By Lisa Elaine Held
I’ve been super picky about sunscreen for a long time, and I’ve got some good news: the best mineral sunscreens on the market are now better than ever.
Why choose mineral sunscreen to begin with?
Mineral sunscreens protect your skin from harmful rays using zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide instead of the common chemical ingredients—oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate—used in standard sunscreens. Oxybenzone is the most common and the most controversial chemical. Research shows it is absorbed into the bloodstream, and other studies suggest it can act as an endocrine disruptor (although more research is needed on what that actually means for long-term health). It also harms coral reefs and other marine life.
So, my feeling has always been: Why not avoid chemical sunscreens if totally safe mineral options are available? (Plus, the mineral ones tend to be made with other healthy ingredients, like essential oils for scent instead of chemical fragrance.)
The one problem has been that for a long time, mineral sunscreens just kind of, well, sucked. Only a few brands were making them, and the ones you could find were thick, chalky pastes that didn’t rub in. So I’d be covered in a pasty white sheen, and then I’d still get burnt, because I couldn’t spread the stuff enough to protect all of my skin.
That’s no longer the case! There are now so many amazing options that are safe, healthy, and reef-friendly and that perform just as well as (or better than!) chemical sunscreens. Here are my favorites, all of which have been carefully tested so that you don’t have to buy a ton of bottles before finding the right fit for your beach bag. (Important note: I’m white and only tested these on my skin, so when I say they rub in/don’t leave a lot of pastiness, that may not be true for people of color. Mineral sunscreens historically don’t rub in as well for black and brown people, which is an issue that needs to be addressed!)
(Featured Photo: Shutterstock)
The Best Mineral Sunscreens
Beautycounter Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Lotion
If price wasn’t a consideration, I’d choose this one above all of the others every single time. First of all, I trust Beautycounter’s safety standards more than any other on the market when it comes to screening the ingredients that go into skincare products. Second, for a mineral sunscreen, Countersun is shockingly lightweight. Finally, its citrusy scent—which is a mixture of orange, tangerine, and lemon—is downright dreamy. It feels like a little aromatherapy while you apply. However, it’s super expensive compared to plenty of cheaper options that are totally effective. www.beautycounter.com, $39
Alba Botanica Very Emollient Sunscreen
There’s nothing super special about this one, but it’s my go-to. It’s super affordable and easy to find at grocery stores and pharmacies and rubs in well despite a fairly thick consistency (with just a little extra spreading and massaging). Consider it the reliable workhorse of mineral sunscreens. www.amazon.com, $11
Ursa Major Force Field Daily Defense Lotion
I love this product as a daily face sunscreen, especially for its all-gender appeal (as opposed to, say, a CC cream). As in, I was able to get my partner to put it on his face everyday. It’s lightweight, mattifying, and contains several other plant-powered ingredients that are good for your complexion. www.ursamajorvt.com, $18
Juice Beauty Sport Sunscreen
I find this one to be a little chalkier than Alba Botanica’s, but it’s a similar style. It works well and gets bonus points for two reasons. One: It smells soooo good, like a day at the beach, even if you’re not there. Two: It contains extra organic ingredients that hydrate and nourish your skin, like jojoba and coconut oils and vitamins C and E. www.amazon.com, $13
Goddess Garden Daily Mineral Sunscreen
This one gets my vote for “most improved.” I tried Goddess Garden’s products many years ago and promptly decided to avoid them. But while I remember a thick, un-spreadable paste, this sunscreen now feels just slightly thicker than some of my other favorites and really is just as “sheer” as it promises. I also love that the brand emphasizes the environmental benefits of choosing mineral sunscreen, and it’s much easier to find in stores compared to others. www.amazon.com, $14
Badger Unscented Clear Zinc Natural Mineral Sunscreen Lotion
This is my favorite all-around-star in the Badger catalogue, for its clear application and the fact that it’s easy to find. But this brand is best if you like to stock some variety in your sunscreen basket. Think: tinted, active, baby, kids, sticks, and different scents. There’s a mineral sunscreen for literally everyone. www.amazon.com, $17
Babo Botanicals Sheer Zinc Continuous Spray Sunscreen
Perfect for a long beach day or for kids that can’t stand still for more than two minutes. This Babo Botanicals mineral sunscreen isn’t as misty as chemical spray-ons, which is a good thing because you won’t lose half of it to a summer breeze. It lands on your skin super lightly already spread out, and you can rub it in within seconds. www.amazon.com, $11
Suntegrity Sport Natural Mineral Sunscreen
I’d choose this one for long bike rides and swimming laps in the pool. The sport style means it’s a little thicker than others but it still absorbs perfectly, and, most importantly, it stays in place for a good, long while, unlike others that tend to melt off fairly quickly as you sweat. If you want a less sticky option, the brand’s everyday Natural Mineral Sunscreen is also great. Both have bright, orangey scents. www.suntegrityskincare.com, $24