy, and, more importantly, for preventing health risks like skin cancer. During the summer, when the sun’s exposure is at its height, it’s more important than ever to get serious about protecting your skin.
Recently, there has been a lot of debate surrounding the effects of chemical sunscreens — more specifically, the ingredients oxybenzone and avobenzone — on our overall health. The question of whether or not these ingredients affect our bodies long-term has yet to be answered, but what we know is that they’ve been found to linger in our blood system after use. If you’d feel more comfortable forgoing any ingredients in question, mineral sunscreens are a great alternative.
On a mission to find a daily mineral sunscreen that blends easily into skin, I reached out to an expert. Dr. Dendy Engelman, board-certified dermatologic surgeon and celebrity dermatologist, stepped in to give us the low-down on mineral sunscreens and share some of her favorite products.
How do mineral sunscreens work?
Mineral sunscreens (also called physical blockers) contain active mineral ingredients, such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These ingredients work by sitting on top of the skin to deflect and scatter damaging UV rays, whereas chemical sunscreens penetrate deeper and convert UV rays into heat that then gets released from the skin.
Mineral sunscreens are a great choice for people with sensitive, acne-prone, and rosacea-affected skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends an SPF of 30 or higher, and Dr. Engelman cautions that the product needs to be applied generously and in all areas exposed to the sun, or else UV light can still get between the molecules.
What ingredients to look for when buying a mineral sunscreen
If you’re looking to avoid chemical sunscreens and use a mineral option instead, make sure to read your labels. Here are the ingredients you should look for, and avoid, when searching for a mineral sunscreen.
Look for these: titanium dioxide, zinc dioxide
Avoid these: oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, avobenzone
The best lightweight mineral sunscreens
After getting recommendations from Dr. Engelman and my coworkers (who happen to be expert product reviewers and sunscreen snobs), and putting in the research on reviews and ingredients, I’ve put together a list of seven mineral sunscreens for different budgets that are lightweight enough for daily use but will still protect your skin — all without leaving the dreaded white cast.
SkinMedica Essential Defense Mineral Shield
The Essential Defense sunscreens are non-comedogenic, paraben-free, hypoallergenic, oil-free, and fragrance-free. Additionally, since they’re physical blockers (containing titanium dioxide and zinc), they’re good for people with sensitive skin or those recovering from skin procedures. Physical sunscreens work better for people with heat-activated skin (ie, rosacea and redness) since they deflect the heat and energy from the sun. The tint in this also helps to minimize and camouflage redness. — Dr. Dendy Engelman
Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Liquid Face Sunscreen – SPF 5
If you’re looking for an affordable mineral option, this is it.
Neutrogena has a range of sunscreens for different skin types. The Sensitive Skin Liquid Face Sunscreen is a thin, lightweight formula that’s hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, oil-free, and perfect for sensitive or rosacea-prone skin. It’s non-comedogenic, too, so it won’t cause breakouts and feels weightless under makeup or on its own.
Colorescience Sunforgettable Mineral Sunscreen Brush
Applying sunscreen in the morning under your makeup is important, but you won’t be protected all day unless you reapply. Most sunscreens need to be applied every two hours to stay effective. If you’re wearing a face of makeup, reapplying a lotion can be difficult — do you take off the makeup and do it all over again? Or, do you rub more lotion on top of your look and just risk it all? This powder sunscreen solves that conundrum.
The Sunforgettable Sunscreen brush is easy to carry around and use. The tube twists up to reveal a brush that deposits the product for you, and when you’re done it fits easily into your purse of pocket. And don’t think that just because it’s powder it’s any less effective — a sweep of this brush over your face will keep your makeup set and cover skin with a protective SPF 50. Dr. Engelhard also uses a powder sunscreen brush to reapply during the day.
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